Director's Update 2014-2015
It is with great excitement and enthusiasm that I write to share the growth and development of Jewish Studies at the University of Kentucky. It was just two years ago that I began my work with the program, first as Interim Director in 2012-2013, and last year in my role as Director of Jewish Studies. In that time, the program has already begun to expand in exciting ways—increasing our programming, course offerings, student participants, and social media presence.
Last year, we received an American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise grant, which enabled us to hire Prof. Tikva Meroz-Aharoni as the 2013-2014 Visiting AICE Scholar of Israel Studies to reintroduce modern Hebrew into the curriculum after more than a decade hiatus. In addition to teaching modern Hebrew language, Prof. Meroz-Aharoni also taught courses in contemporary Israeli literature and film and the Bible as literature. Alongside Hebrew, we also offered introductory Yiddish language courses for the first time ever, making us the only university in the Commonwealth to give students the opportunity to study both Hebrew and Yiddish language. Both Hebrew and Yiddish were such a success that they are being offered again this year. We are fortunate to be able to have Prof. Meroz-Aharoni here for another year, this time teaching Hebrew 201 as well as 101.
Our programming focus last year highlighted the diversity of Jewish people and was themed around “Redrawing the Boundaries of Jewish Identity.” Some of the highlights included a lecture from Shais MaNishtana Rishon, who is African American and Jewish and a performance from Sarah Aroeste who graced the stage at Natasha’s Bar and Bistro downtown and the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference with her contemporary take on Ladino rock.
This year will be just as exciting as we travel intellectually overseas to the Middle East. The College of Arts and Sciences has chosen the Middle East to be the focus of its Passport programming series, and Jewish Studies is cosponsoring numerous events to support this effort. Our Zankter lecture series is "Bringing the Middle East to the Southern Midwest." Some of the highlights include performances from Vanessa Paloma (internationally acclaimed Ladion/Judeo-Arabic musician and researcher from Casablanca, Morocco) and Divahn (an all-female middle eastern rock band), a focus on food from Afroculinarian Michael Twitty and cookbook author extraordinaire Claudia Roden, an emphasis on Israel from Prof. Ami Pedazur (of University of Texas at Austin), Prof. Ilan Troen (of Brandeis and Ben Gurion Universities) and Prof. Shaul Kelner (Vanderbilt University), author of Tours that Bind and Samaritan community leader Benyamim Tsedeka, and an exploration of Jewish life in Iraq from journalist and author Ariel Sabar. We hope you’ll join us for some of these exciting events.
In addition to these fabulous programs, this year we are launching the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence Scholars program, which enables us to offer scholarships to three very talented and intellectually engaged undergraduates who are minoring in Jewish Studies. If you're interested in contributing to the growth and development of Jewish Studies at UK, please don't hesitate to be in touch; I'd be happy to share more about our goals for the future, jfernheimer [at] uky [dot] edu. Every contribution helps us to continue the great heritage of Jewish Studies and life at UK. It’s going to be a wonderful year, and we look forward to seeing you at a program soon!
Janice W. Fernheimer, Ph.D.
Director, Interdisciplinary Program in Jewish Studies