Baltimore Hebrew taps longtime dean Scholar, writer Freedman university's 5th president


Baltimore Hebrew University turned to a trusted friend yesterday, naming well-regarded political scientist Robert O. xTC Freedman to be the fifth president of the small Jewish campus as it seeks to have a greater influence in the region.

A dean at the Northwest Baltimore campus since 1975, Freedman has been acting president since March 1995, when President Norma Furst died of cancer.

"We had a search committee that looked at a dozen resumes and unanimously felt that he was the best one for the job," said George Hess, chairman of the board of trustees. "That was on top of two years of watching this guy doing everything you could possibly ask of an academic administrator."

"I think he's tops," said Steven Fine, an assistant professor of rabbinic literature and history. "The truth is, I came to Baltimore because he recruited me."

Freedman, 55, became controversial in U.S. Jewish and Israeli circles some years ago when -- well before the 1993 Oslo accords -- he advocated direct talks between the Israeli government and leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

But he has gained widespread respect for his scholarship. He has written four books and edited 12 others. Much of Freedman's work has focused on politics in the Middle East and on relations between Israel and the former Soviet Union.

Trustees also announced yesterday that Barry M. Gittlen, acting graduate studies dean, and George Berlin, acting dean of undergraduate and continuing studies, would be named to those posts permanently.

The 77-year-old private school functions much like an academic department at a major university. It has 250 undergraduate students, 100 graduate students and 150 students enrolled in continuing education courses. Tuition for undergraduates is approximately $5,000 a year. The university also maintains an endowment of $2.7 million.

Because of its modest size, the Park Heights university has sought for new ways to trade on its expertise and expand its influence. In the past year, Freedman and other BHU faculty members have strengthened ties with other campuses in the area, such as Towson State University, the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. For the first time, Goucher College is offering its students a minor in Jewish studies taught primarily by faculty members from BHU.

"It's something that we couldn't do if they didn't offer their help," said Robert Welch, Goucher College's academic dean. In exchange, Goucher is opening its classes so that BHU graduate students can fulfill requirements in languages and other subjects. "This is an example of the kind of thing area institutions need to do much more of."

"We will really establish ourselves as a center for Judaic studies in the Baltimore region," Freedman said.

The school also intends to beef up the 80,000-volume Judaica library with computer-age facilities. The library will offer access to other university archives by means of a a new $5 million to $7 million multimedia learning center.

Under the principles of a five-year plan approved in January, the university intends to be a training ground for teachers in religious programs at synagogues in the region.

Freedman, who earned his doctorate from Columbia University in 1969, has taught at Marquette University in Milwaukee, UMBC and George Washington University. He has been a consultant for the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Pub Date: 4/04/97

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