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.



Complimentary copies of all books for designated book discussions are available in the Serling Institute office (Wells
Hall C-730) for those faculty, students, and community members reading the book before each discussion.

Friday, February 22nd, 2:00-3:30 pm
Faculty Research Seminar
“Not Everyone is Prepared to Remake Themselves”: What Name Changing Means in the 21st Century
256 Old Horticulture
In New York City in the 20th Century, Jews officially changed their names at a much higher rate than other groups. Antisemitism and Jewish desires for upward mobility combined to help propel this phenomenon. But by the 21st Century, name changing had become a very different phenomenon, one that affected poor people of color disproportionately and — while racism was still a factor — for very different reasons as well. Research will be presented by Dr. Kirsten Fermaglich (Associate Professor, History and Jewish Studies).

Friday, February 22nd, 3:30-5:00 pm
Book Discussion
A Rosenberg By Any Other Name
256 Old Horticulture
Faculty, students, and the community are welcome to discuss with Dr. Kirsten Fermaglich (Associate Professor, History and Jewish Studies) her recently published book, A Rosenberg by Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America with NYU Press.

Monday, February 25th, 7:00-8:30 pm
Guest Lecture — Sponsored by The Serling Institute and MSU Libraries
An Evening with Nathan Englander: Dinner at the Center of the Earth
MSU Library’s Green Room
Nathan Englander (Distinguished Writer-in-Residence, New York University) will discuss his recently published book, Dinner at the Center of the Earth. He is also the author of the novel The Ministry of Special Cases and the story collections For the Relief of Unbearable Urges and What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank—winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Nathan Englander will sell books following the event.

Wednesday, March 13th, 7:00-8:30 pm
Book Discussion
The Messianic Idea in Judaism By Gershom Scholem
Wells Hall B-342
Faculty, students, and community members are welcome to discuss selections of The Messianic Idea in Judaism.

Tuesday, March 19th
Book Discussion
Passing Illusions
Wells Hall B-342
Dr. Kerry Wallach (Associate Professor and Chair of German Studies at Gettysburg College) will lead a book discussion on her book, Passing Illusions, which examines constructions of German-Jewish visibility and instances in the 1920s and early 1930s when it was concealed, revealed or contested.

Sunday, March 24th, 1:00-8:45 pm, and Monday, March 25th, 7:00-9:00 pm
Film Festival
14th Annual Israeli Film Festival
Wells Hall B-122 and B-115
The Serling Institute will show four full-length Israeli films: Muhi: Generally Temporary; And then She Arrived; Shoelaces; and The Unorthodox.

Friday, April 12th, 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Third Annual Serling Institute Undergraduate Research Conference
Wells Hall B-243
Students will present projects from their Jewish Studies courses. Lunch with Jewish Studies alumna Sara Kirsch (’11) will be provided during the conference. Sara currently resides in Israel working as a Digital Copywriter at Quality Score, one of the leading digital marketing agencies in the Middle East, and a blogger for ‘Olim In Tech’ in Israel.

MONDAY, APRIL 15th, 7:00-8:30 pm
Play Discussion
Wells Hall B-243
Faculty, students, and community members will come together to discuss Indecent by Paula Vogel.

Thursday, April 18th, 7:00-8:30 pm
Rabin/Brill Holocaust Lecture
No Secret: Sexual Violence in the Holocaust
Lincoln Room of the Kellogg Center, MSU
Doris Bergen will discuss sexual violence during the Holocaust against Jews and non-Jews, against women and girls, and also boys and men. Professor Bergen is the Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies in the Department of History and Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. She is the author or editor of five books, including War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust (3rd edition 2016).

Monday, April 22nd, 7:00-8:30 pm
Play Performance
RCAH Theater (Basement of 362 Bogue St, East Lansing, MI 48825)
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel’s Indecent is a deeply moving play inspired by the true events surrounding the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance. Members of the cast and crew will present selections from the play Indecent, which they are performing in June.

Saturday, April 27th, 8:00 pm
Co-Sponsored Event
Shostakovich Symphony 13 Project
The Wharton Center’s Great Hall (MSU)
This concert features the very powerful Shostakovich Symphony No. 13 “Babi Yar,” and “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” by Charles Davidson. A setting of poems by the renowned Soviet writer Evgeny Yevtushenko, Shostakovich’s work significantly memorialized the 1941 massacre of Ukrainian Jews by Nazi forces at Baba Yar.



Michael and Elaine Serling have given a multi-million-dollar naming gift that will provide a new endowment in “Modern Israel” in Jewish Studies. It will serve as a catalyst, stimulating activities that join MSU faculty and Israeli colleagues in several fields, including the humanities, social sciences, business entrepreneurship, medical science, and engineering, as they initiate new collaborative projects. It will also contribute to research, study abroad, and internship opportunities in Israel for undergraduate and graduate students and provide support for visiting Israeli scholars. With this gift the Jewish Studies Program has changed its name to the Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel.


Monday, February 25th, 7:00-8:30 pm
Guest Lecture — Sponsored by The Serling Institute and MSU Libraries
An Evening with Nathan Englander: Dinner at the Center of the Earth
MSU Library’s Green Room


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