It's Einstein a go-go for Disney toy range

March 25, 2005

Disney last week clinched a $2.7 million (£1.4 million) deal with the Hebrew University for the rights to use the image of Albert Einstein in its "Baby Einstein" range of toys.

Einstein, who was a founder of the university in 1925, left the institution his writings and the rights to the benefits accrued from his name. The university name and the web link for the Einstein Archives will appear on all packaging and advertising material for the range.

Menachem Magidor, president of the university, said: "The university considers itself responsible for preserving Einstein's heritage. Revenue from the use of his name is used to maintain the archives, founded in 1982, as well as to finance research."

But despite the windfall, Professor Magidor still has plenty to worry about. A faculty member has filed a lawsuit in the Jerusalem District Court against the university and Professor Magidor, challenging his appointment for a third four-year presidential term, allegedly without a serious search for another candidate.

In the suit, Ya'acov Bergman, a business school lecturer, claims that the university committee in charge of seeking suitable appointees failed to conduct even a basic search for an alternate candidate for the position.

"In a nutshell, the search committee did not search," he said. The Jerusalem District Court rejected a motion to impose a restraining order against the reappointment of Professor Magidor.

Dr Bergman has been instrumental in drawing attention to the case of a Hebrew University historian who compared soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces to Nazis and likened settler children in Hebron to the Hitler Youth.

In a letter to Professor Magidor, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, demands a public response to statements allegedly made by the head of the university's German studies department, Moshe Zimmerman.

Mr Foxman reportedly decided to intervene in the affair after repeated requests from Dr Bergman, who is leading a protest campaign against Professor Zimmerman's statements.

Mr Foxman wrote to Professor Magidor: "While any professor has the right to express his or her views, it seems to me that the university administration has an obligation to consider when certain views are beyond the pale and harmful to the institution and the Jewish people."

Professor Magidor was unavailable for comment, but a university spokeswoman said: "Members of the academic staff of the Hebrew University are free to express their opinions on academic subjects as well as on other topics.

When a member of the academic staff behaves in an insulting or inappropriate manner within the framework of their work as a lecturer or researcher, then the university administration has the wherewithal to take necessary measures against them.

"However, if an academic member of staff behaves in an inappropriate manner not within the framework of their academic work, then anyone who feels that they have been offended may take any action that they feel is appropriate.

"One must make a distinction between expressions of a staff member made as a researcher or lecturer and those expressions or actions made within the public realm.

"Professor Zimmerman's opinions were expressed outside the academic framework. As such, the administration of the university has no interest in taking a stand on this issue."

Professor Zimmerman said the comparisons he drew were those of a historian.

"Comparison does not mean that both sides are necessarily equivalent," he argued.

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