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Jewish studies major introduced at KU

Monday, September 28, 2015

LAWRENCE – A new major in Jewish studies at the University of Kansas will allow students to explore in-depth the beliefs, history, culture and influence of one of the world’s oldest religions and multi-ethnic religious communities.  

The major was established in part because of the popularity of KU’s Jewish studies minor, which was introduced in 2005.

“The development of three major world religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – is very much intertwined,” said John Younger, academic director of the Jewish Studies Program. “The new Jewish studies major can be used to better understand nearly endless aspects of ancient and modern history, such as the current political climate in the Middle East or the influence of Jewish culture in American life.”

The Jewish studies major, an interdisciplinary program, requires students to take two courses in Jewish history and/or culture, two courses in Judaism, three electives related to Jewish studies and a capstone course. As a bachelor of arts degree, the major requires two years of Hebrew or Yiddish.

Students have a wide range of courses from which to choose electives, such as Jewish American Literature and Culture, Jewish Film, Modern Jewish Thought and Contemporary Israeli Politics, to name just a few. Study abroad programs in Israel led by KU faculty are expected to be attractive to majors.

KU is the only university in the state to offer a major or minor in Jewish studies.

The Jewish studies major, in addition to providing the analytical and communications skills that employers seek, will prepare students for graduate school in various fields, depending on their choice of electives, or to go into careers in government, business, nonprofit agencies, community organizations, private schools and more. The Jewish studies major and minor can be readily paired with other KU majors and career paths, from pre-med to archaeology.

The major will be offered through the Jewish Studies Program in the Center for Global & International Studies

For more information, visit the Jewish Studies Program website.

The Jewish Studies Program and the Center for Global & International Studies are part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which encourages learning without boundaries in its more than 50 departments, programs and centers. Through innovative research and teaching, the College emphasizes interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. The College is KU's broadest, most diverse academic unit.

Jewish Studies Program statement in solidarity with protests against police brutality

Beloved community,

As an academic program in the University of Kansas, we stand in solidarity with Black Americans -- including Black Jewish people -- and everyone hurting after the senseless, brutal murder of George Floyd and all people targeted by systemic racism and injustice in our country. We continue to be committed to our core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This morning, the Association for Jewish Studies sent out an email reminding us that as scholars of Jewish Studies, we are keenly aware of the devastating impact of discrimination and violence against minority groups. Dr. Cécile Accilien, the Chair of the KU Department of African and African-American studies, shared with us the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The Jewish Studies academic community is rich and diverse – it includes scholars and students who are Jewish and non-Jewish, scholars and students of all ethnic and racial backgrounds and from multiple denominations and creeds, people who are immigrants (like myself) and those who are American-born. The Bible commands: צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף tzedek tzedek tirdof, which translates into English as “Only justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). In this well-cited verse, the Hebrew word tzedek, or justice, repeats twice. There can be many explanations of the repetition – textual interpretation in all its many forms is a beloved pursuit for many of us. Today, I am going to give you my own interpretation -- though I am sure that it already exists somewhere in the treasury of Jewish exegesis. One tzedek, or justice, you must pursue for yourself and for people like you; that is, perhaps, the justice that is easiest to understand, because we keenly feel injustices committed against ourselves and people like us. The other tzedek is the justice you must pursue for the sake of people who are not like you. It is often a harder lesson, but a necessary one. The justice, or tzedek, which we pursue thus also becomes a gift of chesed, of lovingkindness that enriches all of us.


In solidarity,

Dr. Renee Perelmutter,

Director of the Jewish Studies Program

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