JBuzz Features August 20, 2014: The ‘Mainstreaming’ Of Jewish Studies

JBUZZ FEATURES: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

The ‘Mainstreaming’ Of Jewish Studies

Source: The Jewish Week, 8-20-14

Houston – Administrators at Texas Christian University, an institution in Forth W orth affiliated with the Disciples of Christ denomination, needed some advice last year on starting a Jewish studies program, which is now in the planning stages….READ MORE

JBuzz News October 22, 2012: Jewish studies not just for Jews

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Jewish studies not just for Jews

In order for the academic pursuit of Jewish studies to continue, it must appeal to a broader audience outside the Jewish community, said Judith Baskin, a Jewish scholar, author and professor….READ MORE

JBuzz News August 16, 2012: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, and the Weizmann Institute of Science: Three Israeli Universities Rank in Top 100

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Three Israeli Universities Rank in Top 100

Source: The Jewish Press, 8-16-12

View of the Hebrew University campus at "Mount Scopus." Hebrew U. was ranked 53rd in the world.
View of the Hebrew University campus at “Mount Scopus.” Hebrew U. was ranked 53rd in the world.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASh90

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, and the Weizmann Institute of Science were ranked in the top 100 universities in Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s authoritative 2012 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

The Hebrew University achieved the highest rank – 53rd, with the Technion in 78th place, and the Weizmann Institute coming in at 93rd. Significantly, this is the first time that more than one Israeli university made the top 100….READ MORE

Alex Joffe: Israel Studies 101

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Source: Jewish Ideas Daily, 10-3-11

The modern American research university is a house of many rooms.  The field of Israel Studies, which has emerged in the past decade, occupies one of the newest—and smallest—of those rooms.  Israel Studies programs are meant to address a serious problem and take advantage of a large opportunity on campus.  What happens to them in the coming years will tell us something significant about Israel as a topic of study and about the American university itself.

Studying Israel  Jan Jaben-EilonJerusalem Post.  The growth of interest in Israel as a field of serious academic study is not just American but worldwide.

Multicultural Israel in a Global Perspective  Association for Israel Studies.  The Association for Israel Studies, in existence since 1985, plans its 2012 conference in Haifa.

Follow the Money  Alex JoffeJewish Ideas Daily.  Between 1995 and 2008, Arab Gulf states gave $234 million in contracts and about $88 million in gifts to American universities. What has their money purchased?

Jewish Studies in Decline?  Alex JoffeJewish Ideas Daily.  Retiring faculty are not replaced, less research money is allocated, and fewer students enter the field. Is there a future for the academic study of Judaism?

In American universities over the past 150 years and more, academic programs and departments have come and gone.  One reason is that increasing specialization is, to some extent, intrinsic to the pursuit of knowledge.  Departments such as physics and chemistry broke off from one another as their disciplines grew too large and complex to be confined within a single intellectual and administrative space.  There have been fractures in disciplines like anthropology, where scholars of culture and scholars of biology discovered that they could no longer bear one another.

More recently, specialization has also been fueled by demands, from the subjects of study themselves, for inclusion on the academic menu.  Since the 1960’s, we have seen a proliferation of ethnic and gender studies programs meant to bring the narratives of ignored or excluded groups into the larger discussion.  Jews and Jewish Studies programs in American universities have been among the leaders of this drive for inclusion through separation.

At their best, such efforts have created true and valuable diversity—in the sense of new streams of thought—within American universities.  They have also created walled-off compartments in which faculty can preach to choirs of student disciples (or simply to themselves) and the politicians among them can clamor for more resources, often by claiming past or present discrimination.  Unlike Jewish Studies programs, which are largely funded by Jewish donors, most ethnic and gender studies programs are paid for by the host universities themselves.  Such programs can perhaps best be characterized as having produced some scholarship and much politicking.

Israel Studies programs have a different provenance.  After World War II, U.S. universities saw the rise of “area studies,” in which scholars crossed the boundaries of disciplines like history, economics, and political science in pursuit of ‘useful knowledge’ about a geographic region or cultural area.  Middle Eastern Studies departments emerged as part of this trend.  They are long awash in funds from, among other donors, Arab governments.  Predictably, these departments have been dominated by scholars of the Arab and Muslim worlds.  As their subjects have increasingly become the focus of world conflict, these scholars have—perhaps inevitably, in light of the current university climate—become advocates…. READ MORE

Alex Joffe is a research scholar with the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.

 

JBuzz News: Hebrew University Ranked 57th, Rising in Prestigious Poll

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UNIVERSITY NEWS

Source: JTA, 8-18-11

Hebrew University was ranked 57th in a prestigious annual ranking of the world’s universities, moving up 15 spots from the previous year.

Seventeen of the top 20 universities in this year’s survey by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China were American, led by Harvard, Stanford and MIT in the top three spots.

Other Israeli universities joined Hebrew University, which was No. 72 last year, in the rankings.

Tel Aviv University, Weizmann Institute of Science and Haifa’s Institute of Technology were placed in the 102-150 grouping, and Bar-Ilan University and Ben-Gurion University were in the 301-400 spots. The groupings of the five schools were unchanged from a year ago.

Cambridge University in Britain was ranked fifth and Oxford was 10th. The University College of London rounded out the top 20.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University surveys 1,000 universities and ranks the top 500.

Naim Dangoor: Which country has 10 Jewish study centres? (And it’s not obvious)

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JEWISH STUDIES — UNIVERSITY NEWS

New professor Naim Dangoor

A delegation of professors from a leading foreign university flew to London last Friday to honour a British supporter of their country’s burgeoning programme of Jewish studies.

Philanthropist Naim Dangoor, who is 97, was made a consultant professor of China’s Nanjing University in an award ceremony held in his Kensington apartment.

“We are very proud that you are now one of us,” Nanjing vice-president Xue Hai Lin told Professor Dangoor, newly decorated in his black and red academic robes and sporting a black mortar board with red tassel.

Nanjing’s Institute of Jewish Studies opened in May 1992, just a few months after Israel and China established diplomatic relations. According to Professor Xu Xin, director of the Nanjing Institute and president of the China Judaic Studies Association, there are now around 10 Jewish studies centres in the country.

Nanjing’s 800-page Chinese translation of the Encyclopaedia Judaica is the standard reference work on Judaism in the country and its other works include a how-and-why of antisemitism as well as a translation of Martin Gilbert’s Atlas of Jewish History. Iraqi-born Prof Dangoor said that he was “greatly honoured” by his award, which he received along with a gold thread embroidered tapestry of a kirin, a mythical beast which signifies good luck, prosperity and a long life….READ MORE

Canada is Fertile Ground for Anti-Semitism, Report Says

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Source: JTA, 7-11-11

Canada is fertile ground for anti-Semitism, especially on university campuses, a parliamentary committee has concluded.

After two years of hearings, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism in a report released last week called on the federal government to do more to fight anti-Semitism in Canada, which it said is rising, due partly to increased hostility toward Israel.

Over 10 days of hearings between November 2009 and February 2010, the coalition’s 22 members, consisting of lawmakers from all federal parties, heard from 74 witnesses, including federal and provincial politicians, diplomats, university administrators, academics, chiefs of police, journalists and other interested individuals.

Among its dozens of recommendations, which are not binding on the government, the coalition said that police forces across Canada should be better trained to deal with anti-Semitism; Canada’s immigration department should take into account rising international anti-Semitism when designating source countries for refugees; and the Foreign Affairs Ministry should study the United Nations’ criticisms of Israel.

It also said that legislators and others need “a clear and concise definition of what anti-Semitism entails.”

One major concern of the coalition was Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual event on Canadian university campuses.

“We had got several testimonies from students, particularly Jewish students, who were scared,” committee co-chair Mario Silvia, a former Toronto-area member of Parliament, told the Globe and Mail newspaper.

“They were quite fearful of attending classes and going to their campuses because of the fact that they felt they were being targeted for being supportive of Israel.”

Against the odds, U.S. Jewish studies thrive

Source: The Forward, 12-29-10

History is filled with surprises, and sometimes the surprises are quite pleasant; the Association for Jewish Studies is exactly such a surprise.

Seriously, how much do you know about sea narratives by Hasidim and their opponents? Were you not listening that day? Surreptitiously texting? Did you perhaps grow up in Syracuse, which is not near the sea and which has had more than 70 inches of snow already this season? That, dear friend, is no excuse: Just down the block, at Syracuse University, you will find Ken Frieden, who just happens to be the B. G. Rudolph Professor of Judaic Studies at Syracuse and, I dare say, the world’s leading expert on sea narratives by Hasidim and their opponents.

I love it. I love that amidst all the hurly-burly of our times — while Sarah Palin does her shtick, and Michele Bachmann is oxymoronically appointed to the Intelligence Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Goldman Sachs sacks the rest of us — people like Frieden, a magna cum laude graduate of Yale, think about things such as the role of Hebrew and Yiddish narratives in Jewish literary history….READ MORE

It was at the 1969 Brandeis meeting that the idea for a professional association of Jewish academics was put forward and endorsed. And now, 41 years later, the Association for Jewish Studies has more than 1,800 members, and more than a thousand came to Boston to attend its recent conference, at which there were more than 150 panels.

It is a wonderful surprise that there are still students who choose Jewish studies as their college specialization. One wonders whether that will last, given the growingly stepchild status of the humanities. These days, when the value of a college education is widely announced in earning potential, when both fiscal and cultural tendencies in our public schools prompt more and more cuts in the “soft” subjects, when the largely fraudulent “for profit” universities are accountable not to their students but to their shareholders, when technology and, if I may be quaint, love of learning, seem so separate, a continuing interest in Jewish studies can hardly be taken for granted.

But who knows? History is so filled with surprises, and sometimes the surprises are quite pleasant. The Association for Jewish Studies is exactly such a surprise.