JBuzz News April 3, 2012: Elon University: New Jewish studies minor unites courses into comprehensive study of culture

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Elon University: New Jewish studies minor unites courses into comprehensive study of culture

Source: Elon Pendulum, 4-3-12

It was during his first semester on campus that sophomore Mason Sklut discovered his interest in Jewish history and culture. Now, with the addition of a new program in Jewish studies, Sklut will graduate with a minor in the topic he loves.

Professor Geoffrey Claussen has been instrumental in the creation of the Jewish Studies Program. File photo by Julia Sayers.

“My first semester, I took Jewish Traditions with Michael Pregill, where I learned about how Judaism has become what it is today,” Sklut said. “Going back thousands of years in this class and discovering the ancient roots of my religion was an incredible experience for me.”

Sklut has taken multiple additional courses about Judaism and said he is fascinated with the diversity of the religion. The new program offers students an interdisciplinary minor tracing the culture and history of the religion.

“In many courses, it’s seeing how the community, generally throughout history, functioning as a minority group, related to other surrounding communities,” said Geoffrey Claussen, assistant professor of religious studies. “Being able to trace the very diverse experiences of the community through very different times and places is what the minor seeks to encourage.”

Claussen, who arrived at the university in the fall and has been instrumental in the formation of the program, said it seeks to unite a range of courses — including religious studies, foreign language, philosophy and sociology, among others — to illustrate the complexity and diversity of the Jewish communities.

Students interested in obtaining the minor must complete 20 credit hours, four in Jewish Traditions and the others from a selection of more than 35 course offerings.

Claussen said he has already spoken to some students who have fulfilled some of the requirements for the minor.

It is important for all students at Elon to have the opportunity to be exposed to religious diversity, and to explore further into traditions that they may be unfamiliar with.
– Junior Diana Abrahams

“Some students have had in mind over the last year that this was probably coming up, and they have planned ahead to some degree,” he said. “Or, just because of their own academic interests, some students have ended up taking many of the required courses.”

Junior Diana Abrahams will have completed all 20 credits by the end of the spring based on courses she was already enrolled in. Abrahams, who is Jewish, said she enjoys engaging in conversation about her religion.

“It is important for all students at Elon to have the opportunity to be exposed to religious diversity, and to explore further into traditions that they may be unfamiliar with,” she said.

Academic interest in Jewish studies has increased in North America in recent years, Claussen said, and the creation of such a program at Elon is beneficial to the university.

“Jewish families considering Elon have asked in recent years about whether there will be a Jewish studies program, and this program helps to make Elon attractive to that whole group of students,” Claussen said. “And this includes students who may not necessarily choose to minor in Jewish studies, but who want to know that the college supports taking the Jewish experience seriously as part of the liberal arts education.”

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