A woman professor from Oxford University filed charges recently against her former school. Dr. Tali Argov of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew & Jewish Studies told the Reading Employment Tribunal hearing that she was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against after she became an Anglican in 2008. She said she was bypassed for promotion, lost her privileges and was treated coldly by her peers at social gatherings. She said the staff wanted to check her lectures to ensure she does not criticize Israel. Eventually she was dismissed although she had offered to undertake new roles, the Telegraph said.

Argov said she and her husband, Eran, were raised as Jews and formerly lived in Israel. In 2000 they moved to England when Argov was offered a lector of modern Hebrew post at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew & Jewish Studies. At first she was well accepted by her peers, but when her husband converted to the Church of England in 2005, “All those kind, heart-warming gestures disappeared overnight.”

She was treated even worse when she also became an Anglican in 2008. She said she noted strange looks from some colleagues and hushed silence whenever she approached. She also said she felt humiliated as the only full-time staff who was not included in a photo shoot for a brochure. In due time her office was taken from her, as was her pigeonhole. A lesser title was placed on her University ID card, which meant loss of her email account and admission to the library.

In October, 2008, she was also told that she would henceforth be paid hourly because the Center was confronted with financial difficulties. However, she noted that new staff were still being accepted. She was later dismissed.

Dr. David Ariel, president of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, said the Center adheres to a policy of respect for the religious beliefs of all its employees.

COMMENT: I really don't understand the attitude of Mrs Argov's former colleagues. She may have converted to Christianity, but she obviously still believes she is in the right and everybody is out to get her. So, surely, for all intents and purposes, she's still an Israeli, at least.



  1. Oh, my goodness. The snark of your comment, MadPriest, surpasses even you! Ouch!

    You know, if someone were professor of Anglican Studies and then converted to Judaism, I imagine that person would also be considered inappropriate for the job. Or am I missing something here?

  2. I really do believe, that in England, in all but the most fundie seminaries, that would not be the case, Ellie. In fact, I think they would be welcomed with open arms as the establishments would see it as adding kudos to their venture. Our ordination colleges use Jewish sources regularly already. The faculties of most theological departments at our universities, and certainly at Nottingham where I studied, are made up of people of all faiths and none, and their beliefs are not necessarily reflected in their subject. The actions of the staff at this Jewish Studies department, if they are true, are completely contrary to the British academic ethos.

  3. Oh, okay, MadPriest. That’s illuminating. (Over here we have an exception for there being some sort of bona fide necessity of someone belonging to a certain faith with regard to employment.)

    Then (forgive me if I’m very slow this morning) what is the problem with Dr. Argov complaining/objecting?

  4. Nothing, at all. I’m completely on her side. I am, in fact, getting at the hypocrisy of the pharisees in the story. Come back to it later when you have woken up. Heck, it is Monday morning.

  5. Ellie,
    One of my New Testament professors (at an Episcopal seminary) was a convert to Judaism (from Presbyterianism). It was never an issue, either for the administration or for students. It may even have been a plus, because he approached the NT without any dogmatic bias and could present all sides (evangelical, mainline) equally.

  6. I think its harder to swing a “bona fide occupational requirement” exemption in academia, where in theory at least, anyone who takes the years necessary to become an expert in the literature of the subject is fair game. Converting to Christianity might disqualify one from serving as a rabbi or cantor, but it shouldn’t negate a lifetime of Jewish education, which one presumably can recollect even after ceasing to practice the religion. I’m no more Jewish than MadPriest, but if I earned my doctorate in Jewish Studies I could be a scholar of Judaism just as a non-Christian could become well-versed in Christian theology. It’s a university for goodness sake: do they only hire vegetables in the botany department? (Best not answer, perhaps).

  7. My Islamic studies prof. at university was a Christian. He was meticulously unbiased either for or against Islam. He was a perfect academic about his chosen subject. He was also a very caring man.

  8. “…and was treated coldly by her peers at social gatherings.”

    I get that all the time, and always blamed my sexual orientation, but perhaps it’s because I’m Episcopalian.