One year after the untimely passing of a noted 28-year-old graduate student, Oxford University’s Chabad Society inaugurated its Isaac Meyers Memorial Lecture in Jewish Classics with an address on the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Professor Geza Vermes’ lecture for about 70 students, academics and community members at the David Slager Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Student Centre touched on the scrolls’ controversial history, with the professor – a scholar of religious history who was one of the first experts to examine the scrolls following their discovery in 1947, and authored the standard English translation of the find – advancing his view that they belonged to the Essenes, a Jewish sect that ancient historical sources say lived in the area around the Dead Sea.

After Vermes’ hour-long discussion and a short question-and-answer session, Rabbi Eli Brackman, director of Chabad at Oxford, spoke about Meyers’ short life and unveiled the new Isaac Meyers Library of Jewish Classics that forms part of the 3,000-volume Chabad Society Samson Judaica Library.

Following the event, Denise Leigh, a student at Oxford’s Wolfson College, remarked that it was “a great lecture.”

Meyers, who studied at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in 2003 and was an active member of the Chabad Society, graduated from Yale University. A native of New York, he was a pursuing a Ph.D. from Harvard University’s Classics Department with a concentration in Hebrew when he was hit by a truck on a Cambridge, Mass., street corner in March 2008. At the time, he was a popular Latin instructor and had been translating Hebrew texts into Greek. His poetry also appeared in The Forward.

Isaac Meyers, an accomplished classics graduate student, passed away last year at the age of 28.
Isaac Meyers, an accomplished classics graduate student, passed away last year at the age of 28.

Brackman, who described Meyers as a close friend of his family, said that he wanted to do something to memorialize the student’s academic dedication and strong sense of Jewish identity. An annual lecture seemed to be the perfect fit.

“He was an inspiration to everyone he met,” explained the rabbi. “We couldn’t possibly not do something. Our hope is that his life remains an inspiration for generations of Jewish students.”

At last week’s memorial lecture, Daniel Hemel, a Harvard graduate student currently taking courses at New College at Oxford, read one of Meyer’s poems.