Session Submission Summary

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The Role of Jewish Studies Within Colleges and Universities

Tue, December 18, 10:15 to 11:45am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Commonwealth Complex

Session Submission Type: Roundtable

Session Sponsor: AJS Chairs & Directors Group


Sponsored by the AJS directors group, this roundtable will explore the opportunities and challenges for Jewish Studies programs and departments across the globe. Panelists will grapple with the role of Jewish Studies within the broader university; are we, for example, Jewish Studies at universities, or of universities? How can we bring Jewish Studies into dialogue with university initiatives (e.g. issues of diversity and inclusion, or interdisciplinary methodologies, or digital humanities)? How can we integrate our courses into the larger academic agendas of the various departments on campus, including changing theoretical models; and so forth? In addition to these questions about the role of Jewish Studies within colleges and universities, the panel will also grapple with some of the challenges facing individual departments and programs today; for example, declining enrollments; conflicts on campus over Israeli politics; fundraising expectations coupled with reduced funding for scholarship in the humanities; community/donor influence on Jewish Studies programming as well as the implications of donor driven hires; and surviving in an era where humanities and liberal arts are frequently under attack. In response to requests from chairs and directors across the country, this panel will aim for representation from a diversity of colleges and universities. David Freidenreich of Colby College will represent a New England liberal arts college, and Ellen Umansky of Fairfield University will represent a Jesuit Catholic University. Pamela Nadell represents American University, and brings the perspective not only of a Jewish Studies director of a top university, but also of a Chair of a History department and president of AJS. Claire Sufrin of Northwestern University and Ari Kelman of Stanford also represent Jewish Studies departments at research Universities. Michael Cohen, chair of Jewish Studies at Tulane University and chair of the AJS directors group, will represent a research university with one of the highest Jewish percentages in the nation, and he will moderate the panel.

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