Jewish studies concentration to be considered

The proposal for a Jewish Studies concentration, which has been in development since the passage of the 2001 Proposals for Curricular Innovation, has been completed and will be voted upon at the February faculty meeting. If approved, the concentration will combine courses dealing with Jewish issues from ancient to modern times, and consist of classes in almost all Div. I and Div. II departments.

Matthew Kraus, associate professor of classics and coordinator of Jewish Studies, described the concentration as “providing an opportunity and encouraging people to make connections between courses.”

“[There is] not a particular discipline, approach or method associated with Jewish Studies,” Kraus said. Instead, the program will tie many departments together. According to the proposal, “since Jewish Studies concentrates on both a religion and an ethnic group with a lengthy history and literary tradition spread throughout the world, Jewish Studies can combine virtually every department in Division I and II in the College.”

If passed, the curricular structure will consist of five classes, including a core course and a capstone research seminar. The concentration would also require one course each from the ‘modern’ and ‘pre-modern’ course groupings, as well as one elective. The core course would be Introduction to Judaism (REL/CLAS 203).

As the proposal consists of courses already offered by the College, the concentration would not require any additional faculty . “The current staffing is certainly adequate. We’re not necessarily encouraging departments to do things they’re not already doing,” Kraus said.

The College currently offers twelve Jewish Studies courses, all appearing at least once every three years. In 2002 – 2003, seven courses related to Jewish Studies have been or will be offered.

Current Jewish studies faculty include Kraus and Nancy Levene, assistant professor of religion, both of whom regularly teach at least one Jewish Studies class per year. In addition, the professor filling the Croghan Bicentennial Professorship in Biblical and Early Christian Studies, an endowed faculty position, often teaches Jewish Studies courses.

The College also currently employs one visiting professor of Jewish history. Such staffing would allow the College to guarantee that between two and five Jewish Studies courses would be offered each year.

Although there is not a great demand for a Jewish Studies curriculum, Kraus estimates that a few students per year would be interested in the concentration. For the class of 2003, 51 students have taken at least one Jewish Studies course, six have taken two, two have taken three, and one has taken seven.

While the concentration could expand in the future to eight courses to include the study of the Hebrew language, Kraus doubts that it would ever become a major. On account of Jewish Studies’ interdisciplinary nature, Kraus explaieds that “there is no reason why we would want it to be a department.”

Jewish Studies is also currently present at many of the College’s peer institutions, with Oberlin offering a full Jewish Studies major. Amherst, Dartmouth, Smith and Wellesley offer the program as a minor, in a manner similar to the current proposal.

With the support of the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP), the Jewish Studies proposal has a good chance at passing.

“The CEP discussed the Jewish Studies Proposal with representatives from the Program in November,” said Chair Jana Sawicki, W. Van Allen Clark ’41 Third Century Professorship in the Social Sciences and CEP chair.

“On the basis of our discussions, we’ve agreed to endorse it and will be bringing it to the faculty for approval at the February faculty meeting.”

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