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


As events at universities across the country have drawn renewed attention the importance of dialogue about issues of diversity and inclusion on campuses, our Jewish Studies Program continues to stand in support of making all students feel welcome on college campuses, both inside and outside the classroom. We support the special attention needed for issues of race as well as sexual assault on college campuses, and ally ourselves with all on campus seeking to foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment, including our Muslim students who face a national environment of renewed Islamophobia. In this context, the many classes, lectures, and films sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program contribute to an environment that fosters education about diversity, the dangers of prejudice, and the contributions of and the challenges faced by Jewish communities across history and geography.

Jewish Studies is also co-sponsoring three events this spring that focus attention on the interaction of African Americans and Jews. Our own Kirsten Fermaglich will co-lead an event titled “Civil Rights Revisited,” in which she will share some of her own research on Jewish contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. Edwin Black will speak about African American and Jewish intersections surrounding the Holocaust. Finally, we will sponsor a sculpture exhibit by Tanya Walker that explores areas of historical cooperation between Jews and African-Americans.

Click here for Jewish Studies Courses for 2016-2017



Wednesday, September 7th
7:30-9:00pm — Congregation Shaarey Zedek, East Lansing
The Land is Full: Towards a Sustainable Vision for Israel’s Future
Alon Tal, the Serling Visiting Israeli Scholar in James Madison College, will speak about the environmental ramifications of Israel’s exponential demographic growth, from burgeoning pollution and dwindling natural resources to overcrowded classrooms, courtrooms and roads. This presentation examines the origins of Israel’s policies and describes how they must change to support a sustainable future.

Friday, September 9
11:30-1:00pm — The Kellogg Center’s Corniche Room
Complimentary lunch with Jewish Studies Minors, Prospective Minors, and Jewish Studies Faculty

Wednesday, September 14th
8:15am-5:00pm — Club Spartan Case Hall
Sustainable Management of Iconic Lakes: Lessons Learned from Lake Michigan and Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)
The Great Lakes and Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) are two internationally iconic transboundary surface water resources. While completely different in their dimensions, climatic conditions and geopolitical circumstances the lakes face challenges that are surprisingly comparable. Policymakers and academics in both Michigan and Israel will learn from each other’s experiences to better address the ecological, institutional and economic problems associated with sustainable management of these unique and invaluable water resources. Co-sponsored by James Madison College, Lyman Briggs College, MSU Hillel Jewish Student Center and the Asian Studies Center.

Friday, September 16th and Friday, September 23
9:30am-4:15 pm — MSU Library, 2nd floor West Side, Red Cedar Instruction Room
Genocide Testimonies Using the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive
Ken Waltzer, History Professor Emeritus, and Deborah Margolis, MSU Jewish Studies Librarian, will lead a two-day workshop for faculty and students on researching and teaching with genocide testimonies, using the new USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive.

Tuesday, September 27th
1:00-2:30pm — James Madison College Library 322 South Case
Fear and Trembling in Zion: The Mortality and Morality of Israel
Uriel Abulof is an Associate Professor of politics at Tel-Aviv University and a senior research fellow at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. He will discuss the tension between the Zionist movements’ commitment to articulating the moral legitimacy of the Jewish state, and their continued existential dread about the very survival of the Jewish people and Israel. The seeming failure to become “a nation like all nations,” he suggests, has augmented Zionist fears, deepening doubts about the very possibility of establishing Israel’s legitimacy. Co-sponsored by the Asian Studies Center and James Madison College.

Thursday, September 29
4:30-6:00pm — Snyder Hall C-200
Lines of Flight (September 26-October 21, RCAH LookOut! Gallery)
Chen Shapira (Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem) will discuss his Lines of Flight, an assembly of different perspectives that explores aspects of Israeli reality and examines changes in common contemporary Israeli symbols and imagery. The paintings are executed in a continuous, meditative process, building layers of inks and watercolors on paper. The paintings also trigger political questions regarding land, territory, power and control. Co-sponsored by the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, the Asian Studies Center and James Madison College.

Thursday, October 6th
12:00-6:00pm — Breslin Center
Visit the Jewish Studies booth and learn about the Nature, Culture, and Environmental Issues in a Green Israel summer program in June, and the MSU Jewish Studies summer program in July at the Hebrew University Rothberg School in Jerusalem.

Friday, October 7th
TBA by the Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities
Fierce Entanglements
Don Ellis, Professor in the School of Communication at the University of Hartford, is a specialist in language, communication and ethno-political conflicts – especially the Arab-Israeli conflict. His talk will focus on the issues involved in closing gaps of differences in deeply divided societies. Sponsored by Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities.

Monday, October 10th
6:00-7:30pm — MSU Student Union, Lake Superior Room
Exploring the Comparative History of the Mizrahi and African-American Migration Experience
Bryan Roby, author of The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion: Israel’s Forgotten Civil Rights Struggle 1948–1966, drew upon declassified archival sources to provide comprehensive historical accounts of the Middle Eastern Jewish struggle for equality in Israel. His current research focuses on questions of Blackness, comparative migration experiences, and connections made between the African-American community and Mizrahi Jews during the 1960s and 1970s. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. Co-sponsored by the Asian Studies Center, the Department of History and James Madison College.

Friday, October 21st
10:00-11:30am — Wells Hall C-742
Jerusalem: the Place of the Absolute: the Temple Mount in Structures of Thought, Society, Architecture and Everyday Life
Yehotal Shapira, the Visiting Israeli Scholar in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities. will discuss the connections between absolute thinking and social structures as they manifest themselves in the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif area, especially the way the perceptions of the absolute or G-d shape the way we relate to those who think differently from us. Co-sponsored by the RCAH, the Asian Studies Center and James Madison College.

Friday, October 28th
12:00-1:30pm — 255 Old Horticulture
Forging Ties, Forging Passports: Migration and the Modern Sephardic Diaspora, 1900-1940
Devy Mays, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, will discuss the emigration of over one-third of the Ladino-speaking Jewish population of the northeastern Mediterranean to Egypt, Italy, France, the United States, Cuba, Mexico, and the Southern Cone. These Sephardic migrants both created and came to rely on overlapping familial, cultural, and religious networks, ties they perpetuated through frequent non-linear migrations and contact. Such connections enabled Sephardic migrants to cultivate transnational identities and citizenships in order to circumvent the migratory restrictions that saw them deemed increasingly undesirable due to nationality, race, ethnicity, class, and religion. Co-sponsored by the History Department and James Madison College.

Friday, November 18
10am-11:30am — Wells Hall B-342
Voices from the Holocaust: Testimonies by French Survivors
Anna Norris will examine the audiovisual testimonies of French Holocaust survivors in the archive of the Memorial de la Shoah of Paris, France. Dr. Norris discusses the reasons that so little research has been done on French survivors’ testimonies, especially those of women who were discouraged from testifying until recently, and underscores the critical importance of hearing those voices. Co-sponsored by James Madison College.

Friday, December 2nd
10:00am-11:30am — Wells Hall B-342
Israel’s Wars with Hamas: the Dilemmas of Asymmetric Conflicts
Yael Aronoff analyzes democracies fighting asymmetric wars, which attempt to balance traditional military strategies of deterrence with pressures for restraint. Restraint mitigates further resentment by populations in which the strikes are held; are needed to maintain a political culture’s self-identity as a democracy upholding democratic norms and international laws regarding the conduct of war in opposition to the non-state actor; and deprives the opponent of winning narrative battles in the media. Dr. Aronoff will examine how international lawyers, military commanders, and non-governmental organizations such as the ICRC have come together to try to reach consensus on what the restraints binding states should be in these wars. Co-sponsored by James Madison College and the Asian Studies Center.

Tuesday, December 6th
7:00pm—9:30pm — MSU Library Green Room (4th Floor West)
Son of Saul, directed by Laszlo Nemes
Winner of the 2016 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Son of Saul follows a Hungarian Jewish prisoner (Gez Rohrig) in Auschwitz who works as a Sonderkommando, participating as a cog in the Nazis’ extermination machine. In a haunting exploration of the struggle to maintain one’s humanity in the midst of so much killing, Saul is determined to give the body of a young boy a proper Jewish burial. Amy Simon will introduce the film, provide comments at the conclusion, and then lead a discussion about the film. Co-sponsored by James Madison College.



Benjamin Blythe (JSP Minor 2016) was awarded the Jewish Studies Student Achievement Award. Bradley Isaakson (JSP Minor 2016) was awarded the Irene Steindler Endowment in History Award.


Meet and Greet on September 9
Location: Kellogg Center’s Corniche Room
The lunch is complimentary. Students must RSVP, indicating whether they would prefer a chicken entree, vegetarian entree, or a kosher entree.


FACEBOOK: Become a fan of the Jewish Studies Program on Facebook

TWITTER: Follow Jewish Studies Program at MSU on Twitter