The Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel


The Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel


The Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel 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 Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel 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 Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel also supports and highlights 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 22 affiliated faculty from ten departments and colleges across the university. We support faculty professional development and achievement in Jewish Studies, including research and study travel, travel to professional meetings, and support for publication.ichigan, 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.


THURSDAY OCTOBER 24th 7:00-9:00 PM The Kellogg Center Auditorium
“A Jewish Journey in the White House and Beyond,” Sarah Hurwitz

In this wide-ranging discussion with Professor Laura Yares, Sarah Hurwitz will discuss her recently-published book, Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life – in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There). She’ll talk about what led her to engage in deep Jewish learning and what she discovered during her journey. Sarah will also share stories and lessons learned from her career as a political speechwriter and provide tips for effective speechwriting and communication. From 2009 to 2017, Sarah Hurwitz served as a White House speechwriter, first as a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama and then as head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama. Prior to working in the White House, she was the chief speechwriter for Hillary Clinton on her 2008 presidential campaign, as well as Deputy Chief Speechwriter for Senator John Kerry and General Wesley Clark during the 2004 Presidential campaign cycle. Sarah is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. There will be complimentary copies of Hurwitz’s book available.
MONDAY OCTOBER 28th 7:00-9:00 PM James Madison College Library (332 Case Hall)
“The Predicament of Aftermath: Oral History and the Ghosts of the Past” Edward T. Linenthal

This presentation will offer video testimonies from Holocaust survivors, an officer from the famed Tuskegee Airmen, and first responders from the Oklahoma City bombing as “case studies” in the struggle to engage the open wounds of violent pasts. Edward T. Linenthal is Professor of History at Indiana University, Bloomington, and served as editor of the Journal of American History from 2005-2016. He has been a Sloan Research Fellow in the Arms Control and Defense Policy Program at MIT, where he did the research for his first book, Symbolic Defense: The Cultural Significance of the Strategic Defense Initiative. He is also the author of Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields; Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum; and The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 6th 7:00-8:30 PM The Kellogg Center Auditorium
“Israeli Leaders Who Made Historic Decisions- What Inspired Them?” David Makovsky

In 2019, Dennis Ross and David Makovsky published a new book entitled Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny. The book examines key moments in Israeli history in which leaders had to make crucial decisions, and examines the issues of leadership and judgement surrounding those decisions. David Makovsky is one of America’s leading experts on Israel and is the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Project on the Middle East Peace Process. He is also an adjunct professor in Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 12th 7:00-8:30 PM Political Science South Kedzie Hall S-104
“Time and Policy: Time Uses, Time Preferences and Policy Perceptions in Israel,” Lihi Lahat

Time is one of our most essential resources. While researchers from various disciplines have studied time, less attention has been paid to the connection between time and public policy. Dr. Lahat will discuss four questions: 1) How does the Israeli public spend their time, vis-à-vis four kinds of time: sleep, work, care time and personal time? 2) What are their preferences regarding the use of time in these four categories? 3) What is the public support for different policy alternatives that affect different uses of time? 4) Is there a connection between the preferences regarding the uses of time and policy alternatives? Dr. Lihi Lahat is a senior lecturer in the Department of Administration & Public Policy at Sapir Academic College in Israel. Her articles have been published in journals such as Policy Sciences, Social Policy & Administration, International Review of Administrative Sciences and Poverty Public Policy.
MONDAY NOVEMBER 18th 7:00-9:00 PM MSU Main Library’s Green Room (4th Floor West)
Annual Kessler Film: “Who Will Write Our History?” Introduction and post-film discussion led by Amy Simon

“In November 1940, days after the Nazis sealed 450,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, a secret band of journalists, scholars and community leaders decided to fight back. Led by historian Emanuel Ringelblum and known by the code name Oyneg Shabes, this clandestine group vowed to defeat Nazi lies and propaganda not with guns or fists but with pen and paper. Now, for the first time, their story is told as a feature documentary. Written, produced and directed by Roberta Grossman and executive produced by Nancy Spielberg, Who Will Write Our History mixes the writings of the Oyneg Shabes archive with new interviews, rarely seen footage and stunning dramatizations to transport us inside the Ghetto and the lives of these courageous resistance fighters. They defied their murderous enemy with the ultimate weapon – the truth – and risked everything so that their archive would survive the war, even if they did not.”


Serling Institute Professor Kirsten Fermaglich received the Saul Viener Book Prize in Spring 2019. The prize is awarded biannually and is given to original works in English that focus on American Jewish History. Prof. Fermaglich’s won the prize for her book, A Rosenberg By Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America.


“A Jewish Journey in the White House and Beyond,” Sarah Hurwitz
THURSDAY OCTOBER 24th 7:00-9:00 PM in The Kellogg Center Auditorium


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