Director's Welcome

Dear Friends,

It is with great excitement and enthusiasm that I write to share the growth and development of Jewish Studies at the University of Kentucky. I first came to the University of Kentucky eight years ago, when the newly formed Division of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies (WRD) hired five new colleagues to revise and implement a new first-year writing curriculum designed to foster written, oral, and digital literacy while also building and developing a new major. Although I'm relatively new to Lexington, my commitment to Jewish Studies and innovative undergraduate/graduate education is longstanding and reflected in my research, teaching, and community commitments.

Before I joined the faculty here, I spent four years at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where I taught writing and introduced their first-ever course about contemporary Israeli culture; one semester as a Hadassah Brandeis Instittue (HBI) scholar-in-residence at Brandeis University, where I worked to revise my first monograph Stepping Into Zion: Hatzaad Harishon, Black Jews, and the Remaking of Jewish Identity  (forthcoming from University of Alabama Press in Oct. 2014), and in 2000-2001 I spent the year living in Israel as a Dorot Fellow. These experiences have influenced and shaped the way I think about Jewish Studies as an exciting passport to learning about 4000 years of Jewish history, culture, and diverse experiences. Working with our affiliate faculty housed in five separate colleges (Arts and Sciences, Fine Arts,  Education, Medicine, and Engineering), I use this vision to help build and grow our historic Interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program, first established in 1996 by founding director Dan Frank. 

Of course, the history of Jewish life at UK doesn't start in 1996, it dates back to at least 1942 when Zeta Beta Tau (a historically Jewish fraternity) opened the Alpha Iota chapter on UK's campus, the  25th chatper of ZBT in the nation! Working with students and faculty on campus, as well as alumni in the community, I'm hoping to trace and tell the story of this fascinating chapter of UK's Jewish past. Look for updates, as we gather more information. Earlier still, the history of Jewish life in Kentucky dates back to before the Civil War, and in some cases to the Revolutionary War.

In addition to coordinating our annual Zankter Lecture Series, the Luckens Prize graduate essay competition, and offering at least three Jewish Studies courses every semester, the Jewish Studies faculty are also working to increase the number and diversity of courses students can take, to develop a study-abroad program for Jewish Studies students, and to attract students to our courses and minor. 

Thanks to the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and the College of Arts and Sciences, Jewish Studies is hosting the AICE Visiting Schusterman Scholar in Israel Studies, Professor Tikva Meroz-Aharaoni, who has traveled all the way from Israel to join the faculty.  Thanks to the AICE and Prof. Tikva Meroz-Aharoni's arrival, we've returned Modern Hebrew Language to the curriculum. The campus is so excited, the Kentucky Kernel ran a story about it! 

This year our Zankter lecture series focuses on the Future of Jewish Studies!  We hope you'll join us for one of the many lectures, performances, and programs we're co-sponsoring. 

Best wishes,

Janice W. Fernheimer, Ph.D.

Director, Interdisciplinary Program in Jewish Studies