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Jewish Studies in the Age of Trump

Mon, December 17, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Commonwealth Complex

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


Dramatic changes have occurred since the election of Trump and have affected the country politically, culturally and economically. Universities have not been unaffected; some government agencies have tried to discredit scientific norms of investigation and analysis, and individual faculty have been attacked by right-wing media for expressing their political views.

How has this affected the field of Jewish Studies? This panel asks about changes in the topics and methods of our teaching, including tensions that may occur in class discussions between students with clashing political views; how we may have altered our research concerns; and whether the status of the field of Jewish Studies within the university has changed. We are asking how our field is perceived by colleagues in other fields; how funding for Jewish Studies has been affected; whether there are pressures from outside the universities that affect our programs, since some prominent Jewish individuals and organizations have provided strong public support for Trump; and so forth.

For example, recent debates about immigration policy have taken on a degree of urgency and acrimony not seen in decades. President Trump's rhetoric and policies have stoked nativist sentiments that had long laid dormant in American political culture. The last one hundred years of Jewish history are bound up with Jewish migrations and Jewish refugees seeking entrance into unwelcoming countries. How do we conceptualize, narrate and teach the history of Jewish migration and refugee status at this moment? When we teach courses on antisemitism or the Holocaust, do we integrate discussion of current political trends? How do we present the State of Israel amid claims by the alt-Right in the US that they, too, are “Zionists” because they want a “white Christian America”? In an age of Trump, what are our obligations to the public sphere, based on our expertise on Jewish experience? How does the alliance between Trump and significant sectors within the Jewish community affect our relations with colleagues on campus? How do we mediate between students who involved with the alt-Right, those who are anti-Semitic, Jewish students who oppose Trump, and Zionist students who support and even admire Trump?

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