David Patterson: 83, Scholar of European Jewish Culture, Dies

Historians in the News

David Patterson, a scholar of Jewish life in Europe who established a center for Hebrew and Jewish studies at Oxford University to help revive a discipline that had been virtually destroyed during the Holocaust, died at a hospital in Oxford on Dec. 10. He was 83.

The cause was prostate cancer, according to Jackie Finlay, his personal assistant.

Dr. Patterson, an expert in the Hebrew literature of Europe, envisioned the center shortly after joining Oxford's faculty in 1956. Part of his motivation was to create a setting where scholars could take advantage of Oxford's rich collection of Hebrew books and manuscripts. Another and more important reason was to fill a void left by the Holocaust.

"By the end of the Second World War in 1945, Jewish studies in Europe had ceased to exist," he wrote in a history of the center. "The great chain of Jewish and traditional learning, as well as the flowering of modern Jewish studies in the 19th and early 20th centuries, had utterly vanished."

The center, he believed, could serve as a modest substitute for the network of Jewish schools, libraries, theaters, museums and synagogues that had been destroyed, and could help preserve historic Hebrew books and materials that had survived.

Dr. Patterson established the center in 1972, without financial assistance from the university. It remains self-supporting and today offers a graduate degree program, houses a collection of manuscripts, holds conferences, brings scholars to Oxford and has a writer-in-residence program whose participants have included the Israeli writers Aharon Appelfeld, Amos Oz and A. B. Yehoshua. It has also inspired similar centers at the universities of Cambridge, Leeds and Manchester.

Read entire article at NYT

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