Shalem College
March 2, 2015

Oxbridge Scholar Prof. Adam J. Silverstein the Newest Addition to Shalem’s Middle Eastern Studies Department

Oxbridge Scholar Prof. Adam J. Silverstein the Newest Addition to Shalem’s Middle Eastern Studies Department

Professor Adam J. Silverstein, a Cambridge-trained scholar of Islam, joined the faculty of Shalem’s Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department this past semester. Founder of the King’s College London Master’s program in Abrahamic Religions, former Oxford tutor, and author of the Oxford-series volume Islamic History: a Very Short Introduction, Silverstein brings to the college a valuable expertise in both early Islamic and Jewish history, as well as a commitment to applied knowledge in the field.

“What immediately strikes one about Shalem is the high caliber of the student body,” says Silverstein, whose course, “Islamic History from Muhammad until the Fall of the Abbasid Dynasty,” is students’ primary introduction to the major. “You see this in the kinds of questions students ask, in their enthusiasm for the reading, in their desire for more reading than what was initially assigned. Instead of ensuring that my lectures are accessible enough,” he laughs, “I have to work to ensure that they’re challenging enough.”

Beyond the intellectual stimulation teaching at Shalem provides, Silverstein offers another reason for his commitment to the college’s program in Middle Eastern Studies: its emphasis on bridging the gap between scholarship and life beyond the ivory tower. The fact that students are required to learn to speak fluent Arabic, for example, means that they will graduate in a position to utilize their understanding of the region in a wide range of fields. The insistence on connecting classroom learning to the world in which we live, Silverstein continues, is a common theme running through the program, one that he believes grants his teaching an additional dimension. “When we discuss the early history of Islam, I’ll show how the same ideas are driving the Islamic State’s (ISIS) desire to establish a caliphate. I help students to see that the knowledge they’re gaining has relevance. It is that focus on academia with relevance,” he concludes, “that ensures that Shalem students will play leading roles in the crucial decades to come.”