I usually have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the websites I visit regularly.
So I was surprised to spot an article on Haaretz describing the funeral of, and eulogizing, Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel. That Haaretz wrote about a Haredi Rabbi is not inherently noteworthy. But the newspaper’s editorial decision to describe Rabbi Finkel as ‘inspirational’ – in its headline, no less – along with the generally positive tone of Raphael Ahren’s article, struck me as atypical, to put it mildly.
I was also interested to note Haaretz’s inclusion of the following clause:
Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the head of the capital’s Mir Yeshiva, which is considered the Harvard of the Haredi world
Ahren is providing his reader with a basis for positioning the Mir within a heirarchy of its peers, and he is using ‘Harvard’ to denote the pinnacle of a given system of education. Forget for a moment that any sort of objective comparison between Harvard and the Mir is intrinsically specious. I understand what Ahren is trying to say. You understand what Ahren is trying to say. Joe Biden understands what Ahren is trying to say: the Mir is a Big Fucking Deal.
But enough about the Mir. That phrase – “the Harvard of” – reminded me of something that has always amused me about Israel. We’re talking about a country of 7.8 million people (כן ירבו), with a grand total of nine universities, and to hear Israelis – and other Zionists – tell it, every institution of higher education in the country is basically in the Ivy League.
Off the top of my head, I knew I had often heard people describe Hebrew University as “the Harvard of Israel”, and Technion as “the MIT of Israel”. But I was curious to learn just how deep the rabbit hole goes. So I busted out my copy of the US News & World Report, 2012 Edition, and set out to investigate the ties between Israeli universities and their American counterparts.
Most importantly, I intended to discover just which American institutions of higher education could use some help with international branding.
My methodology was simple and straightforward. Here is a representative sample: