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Beyond the Pale: Teaching East European Jewish History and Culture Outside the Jewish Studies Classroom

Tue, December 18, 2:30 to 4:00pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Federal 1 Complex

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


Although the study of East European Jewish history and culture has long been a feature of Jewish Studies classrooms, scholars in adjacent and overlapping fields rarely integrate the Jews of Eastern Europe into their syllabi, with the exception of classes related to the Holocaust. This roundtable seeks to take up the challenge of how to create tools for university instructors outside Jewish Studies to integrate the study of East European Jewish civilization into their teaching. Drawing on their experience teaching outside of Jewish Studies, discussants will reflect on the following questions: Why were East European Jews “good to think” in your classroom? What key subjects and themes in the study of East European Jewry did you feel most resonated with students? What were the main challenges you faced when trying to integrate East European Jewry into your course? What topics and tools might you expect from a curriculum resource designed to help scholars outside of Jewish Studies integrate aspects of the East European Jewish experience into their classes? Anna Shternshis, Professor of Yiddish Studies at University of Toronto, will discuss her experience integrating East European Jewish history into her courses in Diaspora Studies. Ofer Dynes, Assistant Professor at Hebrew University, will reflect on his work to integrate Jewish literature into his courses on East European cultures in the early modern period. Sunny Yudkoff, Assistant Professor at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, will discuss her efforts to integrate the literature of Sholem Aleichem into her lecture course “Literature and Medicine,” geared towards students in sciences and pre-health programs. Erica Lehrer, Associate Professor of History at Concordia University, will discuss how her teaching in the field of Museum and Heritage Studies brings the memory and representation of Jews in Poland into conversation with similar issues regarding Indigenous and African-diaspora heritage in Canada. Jonathan Brent, CEO and Executive Director at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, will discuss YIVO’s efforts to bring the study of East European Jewry beyond the field of “Jewish Studies.” The panel is moderated by Daniel Heller, Kronhill Senior Lecturer in East European Jewish History at Monash University.

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