JBuzz News August 22, 2014: Jewish school in Copenhagen vandalised

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Jewish school in Copenhagen vandalised

Source: AFP, 8-22-14

A Jewish school in Copenhagen had its windows smashed and anti-Jewish graffiti referring to the conflict in Gaza spray-painted on its walls, the school said on Friday….READ MORE

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JBuzz News July 4, 2013: AVI CHAI Foundation awards nearly $2 million to Conservative day schools

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Nearly $2 million awarded to Conservative day schools

Source: JTA, 7-4-13

The AVI CHAI Foundation awarded nearly $2 million to support the Conservative movement’s Solomon Schechter network of Jewish day schools….READ MORE

JBuzz Musings June 28, 2013: UTT Herzliah St. Laurent building finally sold

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UTT Herzliah St. Laurent building finally sold

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After nearly two years the United Talmud Torahs of Montreal (UTT) announced on June 20, 2013 by email to their alumni that they have sold the school building that housed the UTT Elementary School and Herzliah High School Beutal campus…READ MORE

JBuzz News June 13, 2013: JESNA: National Jewish education organization to shut its doors after 31 years

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National Jewish education organization to shut its doors after 31 years

Source: Jweekly.com, 6-13-13

The Jewish Education Service of North America will end its operations in July after 31 years. Established in 1982, JESNA has been downsizing for the past four years, in part due to declining allocations from the Jewish federation system….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 10, 2013: Chabad Jewish education center in Miami could be lost in foreclosure auction

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Chabad Jewish education center in Miami could be lost in foreclosure auction

Source: South Florida Business Journal, 5-10-13

The Lubavitch Education Center in Miami, where Jewish studies are taught from preschool through high school and rabbinical training, has been ordered to foreclosure auction….READ MORE

JBuzz News May 9, 2013: Mayanot Institute for Jewish Studies: Steer Towards the ‘On-Ramp’ to Jewish Education

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Steer Towards the ‘On-Ramp’ to Jewish Education

Students at Mayanot’s Women’s Program in class with Rabbi Mordechai Guth, right.

Students at Mayanot’s Women’s Program in class with Rabbi Mordechai Guth, right.

Nestled in the heart of Jerusalem, and long seen as an accessible starting point for young Jews looking to deepen their connections to their religion, the Mayanot Institute for Jewish Studies has had thousands pass through the doors of its campuses for young men and women since its founding more than a decade ago.

In response to requests from students and young adults who visit Israel as part of the 10-day Birthright Israel tours, Mayanot’s Jewish studies program will now offer an intensive crash course on “Judaism 101” for those with little or no prior Jewish education….READ MORE

JBuzz News February 8, 2013: Lichtigfeld School, Jewish school in Frankfurt, Germany looks to attract non-Jews

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Jewish school looks to attract non-Jews

Source: Ynetnews, 2-8-13

VIDEO – The Lichtigfeld School opened in Frankfurt in 1966. It was the first German Jewish school to reopen its doors after the Holocaust….READ MORE

JBuzz News November 15, 2012: New Zealand Jewish community calls for compulsory Holocaust studies

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Jewish community calls for compulsory Holocaust studies

Source: TVNZ, 11-15-12

The Holocaust Centre in Wellington is calling for the study of the World War II genocide of Europe’s Jews to be made compulsory in New Zealand secondary schools….READ MORE

JBuzz News July 29, 2012: Israeli summer camps venture into Jewish identity building

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Israeli summer camps venture into Jewish identity building

Source: JTA, 7-29-12

Noting the success of American camps, some Israelis educators are trying to adapt the concept to fit their youth when it comes to informal Jewish education and identity building….READ MORE»

JBuzz News July 19, 2012: Orthodox Union (OU) & Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) Create New Tuition Affordability Center for Jewish Day Schools

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OU, PEJE create new tuition affordability center

Source: JTA, 7-19-12

Two Jewish organizations have established a new center to collect and analyze tuition affordability programs for Jewish day schools.

The Jewish Day School Affordability Knowledge Center is part of a first-ever partnership between the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education and the Orthodox Union. The center will be devoted to researching, analyzing and circulating knowledge and practices about existing tuition affordability programs in order to help day schools figure out which programs are best suited for them….READ MORE

JBuzz News July 18, 2012: Golda Och Academy Adds Choice to Revamped Judaic Studies Department

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Golda Och adds choice to Judaic studies dept.

Day school revamps curriculum to reflect trend for flexibility

+ enlarge image

Flora Yavelberg, Judaic studies chair at Golda Och Academy, said the day school’s new curriculum aims to increase the flexibility while maintaining rigorous text study.

A core curriculum, two Judaic studies courses per semester, a competency exam, and an independent senior project: It sounds like a college admissions pitch.

But for high school students at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, it’s a brand-new program set to begin in the fall. In a total revamping of the day school’s Judaic studies curriculum, students will be able to take more electives in Tanach (Bible) and Jewish thought and tradition after taking core courses during their freshman year (see sidebar).

School administrators say the revised curriculum has been developed solely for GOA by faculty and administrators, but also with various outside influences….READ MORE

JBuzz News February 13, 2012: Jason Marantz: Manitoban appointed chief executive of the London School of Jewish Studies

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Manitoban to head Jewish school in London

Source: Winnipeg, Free Press, 2-13-12

Manitoban Jason Marantz hopes to bring Jewish adult education and teacher training programs to a new audience after being appointed chief executive of the London School of Jewish Studies Monday.

Marantz, 37, said he is excited about the new position.

“My aim is to firmly establish LSJS as the leading light in the provision of both teacher training and adult education in the UK Jewish community for future generations,” Marantz told The Jewish Post and News.

In his new role, Marantz will be responsible for budgeting and fundraising as well as management of the school.

Born in Winnipeg, Marantz completed his bachelor of arts at the University of Manitoba. In 1999, he moved to the UK to pursue a masters in literacy learning and literacy difficulties before becoming the head of the Wolfson Hillel Jewish Primary School in London.

Ari Y. Kelman: To chair concentration in education and Jewish studies at Stanford University

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Source: Stanford Daily News, 11-28-11

The School of Education appointed Ari Y. Kelman the inaugural Jim Joseph Chair in Education and Jewish Studies, a position and concentration funded by a $12 million gift from the Jim Joseph Foundation, the largest gift in the history of the School of Education.

Kelman was previously a professor in American studies at the University of California-Davis, where he was a leading scholar in contemporary Jewish life, with an emphasis on ethnic identity, media and American religious culture. Kelman will lead the new School of Education concentration in education and Jewish studies.

“Kelman’s appointment strengthens ongoing work at Stanford on the interactions of religion, ethnicity, identity and education and may well prefigure future growth in this area,” said Lee Shulman, Charles E. Ducommun professor emeritus of education, in a press release.

Kelman will design the new concentration and facilitate collaboration between the School of Education and the Taube Center for Jewish Studies.

Kelman is the author of “Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio” and the editor of “Sacred Strategies” and “Is Diss a System?: a Milt Gross Comic Reader

Professor’s ‘Death to Israel’ Rant Sparks Controversy at Kent State University

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Professor’s ‘Death to Israel’ Rant Sparks Controversy at Kent State University

Source: Fox News, 10-28-11

Kent State Professor IsraelKent State University history professor Julio Pino, right, shouted “Death to Israel” at a presentation by Israeli consulate official Ismael Khaldi, seen in this flyer for the event.

A Kent State University professor allegedly with former ties to a jihadist website shouted “Death to Israel” at a public lecture delivered on the Ohio campus by a former Israeli diplomat.

The outburst came during a presentation this week by Ismael Khaldi, a former deputy counsel general at the Israeli consulate in San Francisco. During the question and answer period, KSU history professor Julio Pino launched a series of provocative questions at Khaldi.

At some point, the professor shouted “Death to Israel” and then stormed out of the building. The event was first reported by the KSU student news site KentWired.

KSU president Lester Lefton, who is Jewish, denounced Pino’s outburst, calling it “reprehensible and an embarrassment to our university.”

At the same time, he defended Pino’s free speech rights.

“It may have been professor Pino’s right to do so, but it is my obligation, as the president of this university, to say that I find his words deplorable and his behavior deeply troubling,” his statement read.

Pino, who is originally from Cuba and a convert to Islam, did not return calls for comment.

A Kent State spokesman confirmed the professor was once investigated by federal authorities. The university said they were also aware of allegations that Pino wrote stories for a now-defunct jihadist website.

And according to the Akron Beacon Journal , the professor eulogized an 18-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber in the Daily Kent Stater, the student-run newspaper.

And yet, the tenured history professor still remains employed by the university….READ MORE

David Shneer: Colorado University Regents Consider Jewish Studies Degree

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Program has grown in popularity since it started in 2007

Source: Colorado Daily, 10-3-11

Professor Caryn Aviv lectures during her Global Secular Jewish Studies class at the University of Colorado on Monday. As early as next month, CU regents will consider making CU the first university in the Rocky Mountain region to offer Jewish Studies as a major. ( MARK LEFFINGWELL )

University of Colorado student Carly Coons has studied abroad in Jerusalem, interned at a Jewish summer camp over the summer and is nearly fluent in Hebrew.

The international affairs student, who is also earning a minor in religious studies, is among the growing number of students at CU-Boulder who have taken a particular interest in Jewish studies.

When CU first began its Jewish Studies program in 2007, about a dozen students pursued the certificate. Now, 75 students are enrolled in the certificate program, and the Board of Regents will decide whether the Boulder campus can allow students to major and minor in the area of study. The decision could come as early as November when the regents meet.

If approved, CU would become the first university in the Rocky Mountain region to offer Jewish Studies as a major — though there are well-established programs at dozens of schools across the country, including many Ivy League colleges.

“We have seen a huge student demand,” said David Shneer, a CU history professor and the director of the Program in Jewish Studies. “Each time we add a class, it fills up.”

When the program first began, it offered five classes a semester. Now, 25 classes are offered to students — including courses on the Holocaust, Jewish-American Literature, Hebrew language and “Women, Gender & Sexuality in Judaism.”

Coon, who is leaning toward a career in the nonprofit sector, said she is hopeful Jewish Studies will become a major because the area of study allows students to think critically and in a cross-cultural context.

“Those are skills that can be applied to any career path that you choose,” she said.

The bachelor’s in Jewish Studies proposal is among nine new degree programs that are in the pipeline at CU-Boulder, all of which are in varying stages and would require approval from the Board of Regents. Other programs include a computer science degree housed in the College of

Katie Christensen, senior in international affairs, takes notes during professor Caryn Aviv’s Global Secular Jewish Studies class on Monday. ( MARK LEFFINGWELL )

Arts and Sciences, Ph.D.in German and Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in architectural engineering.Coons — who is the president of Hillel Boulder, a Jewish campus life organization — has enough credits in the Jewish Studies program that if regents approve the degree program, she’ll have a bachelor’s degree in Jewish Studies when she graduates in May.

The certificate program requires students to take 24 credits, said Jamie Polliard, assistant director of the Program in Jewish Studies. Students would need to complete 18 credits to minor in Jewish Studies and 36 to major in it.

Each semester, 750 students take classes offered through Jewish Studies, she said.

Students pursuing Jewish Studies are oftentimes considering careers in international relations, teaching or working with community organizations, Polliard said.

Shneer said the degree proposal fits into the university’s long-term “Flagship 2030” plan because it will help prepare graduates for an increasingly global economy. Students in the degree program would have internship and study abroad options, and they’d be required to take three years of a foreign language.

The university will also be establishing a $2.5 million endowed chair in Jewish history made possible by a donation from Midge Korczak and Leslie Lomas, sisters who have advanced history degrees and live in Boulder.

Barry W. Holtz Reviews Jonathan Krasner: How One Man Samson Benderly Shaped American Jewish Education

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Barry W. Holtz Reviews Jonathan Krasner: How One Man Shaped American Jewish Education

Source: The Forward, 8-19-11

Visionaries: Samson Benderly (front row, second from right) at the 1907 Zionist convention in Tannersville, N.Y., with fellow delegates including Rabbi Judah L. Magnes (front row, left) and Solomon Schechter (front row, second from left).
Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Visionaries: Samson Benderly (front row, second from right) at the 1907 Zionist convention in Tannersville, N.Y., with fellow delegates including Rabbi Judah L. Magnes (front row, left) and Solomon Schechter (front row, second from left).

The Benderly Boys and American Education
By Jonathan Krasner
Brandeis University Press, 496 pages, $95

In the early years of the 20th century, Samson Benderly stood with the legendary figures of American Jewish life: He was recruited to New York by Judah Magnes; he knew Henrietta Szold and Barnett Brickner; he battled Solomon Schechter; he met regularly with his benefactor, Jacob Schiff, and his closest friend was Mordecai Kaplan. Indeed, Kaplan wrote of Benderly, “He is to me the most positive force in Jewish life today.”

Benderly, more than any other single individual, shaped the institutions of American Jewish education that we know today; but aside from historians of American Jewry and scholars of Jewish education, his name is virtually unknown. Now, Jonathan Krasner, an assistant professor of American Jewish history at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, has produced “The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education” (Brandeis University Press, 2011), a prodigious and clear portrait of Benderly and his world.

It is not an exaggeration to say that this volume is the most important piece of historical writing about American Jewish education to have appeared in a generation. Although many fine scholars have written about various aspects of Jewish education in America, no one until now has taken such a comprehensive view of it. Krasner’s book delves deeply into the crucial period of the field — the 20th century — and contextualizes the history of American Jewish education both within Jewish life and within modern education. The wonderful collection of photographs on display throughout the book adds to its charm.

Benderly, born into a traditional Hasidic family in Safed, arrived in America in 1898 from Palestine. Though he came to Baltimore for medical studies, he was drawn to Jewish teaching and eventually left medicine to become an educator.

Benderly was a visionary and was capable of inspiring others to follow his vision. He developed around him a group of remarkable young people who shared his excitement about changing the face of American Jewish education. These were the “boys” of the book’s title: Alexander Dushkin, Isaac Berkson, Emanuel Gamoran and many others. Krasner also points out the importance of a group of “Benderly girls” (such as Rebecca Aaronson Brickner and Libbie Suchoff Berkson), many of whom had important careers in Jewish education, though most of them did not go into the work of institutional leadership, which was more characteristic of male career paths at the time. An excellent companion to this book, therefore, is the 2010 book “The Women Who Reconstructed American Jewish Education, 1910–1965” (Brandeis). Edited by Carol Ingall, it comprises portraits of influential female Jewish educators.

When Benderly began his work, Jewish education was a hodgepodge of disorganized institutions, profoundly incompetent teachers, nonexistent textbooks and undefined curricula. Studies were often conducted in “dilapidated, dark, stuffy, and often filthy conditions.” Benderly’s main mission was to organize, modernize and Americanize Jewish education. He was, despite his traditional upbringing, a cultural Jew, and he saw Jewish education in the light of Ahad Ha’am’s Zionist dream and his focus on Jewish peoplehood. Therefore, Benderly placed a strong emphasis on Hebrew-language acquisition, with a focus on the Hebrew of the modern world, not that of the synagogue and traditional texts. It was Benderly more than anyone else who promoted the “natural method” in Hebrew education, using the approach that has characterized the ulpan, or Hebrew language school, in Israel and “immersion” techniques in foreign language learning today that have a strong emphasis on conversation and comprehension in real-life situations. In addition, Benderly introduced “technology” into Jewish education, developing magic-lantern (an early type of image projector) slides to use in instruction on Jewish holidays and the Bible. (If he were alive today, it would be fair to assume that he would be promoting social media and the Internet as means for Jewish education.)

Benderly also insisted on a system for training and accrediting teachers. He wanted to apply the findings of educational “science” (what we today would call “research”) to Jewish education. And he strove to create an organized, centralized system of support for, and supervision of, Jewish education, dealing with curricula, standard hours and classroom environments. He also understood the importance of the “informal” aspects of education, and one of his disciples, Albert Schoolman, was the prime mover in creating what is arguably the greatest and most original contribution of American Jewish education: the summer educational camp. All this flowed from Benderly and his followers….READ MORE

Ohr Chadash Academy: New Modern Orthodox school opening in Baltimore

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Source: Baltimore Jewish Times, 8-3-11

A new Modern Orthodox day school is opening in Baltimore three months after another shut down.

The Ohr Chadash Academy, which is opening Sept. 1, will be located at the Park Heights Jewish Community Center, where the Modern Orthodox Yeshivat Rambam held boys’ classes. Yeshivat Rambam closed in June because of financial problems.

Ohr Chadash will run from kindergarten through sixth grade and expects to have approximately 90 students in its inaugural school year, growing over the next two years to add seventh and eighth grades. The average class size to start will be about 14 students.

Shayna Levine-Heyfetz, a school board member, enrollment chair and art teacher, said Ohr Chadash will fill a niche in the Orthodox community vacated by Rambam.

“Rambam was the only school that espoused a philosophy of Modern Orthodox Judaism and the only school that provided a commitment to Jewish law and an excellent college preparatory program,” she said.

Levine-Heyfetz said 12 families have shown interest in sending their children to the Ohr Chadash kindergarten next year.

Orh Chadash teachers, who mostly are from Rambam, attended a weeklong training session in Brooklyn, N.Y., on catering to the individual needs of students. Ohr Chadash also has formed a partnership with Shemesh, a local organization dedicated to providing services and support for students with learning disabilities.

Levine-Heyfetz said Ohr Chadash will have an independent financial oversight committee to ensure fiscal responsibility. Committee members have backgrounds in nonprofit management and school finance.

In addition, the school has created a rabbinic advisory committee, chaired by Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union, to ensure that Ohr Chadash remains connected to the community.

Students in grades 4 to 6 will have iPads that have been donated by benefactors. Each iPad will be loaded with free educational applications.

“The iPads will allow learning at the highest level,” said Noah Davidovics, the head of the technology department. “They will allow teachers to have activities directed at the students’ needs.”

Levine-Heyfetz is hoping that Ohr Chadash will become a staple in the local Orthodox community, like Rambam.

“Will it bring Modern Orthodox Jews back to Baltimore?” Levine-Heyfetz asked. “Time will tell.”

Civics studies in Israeli Schools to focus on Jewish democracy

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Source: YNet News, 7-20-11

Education Ministry approves controversial changes to high school civics curriculum which will emphasize historical justifications for State of Israel’s establishment

A new civics curriculum is underway after being approved by the Education Ministry on Monday. The new curriculum has a bigger emphasis on the connection between a Jewish and democratic state.

The program’s approval encountered a few obstacles due to a public battle between civics teachers and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar who sought to introduce the change.

A source within the Education Ministry noted that while the alterations were relatively moderate, they definitely mark a change towards a more nationalistic and Jewish direction.

Secular, religious students to study civics together

Education Ministry pushing for new program in which religious, secular high schools will hold joint civics classes. ‘This requires a great deal of courage,’ program manager says — Full Story

The changes include additions like a historical introduction to the Balfour declaration and the UN’s partition plan in 1947.

The declaration of independence will be studied with an emphasis on the historical and international justification for the establishment of a Jewish State in Israel. There will also be an emphasis on the State of Israel as the Jewish people’s nation state while explaining it from the perspective of democratic values…READ MORE

Institute addresses Southern Jewish educational needs

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Source: Jewish Herald-Voice, 7-6-11

ISJL education fellows Michelle Blumenthal and Reva Frankel spend their time developing curriculum and programming for individual congregation and community needs.

Growing number of Houston-area congregations adopting ISJL’s congregational school curriculum

American Jewish communities, across movements and state lines, should be on the same page in terms of congregational-school curriculum, according to the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life.

The ISJL held its 10th annual education conference June 26-28 at its home base in Jackson, Miss. Nearly 160 attendees, representing 65 different congregations across a 13-state region, convened under the central theme of “Go and Teach: Tzei V’lameid.”

“The more diversity of congregations we have, the more opportunity we have to bring more minds to the table,” said ISJL director/CEO Macy B. Hart, in an interview with the JH-V.

The conference encouraged community-building and networking among ISJL’s diverse user base.

Attendees learned how to implement the institute’s innovative kindergarten through high school curriculum, which is based upon a secular education “standardization” approach that teaches a common body of Jewish knowledge to religious school students throughout the region.

Conference-goers participated in breakout sessions and specialty tracks geared toward school directors, new and veteran teachers and Hebrew instructors. They also worked with ISJL’s nine education fellows, who serve the institute’s communities throughout the year….READ MORE

Reuven Feuerstein: Israeli’s Nobel Prize nod gains momentum

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Intellectuals worldwide aim to see renowned psychologist Prof. Reuven Feuerstein win Nobel Peace Prize

Source: Ynet News, 6-12-11

What do a Muslim sheikh from Hebron, a world renowned Venetian intellectual and dozens of professors from the world over have in common with a Jewish educator? They all want the latter to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Several dozen prominent intellectuals will convene in Jerusalem Monday, with the intention of devising a plan meant to see Prof. Reuven Feuerstein become a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The Nobel Prize Committee has already received a recommendation on Feuerstein’s behalf, for which he said he was honored.

Feuerstein, 90, is a world-renowned clinical, developmental and cognitive psychologist. His lifelong work in developing applied theories in the fields of structural cognitive modifiability, mediated learning experience, deficient cognitive functions, dynamic assessment of learning propensity and shaping modifying environments, to name a few, has been recognized worldwide, and he is considered to be at the top of his field.   In 1992, Feuerstein was awarded the Israel Prize for Social Sciences.

“Since they don’t give a Nobel Prize for education, dad was recommended for the Peace Prize,” Rabbi Raffi Feuerstein, the professor’s son, explained.

“His supporters say that his work saves lives, so he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, especially when there are precedents for people receiving Nobels outside their discipline.”

Prof. Feuerstein’s methods have found their way to the Amazonas, Rwanda and even the Eskimos, and are now prevalent in Hebron as well: “We visited Hebron and saw the children’s needs there. We are now developing special programs for them,” he said.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, the learning center in Hebron is one of the reasons one of the most enthused advocates for Feuerstein’s Nobel candidacy is Sheikh Jabbari Farid Khider – one of the city’s most prominent religious figures.

“We also have Gaza in mind,” the professor said. “We want them to send teachers to us and we will train them on how to teach children suffering from genetic disorders.”

CU-Boulder gets $2 million endowed chair in Jewish history

Source: JTA, 5-5-11

The University of Colorado at Boulder has announced the establishment of a $2 million endowed chair in Jewish history.

The gift was made by sisters and CU-Boulder alumnae Midge Korczak and Leslie Singer Lomas in honor of their late father, Louis P. Singer.
The Louis P. Singer Endowed Chair in Jewish History makes CU-Boulder the sixth public university in the United States to establish a chair in Jewish history. Seventeen American universities in total have such chairs.
David Shneer, an associate professor of historyat the school, says the chair will support a senior faculty position in perpetuity, and will add “substantially” to the school’s four-year-old Jewish studies program, which he directs.
Course offerings in the program have tripled since the program was created, and more than 700 students take Jewish courses each semester.

Irreverence Now Shoah Teaching Tool: Graphic Novels

Source: The NY Jewish Week, 4-27-11

A graphic novel about Auschwitz is part of a growing trend of so-called Holocaust comic books.

After years of Holocaust farces, observers debate the uses of irony or graphic novels when it comes to Holocaust remembrance.

The traditional, reverent ways to “never forget” what happened to six million Jews during the Holocaust are still very much with us. Seventy years after the event, Holocaust museums have recently opened in Los Angeles and the Chicago suburb of Skokie, and even a city like Richmond, Va., with about 8,000 Jews, has one.

Public school curricula feature units on the Holocaust, trips to Shoah museums and visits by survivors themselves. And thousands of Jewish students still go on the March of the Living tour, which ferries them from the ashes of Auschwitz to the light of the State of Israel.

But as Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, nears this year, observers are debating the uses of irreverence to memorialize the event, especially when it comes to passing the lessons of the Shoah on to a younger, Facebook generation. After years of Holocaust farces like Mel Brooks’ hit Broadway play “The Producers,” Holocaust comedy films like Roberto Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful,” after Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi” and art shows depicting Zyklon B canisters alongside Coke cans, irreverence, when it comes to the Holocaust, is now the classic “teachable moment.”

And in our medium-is-the-message world, the graphic novel (comic book, to an older generation) may end up being the vehicle to carry the memory of the Holocaust to younger people.

Will it all breed in young people a disrespect that is harmful to the cause of Holocaust memorialization, or is such irreverence only inevitable in this post-Holocaust age?….READ MORE

Jonathan Sarna and Jay Ruderman: Op-Ed: Education is key in a changing U.S. Jews-Israel relationship

Source: JTA, 4-4-11

The relationship between American and Israeli Jews is changing. For most of Israel’s history, the American Jewish community was larger, wealthier and more powerful than its “poor cousin” in the Middle East, but now the differences between the two communities have greatly narrowed. More Jews are living in Greater Tel Aviv than in Greater New York, and Israel, like the United States, is one of the world’s most developed nations.

In addition, funds from Israel now strengthen the American Jewish community through programs like Taglit-Birthright Israel. Charitable funds no longer flow exclusively in the other direction.

The political relationship between the two communities is likewise changing. Gone are the days when major American Jewish organizations, and the bulk of their members, took their cue from the government of Israel and supported its policies reflexively. Thanks to the Internet, American Jews now hear a full range of voices from Israel. As a result, the spectrum of American Jewish opinion concerning Israel increasingly mirrors the spectrum of opinion within Israel itself.

Given these and other changes, the relationship between the world’s two major Jewish communities is in need of recalibration. To this end, much attention has been paid over the past few years to improving American Jews’ understanding of Israel. In 2008-09, according to a recent Brandeis University study, some 548 courses on campuses across the United States focused on Israel, seeking to improve students’ knowledge of the subject. Centers for Israel studies on American campuses also have proliferated.

By contrast, Israelis learn almost nothing about American Jewry. Not one significant academic center for the study of American Jewish life exists in the State of Israel, and university-based courses on the American Jewish community are few and far between. At the high school level, the study of American Jewish life is equally neglected.

As a result, the understanding of American Jewish life on the part of Israelis is quite limited. They know next to nothing about the deepest issues upon which Israelis and American Jews agree and disagree. They cannot comprehend what church-state separation means and how pluralism operates in the American context. Many fail to understand their American cousins at all.

All Israelis, political leaders in particular, would benefit from knowing more about American Jewish life. The more American Jews and Israelis learn about one another, the better their future relationship will be.

Israelis, including members of Knesset, too often only look inward at Israeli society when legislating and voting on matters that ultimately impact upon American Jewry. Even if their first responsibility is to the citizens they represent and the sovereign state they serve, they would do well to consider how the American Jewish community, too, is affected by their choices.

If every measure considered by the Knesset carried a “Diaspora impact statement” (analogous to our environmental impact statements), consciousness of how Israel’s actions impact upon world Jewry would be heightened.

Six Israeli Knesset members are visiting Boston and New York as part of a program organized by Brandeis University and the Ruderman Foundation to help Israeli leaders gain new perspectives on American Jewish life and on the changing relationship between their country and the American Jewish community. They are meeting with religious figures, community leaders and private citizens.

By learning more about the American Jewish community, we hope they will come to better appreciate how their actions — such as Knesset efforts to legally define Jewishness for the purposes of marriage or aliyah, Israel’s military actions and how the Foreign Ministry reacts to democratic uprisings in the Arab world — impact upon American Jews and Jews worldwide.

Educating Israel’s political leaders about the American Jewish community should be the start of a larger effort aimed at teaching Israelis as much about American Jews as the latter learn about them.

A new day is dawning in the relationship between American Jews and Israel. The image of wealthy American Jews providing charity to their struggling Israeli cousins is fading fast. More than ever, each community now needs to understand how its interests are bound up with that of the other.

Just as American Jews are becoming better educated about Israel, the time has come for Israelis to learn more about the American Jewish community and their inextricable relationship to it.

(Jonathan Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History. Jay Ruderman is president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which has offices in Boston and Rehovot, Israel.)

Alex Joffe: Jewish Studies in Decline?

Jewish Studies in Decline?

Source: Jewish Ideas Daily, 3-28-11

Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies, Hebrew University.

Reports prepared recently for Israel’s Council of Higher Education have brought despairing news about the condition of the humanities in the country’s universities. Especially dispiriting is the report on Jewish studies, once the crowning glory of Israel’s flagship Hebrew University—and, in the report’s inadvertently nostalgic words, “an investment in the nurturing of the deep spiritual and cultural structures of Israeli public and private life.”

On the Future of Jewish Studies Tomer VelmerYNet.  Just as global interest in Jewish thought has been surging, Israel’s universities, once the leaders in the field, have opted to invest their funds in more “lucrative” disciplines.

What Price Jewish Studies? Jacob NeusnerForward.  The flourishing of Jewish studies at secular American universities has come at the cost of a decline in the sort of classical religious learning that is necessary to the future of Judaism.

That investment has been producing ever smaller returns. While Israel is still the world center of Jewish studies, the field’s decline has been visible for years. Retiring faculty are not replaced, less and less research money is allocated, fewer and fewer students appear interested in pursuing a degree or a career in this or related disciplines.In part this is a story of shifting resources. Faculty, students, and money go where they are needed and where there are opportunities. At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, the opportunities are in the various fields of science and technology, where Israeli research and teaching are world-class. A recent book called Israel the “start-up nation“; who would not want of be part of that success story? In a sense, the utilitarian Israelis are not only in step with but a step ahead of the rest of the developed world, where the need for trained scientists and science teachers is pressing.

In part, though, the decline of Jewish studies in Israel represents another, more complicated trend. Israeli national identity—those “deep spiritual and cultural structures” of which the report speaks—is already nominally Jewish: Hebrew is spoken, the Jewish holidays are celebrated nationwide, most marriages take place under a huppah, and so forth. Why then, a student might well ask, do I need to seek reinforcement at the university level? (This is to put aside the issue of how much the average Israeli high-school graduate really knows about Judaism or even Zionism.)

The answer to that unspoken question is that although the orientation of academic Jewish studies was never either explicitly religious or explicitly nationalist, the field did usefully inform, supplement, and, in certain cases, provide a cultural substitute for those qualities as well as an intellectual meeting ground of Judaism and Zionism. Now, with the exception of a few secular “study houses,” much of serious Jewish learning is increasingly left to the religiously and/or ideologically motivated—notable among them the ultra-Orthodox (haredim), who in principle reject the approach that sees Judaism in the context of the eras it has traversed and the cultures with which it has interacted….READ MORE

Shmuel Yosef Agnon: Online Course Analyzes Stories

WebYeshiva.org Jewish studies program brings Nobel laureate’s teachings outside of Israel, for first time via internet

Source: Ynet News, 1-31-11

WebYeshiva.org, the first fully-interactive online Jewish studies program, announced recently a new course entitled “Midrash Agnon” that analyzes Nobel laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon’s short stories in English.

The course will be broadcast live from Agnon’s Jerusalem house, bringing the teachings of S.Y. Agnon’s works outside of Israel, for the first time via the internet.

“Midrash Agnon” will be given live by Rabbi Jeffrey Saks, founding director of the Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions (ATID), parent organization of WebYeshiva.org, at the Agnon House in Talpiot, Jerusalem.

The five-part series begins Sunday, February 6, and can be joined live in Jerusalem or via the simultaneous online broadcast at WebYeshiva.org. The course will focus on analyzing Agnon’s short stories from a literary perspective while unraveling the undertones of classical Jewish sources present in his writings.

In addition, the class will discuss many theological, cultural and spiritual questions of that time including the viability of Judaism in the Diaspora, the continuity of tradition in the face of modernity, and the meaning of the return to the Land of Israel….READ MORE