Prof. Pinkhos Churgin, president of the "Mizrachi" movement in the USA is the driving force behind the initiative to establish a university. His idea to combine Jewish values and academic excellence, received the enthusiastic support of leading members of the Jewish public and the academic world. The initiative to establish the university is approved at the Mizrachi conference. Prof. Churgin was eminently qualified for this enterprise. In addition to his rabbinic degree from the famed Volozhin Yeshiva and a Yale PhD in Semitics, he brought thirty-five years of academic experience as one of the leading figures in the development of Yeshiva University in New York City.
Prof. Churgin meets with Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and advises him of the intention to establish the religious university.
Following a fundraising campaign among the Jewish communities in the USA and the allocation of land for the university by the Israeli government and the Jewish National Fund, the university's cornerstone is laid.
Bar-Ilan University, named after Rabbi Meir Berlin, a prominent religious Zionist leader, is opened. The university's emblem is chosen as a combination of the Torah and a microscope, symbolizing the integration of the Jewish religion and science. Prof. Churgin serves as the university's founding president.
During its first year, 90 students study at Bar-Ilan in 34 courses held in 8 classrooms and 2 laboratories – all in temporary buildings; the number of staff members totals 23. Studies are conducted in 4 departments: Jewish Studies; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Social Sciences; and Languages and Literature. Basic Jewish studies are an integral part of the academic program at Bar-Ilan, in accordance with the university's founding goals.
During the university's second year, the number of students rises to 175. The university encourages its students and staff members to take part in community outreach activities, such as helping new immigrants. Many are recruited and fight in the Sinai Campaign of 1956 ("Kadesh Operation"), while others volunteer at the nearby Sheba Hospital.
Construction of the first buildings on campus is completed.
Prof. Churgin, the university's first president, and the person most credited for its founding, passes away.
The university's first graduates, numbering 27, complete their Bachelor's degree studies. Bachelors degree studies in a four-year program established in the first years.
The university graduates its first Master's degree students – numbering 5.
The university graduates its first PhD student.
A decade after the university's establishment, the number of students stands at more than 2,000; the number of lecturers exceeds 300. The Ramat Gan campus includes 22 buildings.
University courses are offered for the first time in Ashkelon, with the purpose of enabling the residents of the city and its surrounding area to enhance their education.
The university continues to develop and expand, new departments are established and study programs added.
The first version of the "Responsa Project", enabling the locating of sources in Halacha literature throughout the ages, is launched.
The study program in Ashkelon is recognized as an academic branch of the university.
The central library, named after Gustav Wurzweiler, is inaugurated.
Bar-Ilan's students and staff members may be found fighting in the IDF's various combat units, assisting civil defense efforts and volunteering at hospitals, contributing their share to victory in the Six Day War.
First study courses are offered in Zemach (to be recognized as an academic branch in 1972) and in Safed (to be recognized as an academic branch in 1971).
The wave of immigration leads to a rapid increase in the number of students at Bar-Ilan and its branches: rising to approximately 4,200 (from 3,420 the previous year), including 410 overseas students.
Bar-Ilan receives formal recognition of the Council for Higher Education.
The Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies opens its gates, enabling yeshiva graduates to continue their religious studies alongside their academic studies.
29 of Bar-Ilan's students and staff members are killed in action during the Yom Kippur War.
The number of students increases to 6,600 (from 5,500 the previous year), with 806 students studying in its branches (Ashkelon, Safed and Zemach).
In the coming years, the university will continue its development despite the government's severe budget cuts, to a great extent – thanks to the assistance of its friends and supporters around the world.
Bar-Ilan's Rector, Prof. Sprecher, takes steps to enhance the religious-spiritual character of the campus, including, for example, expanding the scope of basic Jewish studies in both breadth and quality, organizing lectures and other activities dealing with Judaism, extending the work of the campus rabbi and more. Additionally, the female equivalent of the Institute for Advanced Torah Studies for men – the Torah Midrasha for Women, is opened, with 44 female students. Within seven years, their number will increase to 323.
The trend of expanding the university's study programs continues, with new study courses being opening, including, for example, a Bachelor's degree program in Medicinal Chemistry and Human Biology; Master's degree programs in Education, Law, Criminology, Business Administration specializing in Economics, Geography and Classical Studies; and a PhD degree program in Social Sciences and Musicology, Journalism and Communications, and additional inter-departmental studies. New research institutes and chairs are also established, such as the Institute for Holocaust Research, the Chair for Community Services, Chair for Jewish Law, Chair for Yiddish, among others.
The university's community outreach programs include assistance to bereaved families by the School of Social Work, encouraging the participation of the elderly in study courses, for the purpose of expanding their cultural horizons, and more.
Scientific relations with international bodies are also expanded, with main projects involving early detection of cancer, strengthening of the immune system, rehabilitation of soldiers suffering from head trauma, among others.
At the beginning of the university's fourth decade, studies are conducted in five faculties: Jewish Studies, Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences and Law, with the total number of students reaching 10,640. The increase in number is attributed partly to the large wave of immigration from eastern Europe. New programs in Jewish studies are established for the benefit of these students, who have very little or no knowledge in Judaism. Approximately 100 prominent new immigrant scientists join Bar-Ilan, boosting the research work carried out at the university.
The university's five branches operate as regional colleges, having received formal recognition (Ashkelon, Safed, Jordan Valley, Ariel and the western Galilee).
The scientific achievements of the university's researchers are acclaimed internationally, while its students expand their community outreach activities to include voluntary legal counseling, assistance to the elderly and more.
Additional new chairs are established and study programs developed, with emphasis placed on excellence, including a "fast-track" program to a Master's degrees and encouragement of PhD studies.
New industrial and commercial projects further enhance the university's solid reputation as a prominent research institute, while generating profit. These include, for example, projects involving the early detection of cancer, hampering the progress of Alzheimer's,medical treatment of burns, the production of Kosher gelatin and much more.
The Faculty of Jewish Studies, the largest of its kind in the academic world, undertakes major projects, such as the publishing of a new founding edition of "Mikraot Gedolot" and the production of a new, updated CD-ROM of the main holy books and hundreds of "questions and answers" books (Responsa Project), to name a few.
A new School of Law is established in addition to the existing Faculty of Law, in which hundreds of students study annually.
With the help of its friends, Bar-Ilan University develops its campus, adding new buildings, research laboratories and libraries.
Bar-Ilan continues expanding; at the beginning of its fifth decade it boasts 70 buildings, 150 laboratories and 190 classrooms; the total number of students studying within its framework reaches 31,400. It offers 6,100 courses, taught by 1,350 staff members in 45 departments. The university's total budget stands at approximately $135 million. The number of international academic cooperation agreements it has signed reaches 54. Its 75,000 graduates hold key positions in various sectors.
The new Faculty of Life Sciences is established in 1998; the university prides itself in the largest School of Education and School of Social Work in the country, the largest Faculty of Jewish Studies in the world, and numerous research institutes that are widely praised for the high quality work they carry out.
Bar-Ilan continues investing in its graduate students, initiating a program of President's scholarships to outstanding PhD students – bringing about an increase in their number to 1,618 at the end of the university's fifth decade, almost doubling their number since the program was first launched.
New interdisciplinary courses of study are introduced at the beginning of the 21st century, dealing with, for example, brain sciences; contemporary Judaism; gender studies; and conflict management and negotiation.
Construction of the new north campus continues. The university is awarded a prize in recognition of the beauty of its campus, and the harmony and aesthetics of its design.
Bar-Ilan continues to view itself as a bridge between the citizens of Israel and Jews around the world. It establishes the world center for Jewish identity and introduces newly-developed study programs aimed at preventing Jewish assimilation abroad and reinforcing Jewish identity among Jewish youth in the Diaspora.
New community outreach programs are initiated, such as the establishment of academic centers in Bnei-Brak and Jerusalem for the benefit of religious Orthodox men and women.
Bar-Ilan continues developing, with the broad spiritual and material support of its friends and the guidance of its Global Board of Trustees.