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

Interdisciplinary study of the history, cultures, language(s), identities, and religion of the Jewish people

The Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel Statement of Solidarity with the Black Justice Movement

The faculty of the Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel at Michigan State University voices solidarity with the movement that has erupted in direct response to the recent police murders of Black people, including those of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade. Their murders are just the most recent manifestation of 400 years of anti-Black violence in this country, from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration.

As scholars of Jewish studies, we have many inter-connecting responsibilities to stand against such discrimination and violence. Systems of white supremacy in America have perpetuated inequalities for Black people throughout our society – inequalities that have only become more starkly evident in the unequal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black communities, and in the documentation of these recent instances of ongoing violence against Black people at the hands of the state. We must come together as scholars in higher education to create classrooms, campuses, and scholarship that are not only inclusive of all communities, but actively combat anti-Black racism.

Our connection to Jewish studies and the Jewish community mandates that we combat such racism outside the Jewish community and within it. We must particularly center Black Jewish voices at this time, and the racism of some Jews against Jews of other origins.  We must also consider the ways that American racism has allowed many Jews to benefit from white privilege. 

Doing so affirms a continuity in American Jewish community support for the ideal of equal rights for all and for firm opposition to discrimination in access to voting, housing, jobs, education, public accommodations, and public transport.

Finally, as scholars of Jewish history, we are attuned to the dangerous consequences of states using militarized law enforcement to abuse any minority population. It is our responsibility to speak out against these injustices, and act in ways that combat anti-Black racism and violence wherever it occurs. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “in a free society, some are guilty, all are responsible.”

These responsibilities require us not to just speak, but to act. In order to actively support our Black brothers and sisters and combat anti-Black racism, we faculty in Jewish Studies at Michigan State University commit to do the following:

    1.  Listen with empathy to Black members of our communities, as they tell us of their experiences, and what they need from us in order to support them.
    2.  Redouble our efforts to collaborate with other programs and units on campus in ways that enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus.
    3.  Focus this year’s programming (and incorporate an ongoing dedication to this type of programming) to the historic and current relationship between the Jewish community more broadly, and other non-Jewish minority communities, especially Black Americans and other non-Jewish communities of color. This will include histories of cooperation and collaboration, as well as histories of tension and conflict. In addition, we will endeavor to highlight diversity within the Jewish world – particularly on the experiences of Black Jews – including the historic and oftentimes difficult relationship between these Jewish communities.

Current Opportunities

Unfortunately study abroad programs for the summer have been cancelled. We encourage our students to go on our program summer 2021, the same scholarships will be available and students could use the same essay and recommendation that we already have,  just supply an updated transcript.  The Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and […]

Israeli Film Festival

Israeli Film festival CANCELLATION In light of current events and President Stanley’s letter, we have just decided to cancel the Israeli Film Festival scheduled for March 15-16.    15th ANNUAL MSU ISRAELI FILM FESTIVAL Sunday-Monday March 15-16th Award-winning documentary filmmaker and professor Yael Katzir will introduce and lead a discussion of each film. SUNDAY MARCH […]


Giving to the Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel The Serling Institute offers a number of opportunities for targeted contributions and also welcomes discussion about creating new endowments. Our current priorities are to raise funds for the Farber Family Endowed Chair in Holocaust Studies and European Jewish History, to raise […]

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