Jewish Studies Program at Michigan State University


Jewish Studies Program

The Jewish Studies Program at Michigan State University engages in the 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.

Upcoming Events:

MARCH 28 at 7:00pm
Location: Club Spartan Case
Not in Kansas Anymore: Holocaust Movies for Children, presented by Professor Lawrence Baron
As the Holocaust increasingly has been incorporated into public education, feature films, often based on juvenile Holocaust fiction or classic children’s novels are being made. This lecture looks at this trend starting with Disney’s The Devil in Vienna through The Boy in Striped Pajamas.
Professor Emeritus Lawrence Baron held the Nasatir Chair of Modern Jewish History at San Diego State University from 1988 until 2012 and directed its Jewish Studies Program until 2006. He received his Ph.D. in modern European cultural and intellectual history from the University of Wisconsin where he studied with George L. Mosse. He taught at St. Lawrence University from 1975 until 1988. He has authored and edited four books including The Modern Jewish Experience in World Cinema (Brandeis University Press: 2011) and Projecting the Holocaust into the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema (Rowman and Littlefield: 2005). He served as the historian and as an interviewer for Sam and Pearl Oliner’s The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe. In 2006 he delivered the keynote address for Yad Vashem’s first conference devoted to Hollywood and the Holocaust. His contribution to Holocaust Studies was profiled in Fifty Key Thinkers on the Holocaust and Genocide (Routledge: 2010). In the fall Semester of 2015, he served as the Ida King Distinguished Visiting Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the Richard Stockton University of New Jersey.

MONDAY, APRIL 9th, 7:00-8:30pm
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 a 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
Sunday, April 15th, Wells Hall B-122; Monday, April 16th, Wells Hall B-117
Join us for the Jewish Studies thirteenth annual Israeli Film Festival. With viewings both on Sunday and Monday, do not miss the opportunity to watch some award-winning Israeli films and participate in stimulating discussion. Titles include The Women’s Balcony, An Israeli Love Story, A Quiet Heart, and Ben Gurion, Epilogue. Introductions to each film and discussion afterward will be led by a director, actor, or MSU faculty member. All films will have subtitles in English. Following the showing of An Israeli Love Story on Sunday there will be a complimentary dinner catered by Woody’s Oasis Mediteranean Deli in East Lansing. For further descriptions of the films see the flyer here.

FRIDAY, APRIL 20th, 9:00-5:00pm
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.


Co-Sponsored Events

Global Film Series • Spring 2018 “Passing” In Global Cinema
This film series is an invitation to reflect on our understanding of identity from multiple perspectives, including gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, language, and technology. For such reflections, the series presents four works from various historical times and regions, as well as differing cultural and political contexts. After each screening, a post-viewing discussion will be led by a subject expert. All films are shown at 7:00 pm in the MSU Main Library, Green Room (4 West).

Old San Francisco | March 28

The Reluctant Fundamentalist | April 4

Yossi and Jagger | April 11

Time of Eve | April 18

More information about the “Passing” in Global Cinema film series here



Don’t forget to apply to the Jewish Studies Undergraduate Research Conference. Do you have any Jewish Studies-related research projects (including Israel-related, Holocaust-related or American Jewish history-related research, for example)? Gain valuable professional and academic experience by presenting your work at our second annual Jewish Studies Undergraduate Research conference. If you are interested in participating, please send a research proposal to Professor Aronoff ( by March 22nd. Please include the title of your presentation, an abstract or summary of your paper (or your entire paper if it is already finished) and the name of the course in which you completed the project.


Join us for “Not in Kansas Anymore: Holocaust Movies for Children” presented by Professor Lawrence Baron on March 28 at 7:00pm in Club Spartan Case

THE ISRAELI FILM FESTIVAL: SUNDAY, APRIL 15th, 1:00-8:45pm; and MONDAY, APRIL 16th, 7:30-9:15pm
View the Film Festival flyer here.


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