This week in Jewish history | Brandeis University founded   - World Jewish Congress

This week in Jewish history | Brandeis University founded  

 This week in Jewish history | Brandeis University founded  

On 20 October 1948, Brandeis University was founded.  

The University was named after Louis Dembitz Brandeis, the first Jewish justice to serve on the Supreme Court. Justice Brandeis exemplified the values of the new university through his dedication to open inquiry and the pursuit of truth, insistence on critical thinking, and his commitment to helping the common man. 

The university’s mission to provide equal an opportunity for students to learn regardless of their backgrounds and beliefs, specifically Jews, was particularly significant, as it came at a time when the American Jewish community faced discrimination at the university level. However, the idea was somewhat controversial, as some argued it indicated that the Jewish community had tacitly accepted academic segregation and discrimination against them. The university was also unique in openly speaking of the Jewish ideal of making the world a better place through one’s actions and talents.

Under the leadership of founding president Abram L. Sachar, Brandeis University opened with 107 students and 13 faculty members, and grew quickly in size and scholarly influence, soon joining the ranks of the most respected research institutions. Only 13 years after its founding Brandeis won Phi Beta Kappa accreditation, a distinction fewer than 10 percent of American colleges and universities receive.

The university cafeteria designated a part of the school’s dining room for kosher food and the university’s logo initially had Hebrew, although it was eventually changed in an effort to attract a more diverse student body. Additionally, in its inaugural year, Brandeis Hillel was founded. President Abram Sachar noted that the University had a reputation “for excellence in its studies and research while it also was sought out as an influential center of Jewish learning and communal responsibility.” 

Today, Brandeis ranks among the top 50 American universities, offering more than 43 majors and 46 minors, and two-thirds of undergraduate classes have 20 students or fewer. The university is also a member of the Association of American Universities and the Boston Consortium, thus enabling students to cross-register to attend courses at other institutions including Boston College, Boston University, and Tufts University.