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.

 

Yael Aronoff - Michigan State Jewish Studies

FROM THE DIRECTOR, YAEL ARONOFF

As we come to the end of 2016, one thing we can all agree on is that this was a year of unpredictability. For some, uncertainty poses risks and dangers; for others, potential for change; many are suspended between the two, hoping for the best, worried for the worst. As we move into spring semester 2017, one thing is certain: our Jewish Studies Program will continue to help our students, community and faculty work to make sense of these complex times. And we will do so, together, by drawing on, remembering, questioning and analyzing the myriad aspects of the Jewish experience(s), to see what lessons, ancient and new, might be found in those experiences to help navigate the future.

As it is across the country, diversity is a key concern for MSU. Within Jewish Studies, our students are exposed to issues of diversity through the very nature of our curriculum, with its emphasis on the richness of Jewish history, as well as the Jewish experience of discrimination in varied historical and geographic contexts. Antisemitism is on the rise in many parts of the world; here at home, and especially since the election, there has been a spike in bias incidents. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, of the Midwestern states, Michigan witnessed the largest number of reported hate crime incidents in the ten days following the election. (Of the 867 incidents tracked nationally in that period, 32% were directed against immigrants, 23% against African Americans, 12% against Jews, 11% against LGBT people, and 6% against Muslims.) This trend has found its way to college campuses as well. Our Jewish Studies Program allies itself with all groups that face discrimination and, in our courses, our programming, and in our collaboration with other groups and units across campus, promote mutual respect for all people. Jewish Studies will help address antisemitism experienced on campus by students in the following ways: providing annual lectures and courses that address both historical and contemporary antisemitism; co-sponsoring in February, along with Hillel and with the Office of Institutional Equity, our third annual forum where students can share their experiences of antisemitism, feel empowered, and learn about university reporting mechanisms; ensuring that antisemitism continues to be included in the video addressing diversity for incoming students; and conducting a workshop for residential advisors on January 6, 2017 that addresses definitions of antisemitism, and ways that residential advisors can help educate students. We will have members of the Anti-Defamation League engage in an interactive exercise with the Residential Advisors, along with several of our students and alumni and four Jewish Studies faculty (Yael Aronoff, Kirsten Fermaglich, Amy Simon, and Kenneth Waltzer, as well as a representative of the Office of Equity).

We have applied to the Honors College for a team taught Jewish Studies course: “History and Testimony in the Digital Age: Studying the Holocaust.” The course will be taught collaboratively by Jewish Studies faculty from across many units. Students will be mentored in the re-search uses of the USC digital database, as well as in the ethical use of the Holocaust testimo-nies, and will be expected to participate in the creation and presentation of new knowledge.

Jewish Studies will continue to emphasize undergraduate research. Many of our classes, both on campus and abroad, involve students writing extensive research papers. We offer opportunities for students to present their research in monthly faculty/student research seminars, and encouraged them to publish their research; we reward outstanding research with our annual Jewish Studies Student Achievement Award. We are thrilled to organize our first annual Jewish Studies Student Research Conference on April 21st.

We continue to develop our programming related to the study of Israel in all its dimen-sions. This spring will see the launch of a new study abroad opportunity: in May 2017, Tom Bielik, an Israeli visiting post-doc in the STEM program at MSU, will take 15 MSU graduate students in STEM fields to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where they will join Israeli counter-parts for a class collaboratively taught by researchers from MSU, from the Weizmann Institute, and from the Technion. Students will carry out research and present their results in both the Weizmann Institute and MSU. In June, Professor Eric Aronoff will lead another group of MSU undergraduates to Israel for a 3 week, hands-on exploration of environmental challenges in Israel. In July, I will be leading the MSU Jewish Studies Program at Hebrew University, and immersing my students in the study of Israeli politics, cultures, and society.

We hope that you are able to come and engage our many lectures, panels, and films this semester.

—Yael Aronoff, Professor and Director

 

Click here for Jewish Studies Courses for 2016-2017

 

SPRING SEMESTER 2017 EVENTS

FRIDAY, JANUARY 20th, 12:00-1:30pm
JEWISH STUDIES FACULTY/STUDENT RESEARCH SEMINAR
STARTUP NATION: THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, THE CULTURAL GEOGRAPHIC LANDSCAPE, AND THE ISRAELI INFOTECH MIGRANTS IN SILICON VALLEY AND BEYOND

Wells Hall B-243
Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, had over 120 patents and numerous research projects in his name, and went on to establish Hebrew University, the chemical, military and computer industries in Israel, and the Weizmann Institute. Dr. Tom Bielik (Weizmann Institute; post-doc at MSU) will focus on the history of Dr. Chaim Weizmann and the Weizmann Institute in fostering research. Dr. Steven Fraiberg (MSU, WRAC) will focus on the cultural geographic landscape of the Israeli high-tech industry. Finally, Dr. Steven Gold (MSU, Sociology) will discuss the Israeli infotech migrants living in Silicon Valley. Co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters, the Asian Studies Center, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, MSU Sociology Department and CREATE for STEM at MSU and James Madison College.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, Noon-1:30pm
RACE, RELIGION AND IMMIGRATION IN AMERICA TODAY

303 International Center
Sheila Contreras on Immigration, Michael Wilson on Black Lives Matter, Amy Simon on Anti-Semitism
Salah Hassan on Islamophobia, Erin Graham on Gender and Sexuality, Farha Abbasi on Mental Health
Moderated by Najib Hourani

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3rd, 10:00-12:00pm
JEWISH STUDIES FACULTY/STUDENT RESEARCH SEMINAR
YIDDISH MEMORY BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER THE HOLOCAUST

Wells Hall B-342
In this seminar, three historians who utilize Yiddish language in their teaching and research will discuss the intersection of language and memory. Dr. Jeffrey Veidlinger (University of Michigan, Director of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies) will present a multimedia exploration of how Ukrainian Yiddish-speaking Jews remember Jewish life in the prewar Soviet Union. Dr. Amy Simon (MSU, History and JMC) will examine how Yiddish diary writers during the Holocaust made sense of their experiences through the collective memory of the history of Jewish suffering. Dr. Anya Quillitsch (University of Michigan) will explore how Yiddish language helps us understand Ashkenazi culture after the Holocaust. Dr. Margot Valles (MSU, English) will moderate the panel. Lunch will be provided afterwards from 12-1. Co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters and James Madison College and the Center for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9th, 7:00-8:30pm
GUEST PANEL
THE LASTING SIGNIFICANCE OF EVIAN AND THE SOSUA SETTLEMENT

Wells Hall B-342
Distinguished MSU alumni Hugh Baver and Dr. Dennis Laffer will present on the 1938 Evian Conference and subsequent 1940 Sosua settlement on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. This conference, convened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, decided the fate of the fleeing and displaced European Jews. Included in the discussion will be the historical background on why the conference was convened, its content, participants, outcomes; they will also examine the motivations behind then dictator Rafael Trujillo’s decision to admit Jewish refugees. Finally, they will discuss the Jewish refugees’ experience in building a new life. Co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters and James Madison College.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15th, 6:30-8:00pm
DISCUSSION FORUM
STUDENT FORUM ON ANTI-SEMITISM

MSU Hillel Jewish Student Center
MSU Hillel and the Jewish Studies Program come together to hear from students about their experiences with antisemitism and to educate them in how combat discrimination of all kinds. Co-sponsored by MSU Hillel Jewish Student Center and the Office of Institutional Equity.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24th, 10:00-11:30am
JEWISH STUDIES FACULTY/STUDENT RESEARCH SEMINAR
ISRAEL’S WARS WITH HAMAS: THE DILEMMAS OF ASYMMETRIC CONFLICTS

Wells Hall B-243
Yael Aronoff analyzes democracies fighting asymmetric wars, as they attempt to balance traditional military strategies of deterrence with pressures for restraint. Restraining factors include: mitigation of further resentment by affected populations; maintaining a political culture’s self-identity as a democracy upholding democratic norms and international laws; and the importance of winning media battles. Dr. Aronoff will examine how international lawyers, military commanders, and non-governmental organizations have come together to reach consensus on what the restraints binding states in these wars should be. Co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters, James Madison College, and the Asian Studies Center.

TUESDAY, MARCH 14th, 7:00-8:30pm
GUEST LECTURE
TWO WORLDS COLLIDE: THE ORIGINS OF THE ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT

Club Spartan, third floor of Case Hall
Alan Dowty, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Notre Dame University has published seven books and over 130 articles on the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy. He will speak about his forthcoming book on the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which analyzes of the historic forces that brought the conflict into existence and an attempts to answer the question of its inevitability, given the positions and circumstances of the two sides. Co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters and James Madison College.

SATURDAY, MARCH 25th, 7:30-10:00pm
STANLEY AND SELMA HOLLANDER JEWISH MUSIC AND ART EVENT
THE YELLOW TICKET

RCAH Theater, lower level of Snyder-Phillips Hall
The Yellow Ticket is a multimedia event featuring a rare 1918 silent film and an original score by renowned klezmer violinist/vocalist/composer Alicia Svigals, performed live along with virtuoso new-music pianist Marilyn Lerner. Joel Rubin, clarinetist, ethnomusicologist, and Associate Professor of Music and Director of Music Performance at the University of Virginia, will also perform. “The Yellow Ticket” tells the story of an innocent young Jewish woman from a Polish shtetl who is constrained by anti-Semitic restrictions to lead a double life in a brothel while attempting to study medicine in Tsarist Russia. Co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters, James Madison College and Residential College in the Arts and Humanities.

SUNDAY, APRIL 2nd, 1:45PM-8:45pm and TUESDAY, APRIL 4TH, 7:00-9:15pm
FILM FESTIVAL
THE ANNUAL ISRAELI FILM FESTIVAL

April 2: Wells Hall B-122; April 4: Wells Hall B-119
The Jewish Studies Program will show four full-length Israeli films: Apples from the Desert, Arabic Movie, Baba Joon and Sand Storm. See pages 7 and 8 for more information on the festival. Co-sponsored by the Union Activities Board, the College of Arts and Letters, the Asian Studies Center, and James Madison College.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5th, 7:00-8:30pm
GUEST LECTURE
MYSTERIES OF THE AFTERLIFE: TRANSCENDING DEATH AND FINDING HEAVEN IN JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM

The Kellogg Center Auditorium
How did the hope for a blessed afterlife arise and evolve in Judaism, Christianity and Islam? Based on his ongoing research. Professor J. Edward Wright (University of Arizona) will address this and other questions related to the power of afterlife beliefs and images of heaven. Co-sponsored by the Muslim Studies Program, the Department of Religious Studies, the College of Arts and Letters and James Madison College.

THURSDAY, APRIL 20th, 7:00-8:30pm
25th ANNUAL RABIN HOLOCAUST/3rd MICHAEL BRILL MEMORIAL LECTURE
HISTORY AND CATASTROPHE: THE SECRET WARSAW GHETTO ARCHIVE OF EMANUEL RINGELBLUM

The Lincoln Room of the Kellogg Center
During World War II Jews resisted not only with guns but also with pen and paper. Even in the face of death they left “time capsules” full of documents, which they buried under the rubble of ghettos and death camps. The Ringelblum Archive in the Warsaw Ghetto buried thousands of documents. But of the 60 people who worked on this mission, only three survived. Professor Samuel Kassow (Trinity College) will discuss their story. Co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters and James Madison College.

FRIDAY, APRIL 21st, 9:00-5:00pm
STUDENT RESEARCH CONFERENCE
ANNUAL JEWISH STUDIES STUDENT RESEARCH CONFERENCE

Wells Hall B-342
Students will present projects from their Jewish Studies courses, followed by a lunch with Jewish Studies alumni.

 

News

MSU’s Jewish Studies Summer Program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem offers students the opportunity to earn 8 credits in the arts and humanities or social sciences while living and studying in Jerusalem. For more information, contact Yael Aronoff, Director, Jewish Studies Program at 517-884-1275 or aronoffy@msu.edu.

Events

Tonight at 7:45 PM there is an information session on study abroad to Israel this summer in 319L in South Case.

THE LASTING SIGNIFICANCE OF EVIAN AND THE SOSUA SETTLEMENT – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9th, 7:00-8:30pm in Wells Hall B-342
Distinguished MSU alumni Hugh Baver and Dr. Dennis Laffer will present on the 1938 Evian Conference and subsequent 1940 Sosua settlement on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic.

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