Jewish Studies Program at Michigan State University


Ken Waltzer, Director of MSU Jewish Studies ProgramWe recently completed an active spring 2014 calendar.  We hosted visiting Israeli writer Savyon Liebrecht, we sponsored MSU’s 9th annual Israeli Film Festival, and we finished the schedule with a terrific visit by historian Wendy Lower from  Claremont McKenna College, finalist for the National Book Award, who delivered the annual Rabin Lecture on the Holocaust on “Gender and Genocide: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields.”

We are currently in planning mode for the 2014-15 academic year, when Yael Aronoff will be the new director of the program.  We have several exciting events already planned and others in the planning.  These new events include:

Mon., Sept. 29 (with Arabic Language Program), Sayed Kashua, “On Being a Palestinian Arab Writer in Israel,” TBD Sayed Kashua was born in Israel in 1975, studied sociology and philosophy at Hebrew University, writes a regular satirical column for Haaretz, and is the author of Arab Labor, a television show on Israel Channel 2, which was awarded best show at the Jerusalem Film Festival.  Kashua won the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature in Israel in 2004.  He has written Dancing Arabs (2002), Let It Be Morning (2006) and Second Person Singular (2010)

Tues., Oct. 14, Kessler Lecture on Jewish Film, “Numbered” (2012). A film by Dana Doron and Uriel Sinai, written by Neta Zwebner-Zaibert; from Israel.  Discussion after by Kenneth Waltzer, James Madison College and Jewish Studies, and Howard Bossen, College of Communication Arts and Sciences. This film focuses on the tattooed numbers assigned to prisoners in Auschwitz as enduring signs.

Yael AronoffSun., Oct. 19, Fall Jewish Studies/Hadassah Brunch, University Club 10 am-12 noon. Yael Aronoff, “Teaching About Israel in High Education Today.” Yael Aronoff is the Michael and Elaine Serling and Friends Israel Studies Professor at James Madison College and director of Jewish Studies at MSU.  Her book The Political Psychology of Israeli Prime Ministers has just appeared from Cambridge UP.  Yael was a winner of the MSU Teacher-Scholar Award in 2012.

Events During Spring 2014

Israeli writer Savyon Liebrecht visited MSU on March 18  and interacted with students in the afternoon and spoke in the evening on “Between the Private and the Collective: Writing Fiction about Social and Political Issues in Israel.”  The lecture was at 7:00 pm in 100 Packaging. Born to Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivors after the war in Germany, educated in Israel at Tel Aviv University, Liebrecht writes about the milieu of Holocaust survivors in Israel, about women and gender issues , and about individual relations between Israeli Jews and Arabs in Israel.  She is author of Apples from the Desert: Selected Stories (2000); A Man and a Woman and a Man: A Novel (2003); A Good Place for the Night: Stories (2006); and The Women My Father Knew: A Novel  (2010).

Evyatar Marienberg, a religious studies scholar at the U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Visiting Fellow at the UM Frankel Center, spoke on “And They Shall Become One Flesh:  The History of Traditional Jewish Sexual Guidance”  on March 20 in the afternoon. This event was cosponsored by  MSU Religious Studies  and Jewish Studies


The 9th Annual MSU Israeli Film Festival,  Sun.-Mon., March 23-24, took place in 147 Communication Arts and Sciences,  and featured four films: Hunting Elephants (2013), director: Reshef Levi; Prime Ministers: The Pioneers (2013), director: Richard Trank; Fill the Void (2012), director: Ramah Burshtein; and the popular TV sitcom Arab Labor (2 episodes).   As in past years, the festival was catered by Woody’s Oasis Mediterranean Deli and coordinated by Ellen Rothfeld. 

Last, we hosted outstanding Holocaust historian Wendy Lower, the John K. Roth Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College,  for the David and Sarah Rabin Lecture on the Holocaust on April 9, 2013, 7:00 pm in the Kellogg Center Lincoln Room.  Her residency was sponsored by the Rabin Fund and the Michael Brill Fund for Holocaust Education supported  by brother Ed Brill. Wendy Lower gave a first rate lecture on “Gender and Genocide: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields.”  This was the subject of her newly published book Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, which is being brought out in 20 languages.

Earlier that day, 12:o00-1:30, supported by the Michael Brill Fund , we hosted a panel discussion with Professor Wendy Lower, Professor Henry Greenspan of the University of Michigan, and Ken Waltzer  on “Using Testimonies in Research on the Holocaust and other Genocides.”  The panel was in Club Sparty in Case Hall, third floor. The Rabin Lecture was  co-sponsored this year by the Department of History, James Madison College, the Residential College in Arts and Humanities, German Studies, the Center for Gender in a Global Context, and Peace and Justice Studies.


Ken Waltzer
Professor and Director