January 15, 2010

With new Jewish Studies Center, meshuggeners and menschen will come together

The newly established Chicago Center for Jewish Studies will better connect different areas of interest for Jewish scholars by restructuring related Civilization courses, building upon the Jewish Studies minor, and developing more undergraduate courses.

The Center, directed by professor Josef Stern, will oversee the Jewish Studies major and minor in the College, two sequences of Judaic Civilization, and all Hebrew and Yiddish language programs. More than 40 of the faculty are members of the Center, including those from the history, law, and music departments. The Center has no offices of its own yet, but hopes to gain space in the next few years.

“We see the Center as a platform that will not only build bridges between different units engaged in Jewish Studies, but also bring scholars and students from outside of the field into conversations that will significantly enrich both sides,” Stern, a professor of philosophy and Jewish studies, said in an e-mail interview.

The Center will offer research travel grants, an internship program with global Jewish organizations, and an undergraduate essay contest with a $500 prize on any topic related to Jewish Studies.

Although the Center is not a department or ethnic studies program, “we want to emphasize not only the inter-disciplinary character of Jewish Studies, but also the importance of cultivating intellectual conversations and exchanges with as many disciplines and fields as possible,” Stern said.