This year we celebrate an important milestone:
30 years of the Jewish Studies Program at MSU!

* Read MSU’s Serling Institute celebrates 30 years of the Jewish Studies Program in MSU Today

*Read Victory for MSU: Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel Celebrates Three Decades of Success in the Detroit Jewish News

Back in the fall of 1992, faculty members Barry Gross, Steve Weiland, Ken Waltzer, and the College of Arts and Letters Dean John Eadie, had the vision to establish a Jewish Studies Program at MSU, with the support of MSU President Peter McPherson. The program began with a handful of courses and faculty, and a tiny budget. And the program flourished, guided by the vision and hard work of our former directors and faculty, the support of the Advisory Board chaired by Michael Serling, of MSU administrators, and of our many community members who established endowments to support faculty, students, and the program overall. At each stage, it has received crucial support from College of Arts and Letters Deans, most recently from Dean Chris Long.

Over the past 30 years, we have had tremendous growth across all aspects of the program. Our core and affiliated faculty have grown exponentially, including the establishment of two endowed chairs; our course offerings and the number of Jewish Studies minors and students taking Jewish Studies courses has grown as well. We built on our strengths in American Jewish history, culture, and literature; European Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, Hebrew, Judaism, and Israel Studies, to become a national leader in Jewish Studies and Israel Studies. We have established three faculty-led study abroad programs to Israel and sponsored a total twenty-eight visiting scholars. Our rich and extensive programming is attended by several thousand students, faculty, and community members each year. (Please see our data on the next page.) One of the program’s distinguishing features is our emphasis on teaching and mentoring our students — primarily undergraduates — fostering the close interaction of faculty, students, and community members. (See the program for our sixth annual Serling Institute Undergraduate Research Conference, and alumni and student highlights, in this newsletter).

With their naming gift in September 2018, we transformed into the Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel. The Serling’s generous gift has enabled us to build on all our strengths, as well as provide more support for Israeli visiting scholars, expanded course offerings, research, study abroad and internship opportunities for students in Israel, and future research collaboration between MSU faculty and Israeli colleagues in diverse fields.

Part of our vision is to use the interdisciplinary lens of Jewish Studies/Israel Studies to better understand current challenges and ways to resolve them. For instance, this semester our programming sheds light on Jewish perspectives on reproductive freedom, including as an issue of religious freedom. Expert scholars from across the country will provide their insights, followed by comments by two prominent Jewish women MI policymakers, Representative Elissa Slotkin and Attorney General Dana Nessel. We are also bringing prominent Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators together, to discuss their vision for a confederation facilitating a two-state solution in which Israel and an independent Palestinian state could peacefully live alongside one another. Our teaching, research, and programming also examines environmental challenges and solutions, innovations in entrepreneurship, as well as how diverse Jewish experiences in the U.S., Europe, Israel, and other parts of the world shed light on minority/majority relations, nationalist identities, and the diversity of religious and ethnic identities.

While we celebrate a supportive environment at MSU for the Serling Institute and for our students, we also aim to increase awareness of both antisemitism and Islamophobia on our campus. We have made strides towards achieving that goal by offering courses on antisemitism, the Holocaust, American Jewish History, and European Jewish History. The Serling Institute faculty, staff and students wrote the Guide on Antisemitism for the MSU Community as a resource for the MSU community, which we are introducing this Fall. The Institute has participated in six annual forums where students share experiences of antisemitism, has conducted training sessions for over six hundred residential advisors and intercultural aides, and has given an additional half dozen workshops on antisemitism across the university. We are now working to include training on how to recognize and combat antisemitism and Islamophobia into orientation sessions for new students, faculty, and staff, and for residential advisors, as well as reinstituting the MSU Dialogues on Religion and Ethnicity, for which we created the curriculum in collaboration with faculty and students in Muslim Studies.

We are inspired to build in all these areas to make even more contributions over the next decade!

Professor Yael Aronoff
Director of The Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel. 

Michael Serling, Elie Weisel, and Jeff Leib, MSU campus, 1999

Michael and Elaine Serling

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.

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 18 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.
We also offer a 16 credit social science track to the Jewish Studies minor for social science majors who wish to use the Jewish Studies minor for the social science minor required of them as social science majors.
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 5 core Jewish Studies faculty and 30 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. 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 that 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, 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. 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.

Please contact the Jewish Studies Minor Advisor, Professor Yael Aronoff, at aronoffy@msu.edu