May 1, 2009

BJT: "Baltimore Hebrew University, Towson Sign Agreement"

Baltimore Hebrew University, Towson Sign Agreement

Baltimore Jewish Times, May 1, 2009
Rochelle Eisenberg

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed recently that integrates Baltimore Hebrew University's programs into Towson University, effective July 1, 2009.
A letter recently went out from Towson's administration welcoming BHU students to the school.

The merger still has to be officially approved by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and the Maryland Higher Education Commission. According to Marina Cooper, assistant to the president for communications at Towson, Towson hopes to complete the process sometime next month. At that time, she said the president will officially comment on the matter.

"The deans and provost are working diligently on the transition," said Ms. Cooper.

Under the merger, BHU will continue to offer a master's degree in Jewish studies, a master's in Jewish communal service and a master's in Jewish education. The programs will be offered under a new entity called the Baltimore Hebrew Institute (BHI) at Towson University. They will fall under Towson's graduate offerings at its College of Liberal Arts and College of Education.

"This is a real historical accomplishment," said Erika Pardes Schon, BHU's interim president who will become the new director of the BHI and its community liaison. "We are setting a new precedent. It is a bold move to give up independence but still preserve our identity within a large university."

According to Ms. Schon, all of BHU's existing master's degree programs will transfer intact, and the school's professors will continue to teach graduate students. She said seven BHU faculty members will continue at the BHI.
Current BHU students who are pursuing doctoral degrees will be grandfathered into Towson's program. At the same time, Towson will have to apply for separate approval with the Maryland Higher Education Commission if it chooses to include a doctoral program in Jewish studies into its mission. Because of this, BHU is not recruiting doctoral students at this time.

Currently, BHU has 70 students in its masters' and doctoral degree programs.

"This provides an opportunity for programmatic expansion," said Ms. Schon. "It gives us the ability to draw and attract students from Towson, and provides us with a very strong base to build our graduate program."

As part of the integration, BHU's Joseph Meyerhoff Library will move its extensive and prestigious collection to Towson, where it will be housed in a designated space on the second floor of Towson's Albert S. Cook Library. The Meyerhoff Library has more than 80,000 volumes and includes a rare book collection, as well as books acquired from the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction Organization after the Holocaust.

In recognition of the importance of making its collection accessible to area patrons who are unable to drive, Ms. Schon said BHU is in the process of working out details with the Pikesville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library to provide interlibrary loans between the two institutions.

The school also plans to offer its continuing adult learning and Hebrew language options at central locations around the Baltimore metropolitan area. The first such effort is an introduction to Biblical Hebrew, which will begin later this month and be held at Stevenson's Chizuk Amuno Congregation. BHU will continue to look for new venues to hold future programs.
On May 20, BHU will celebrate its 90th anniversary at a fund-raising gala, honoring the legacy of the late Dr. Louis L. Kaplan, who served as the school'ss president for 40 years. The event will be held at BHU, 5800 Park Heights Ave., and will raise money for future scholarship funds. The next day, the school will hold its last graduation as an independent entity. 

Leonard Fein, founder of Moment magazine and the group MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger will be the commencement speaker. Both events are open to the community. Mark B. Terrill, president of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, will receive an honorary doctor of human letters.

"The entire transition could not have been done without the support of the Associated," said Ms. Schon.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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