What does it take to build a Jewish Studies program?

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What does it take to build a Jewish Studies program at a university?

  1. Commitment from the university’s administration.  From the inception of the idea four years ago, Queens’ President, Dr. Pamela Davies, has steadfastly supported the creation of a Jewish Studies program. She ensured that the necessary support was in place – from financial to programmatic — appointing an administrative team to explore the idea and travel to campuses with successful programs to learn from best practices.
  2. The creation of a Jewish Studies minor. Dr. Mike Kobre, the Dana Professor of English, envisioned and designed the interdisciplinary program and the university faculty approved it.
  3. The hiring of staff and faculty.  Talli Dippold, Director of Jewish Life was brought to Queens to recruit and support Jewish students and Rabbi Judy Schindler brought on to teach.
  4. Generosity of the community. Lori and Eric Sklut generously endowed the professorship in Jewish studies.
  5. And most of all, students who have a desire to expand their horizons. The program would not succeed were it not for our stellar students, Jewish and non-Jewish, who seek to broaden their horizons. Here are reflections from Genie Richards, a Queens University Junior, who shares her perspective on taking Jewish studies classes:

“As someone who is not Jewish, taking several classes in Jewish studies has made a huge impact on my education. Judaism is, after all, the cornerstone of all Abrahamic faiths and much of western culture. After taking two Jewish Studies classes — The Holocaust in Film and Literature in the spring of 2017 and Judaism, Film, and Literature in the fall of 2018 — I changed my minor to Interfaith Studies. As Max Müller said, ‘If you know only one religion you know none.’ These classes taught me the value and necessity of positive interfaith dialogue.

The Jewish people’s commitment to social justice is the biggest lesson I have taken from these classes and applied to my own faith. Leviticus 19:33-34 states, ‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your G-d.’ This passage has been a key theme in all of my classes and a central message of the Stan Greenspon Center as shown by the immigration conference that will be happening in the upcoming months (April 21st). I am proud to have learned from my Jewish Studies and events at the Greenspon Center.”

[Genie, painted the above mural for Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day.) It is her interpretation of “If I had a Hammer” a popular civil rights song. The Hebrew is in place of the English lyrics. #neverforget]

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