Jewish Studies Program at Michigan State University

 

Jewish Studies Program

The Jewish Studies Program at Michigan State University engages in interdisciplinary study of the history, cultures, language(s), identities, and religion of the Jewish people. While our program encompasses the historical and geographic breadth of Jewish experiences, our particular strengths are in five key areas: American Jewish history, culture, and literature; European Jewish History and Holocaust Studies; Hebrew; Israel Studies; and Judaism and Jewish Philosophy.

A hallmark of our program is the close interaction of faculty, students and community members. The Jewish Studies Program offers a 20 credit undergraduate minor in Jewish Studies that allows students to explore, in interdisciplinary and flexible ways, Jewish history, culture, and identity, to learn Hebrew, and to study Judaism and Jewish thought. Students work closely with faculty mentors, who provide guidance both on academic development and professional opportunities. Our students have opportunities to engage in substantive research projects in class or as guided independent studies as well as senior theses, and to participate in faculty-led study abroad programs in Israel. The result is a collegial, supportive community of students and faculty who form lasting relationships.

The Jewish Studies Program also supports the scholarly work of Jewish Studies faculty at MSU, developing a nationally recognized program that fits with the aspirations of a 21st century global university. We have 6 core Jewish Studies faculty and over 20 affiliated faculty from ten departments and colleges across the university. The program contributes to and enhances knowledge of Jewish life in the university community, mid-Michigan, and the State of Michigan.

The Undergraduate Jewish Studies Minor
The Jewish Studies Minor offers a rich interdisciplinary program which introduces undergraduates to the history, cultures, language(s), identities, religion, and civilization of the Jewish people. Students can choose from among our varied and flexible course offerings (listed below), for a minimum of twenty (20) credits, which can be taken while fulfilling the requirements for a major in nearly any field at MSU. Our minor centers on our strengths in American Jewish History and Culture, European Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, Hebrew, Israel Studies, and Judaism and Jewish Philosophy. We emphasize close collaboration with and advising from faculty, and offer rich opportunities for undergraduate research. These curricular components are enhanced by our many co-curricular lectures and films designed to enhance classroom experiences and research.

COURSES 2017-2018

From the Director:

To kick off an exciting new year, I am thrilled to announce a development that will have a profound impact on our Program: Michael and Elaine Serling have decided to establish, through a multi-million dollar Jewish Studies Program naming gift, a new endowment in MSU Jewish Studies! This new endowment in “Modern Israel” will be designed to connect MSU with Israel’s dramatic innovation and excellence in the fields of start-up high tech companies, medical discoveries in the areas of cancer research, Parkinson’s, paralysis, and biomedical engineering, as well as food science and security, water scarcity, cybersecurity and many other diverse technologies and inventions. It will also support our current ventures promoting academic exchange and joint research in the social sciences and humanities between MSU and Israeli universities. The goal of the endowment is to promote student and professor exchange, classroom experiences, and internships with Israeli universities, organizations, and companies, and promote joint research at the undergraduate and graduate level.

SPRING SEMESTER 2018 EVENTS

 

MONDAY, JANUARY 22nd, 7:00-8:30pm
GUEST LECTURE
BETWEEN THE SHEETS: SEX IN JEWISH CULTURE
255 Old Horticulture
In this talk, Dr. Ted Merwin, Associate Professor of Judaic Studies at Dickinson College, argues that Judaism’s characterization as a “worldly” religion in which the pleasures of the body are openly celebrated goes only part of the way to explain the ubiquitous nature of erotic themes in American Jewish culture. Tracing the use of sexual themes in an array of films, TV shows and stand-up routines—ranging from Eddie Cantor’s Whoopee and Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint to “The Contest” episode of Seinfeld and the audacious comedy of Sarah Silverman and Sacha Baron Cohen — Dr. Merwin will plumb the depths of the interest in sex in American Jewish popular entertainment to suggest that Jews opened a space for themselves in America partly through their unusual frankness and openness about sexuality.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13th, 5:30-7:00pm
BOOK DISCUSSION
DISCUSSING ETGAR KERET’S BOOK: THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS: A MEMOIR
Wells Hall B-342
In anticipation of his Feb. 21st visit to MSU, faculty, students, and community members are welcome to discuss Etgar Keret’s recent book The Seven Good Years: A Memoir (Riverhead Books, 2016). Complimentary advance copies of the book for attendees are available upon request at the Jewish Studies office (Wells Hall C-730).

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21st, 4:00-5:30pm (panel); 7:30-9:00pm (public lecture)
PANEL DISCUSSION AND PUBLIC LECTURE
AN EVENING WITH ETGAR KERET
Panel discussion with Keret in Wells Hall B-342; public lecture by Keret in the James Madison College Library (332 Case Hall)
Internationally acclaimed for his short stories, Etgar Keret is hailed as the voice of young Israel. Rarely extending beyond three or four pages, Keret’s stories fuse the banal with the surreal and offer a window on a surreal world that is both dark and comic. His books are bestsellers in Israel and have been published in over thirty languages. His books include The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God, Missing Kissinger, The Nimrod Flipout, The Girl on the Fridge, and Suddenly a Knock on the Door, which became an instant bestseller in Israel. Keret will join us for both a faculty-moderated panel discussion on his work, and an evening lecture in which he will discuss The Seven Good Years: A Memoir, in which he contemplates moments of his life against a backdrop of constant conflict, casting an absurd light on both the monumental and mundane. In 2016 Keret was awarded The Charles Bronfman Prize, for work inspiring Jewish values and having global impact.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23rd, 10:00-11:30am
JEWISH STUDIES FACULTY/STUDENT RESEARCH SEMINAR
IMPERFECT HUMANS AND HUMAN BEASTS
Wells Hall B-243
MSU William and Audrey Farber Family Endowed Chair in Holocaust Studies and European Jewish History Dr. Amy Simon will present her current research, which utilizes a close reading of diaries written in the Warsaw and Vilna ghettos during World War II to analyze ghetto inhabitants’ perceptions of the Germans and Jews who caused them suffering, ultimately revealing a changing conception of humanity and moral universe over time.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14th, 7:00-8:30pm
PANEL DISCUSSION
ANTI-SEMITISM AND ISLAMOPHOBIA
James Madison College Library (332 Case Hall)
Panel on recognizing and combating antisemitism and Islamophobia. Participants: Yael Aronoff, Amy Simon, Kirsten Fermaglich, and Mohammed Khalil (Religious Studies and Muslim Studies). Additional participants TBA.

FRIDAY, MARCH 16th, 10:00-11:30am
JEWISH STUDIES FACULTY/STUDENT RESEARCH SEMINAR
WHY LEARN ABOUT ARCHAEOLOGY AND JEWS?
Wells Hall B-243
Jewish Studies faculty member Lynne Goldstein, who retires this summer, will reflect on her work and her decision to offer an ISS course entitled “The Jewish Experience.” The idea, she says, was for a class that would focus on the history of Jews and Jewish communities around the world, beginning with archaeological evidence. “The two points that I wanted to get across was the fact that archaeology can provide much more than a simple check on items in the Bible, and also that Jews can be found around the world in many different communities for many different reasons, and this is not a modern phenomenon. This talk will highlight some of the many things I learned from designing the course, and some of the lessons I have learned from archaeology and Jewish history.” Following the talk, Jewish Studies will hold a lunch from 11:30 am until 1:00 pm in Professor Goldstein’s honor.

MONDAY, APRIL 9th, 7:00-8:30pm
RABIN/BRILL HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL LECTURE
THE STAGES OF MEMORY: REFLECTIONS ON MEMORIAL ART, LOSS, AND THE SPACES BETWEEN
Kellogg Center’s Lincoln Room
In this illustrated lecture, Dr. James E. Young, Distinguished University Professor and Founding Director of the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will trace what he calls an “arc of memorial vernacular” from the “Memorial to the Deportees” in Paris, to Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, to German counter-monuments and the Berlin Denkmal, to Michael Arad’s design for the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Drawing on his experience as juror on both the Denkmal and 9/11 Memorial design competitions, he will reflect on how they came to be and what they may portend for future national memorials in America, Europe, and Israel.

SUNDAY, APRIL 15th, 1:00-8:45pm; and MONDAY, APRIL 16th, 7:30-9:15pm
FILM FESTIVAL
THE ISRAELI FILM FESTIVAL
Sunday, April 15th, Wells Hall B-122; Monday, April 16th, Wells Hall B-117
The Jewish Studies Program will show four full-length Israeli films: The Women’s Balcony, An Israeli Love Story, A Quiet Heart, and Ben Gurion, Epilogue. See pages nine and ten for more information on the festival. Introductions to each film and discussion afterward will be led by a director, actor, or MSU faculty member. Professor Yore Kedem will introduce and lead the discussion for A Quiet Heart. Other discussants TBA.

FRIDAY, APRIL 20th, 9:00-5:00pm
RESEARCH CONFERENCE
JEWISH STUDIES UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH CONFERENCE
James Madison College Library (332 Case Hall)
Students will present projects from their Jewish Studies courses and are joined for a lunch with Jewish Studies alumni.

JEWISH STUDIES CO-SPONSORED EVENTS

SUNDAY, JANUARY 21st: 4:45-5:45pm, film screening; 7:00-8:30pm, Ted Merwin lecture
FILM SCREENING AND DISCUSSION
DELI MAN
Wells Hall B-342
Congregation Kehillat Israel will screen Deli Man, a documentary featuring Ziggy Gruber, a third-generation delicatessen owner and maven (as well as a Yiddish-speaking French trained chef) who currently operates one of the country’s top delis, Kenny and Ziggy’s in Houston. Participants may join for a dinner of deli sandwiches (must be pre- ordered by Stateside Deli) from 6:00-7:00pm. Following the dinner and screening, Professor Ted Merwin will present “Where Harry Met Sally: the Jewish Deli in Pop Culture” and discuss how the Jewish deli and its fare have become an iconic part of American popular entertainment.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 30th, 7:00-8:30pm
GUEST LECTURE AND ANTI-SEMITISM FORUM
ALT RIGHT: A PRIMER ABOUT THE NEW WHITE SUPREMACY
MSU Union Lake Huron Room
Heidi Budaj, the Michigan Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League, will discuss modern day antisemitism and white supremacist recruitment techniques. A formal presentation will be followed by a Q&A session. Students will also have an opportunity to share personal experiences and give valuable feedback to help ensure a safe campus environment. Sponsored by the Jewish Student Union, Official State of Michigan Holocaust Commemoration Committee and the Jewish Studies Program at Michigan State University.

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Events

FRIDAY, JANUARY 19th, 10:00-11:30am
JEWISH STUDIES FACULTY/STUDENT RESEARCH SEMINAR
NARRATIVE APOLOGETICS AND JEWISH OBSERVANCE: THE SABBATH, ONCE MORE
Wells Hall B-243
Dr. Steve Weiland will present a paper, “Narrative Apologetics and Jewish Observance: The Sabbath, Once More.” He considers journalist Judith Shulevitz and her acclaimed book, The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time. She offers a vivid historical and autobiographical account of the Sabbath and what it means today, including the impact of technology on Jewish practices.

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