Jewish Studies is an Interdisciplinary Program offered by the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Kentucky.
We are a dynamic group of 12 core affiliated faculty drawn from three colleges (Arts and Sciences, Fine Arts, and Engineering). First established in 1996, the Jewish Studies Program and interdisciplinary minor has enjoyed a long history at the University of Kentucky. Our courses reflect the disciplinary training of our core affiliate faculty, most of whom have been housed in philosophy or history, but recent junior faculty hires have resulted in new course offerings which reflect the interdisciplinary and transnational shift of Jewish and Israel Studies on the whole. Currently, the program offers a two-course, year-long sequence in Jewish culture and civilization, HJS 324-325 along with courses on the history of the Holocaust, Jewish philosophy, Jews in America, Jewish Graphic Novels, Bible as Literature, women in Judaism, and the Jewish musical tradition. We are the only Jewish Studies program in the Commonwealth of Kentucky to offer language courses in both Yiddish and modern Hebrew.
In addition to offering a minimum of 3 courses each semester, we also sponsor the Zankter guest lecture series with a minimum of four invited speakers (this year we'll have 10 and maybe even more!) and the Luckens graduate essay competition and prize. In collaboration with the local Jewish community, Hillel, and the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass, we also sponsor annual"signature" events. Additionally, the University has agreements of collaboration with Haifa and Ben Gurion Universities. As we look toward our 20th anniversary in 2016, we are excited about new directions for growth and development.
The minor in Jewish Studies familiarizes students with the historical and contemporary diversity of Jewish culture, language, literature, religion, history, and philosophy. In addition to specific courses offered by the program, students may also obtain approval from the program director to take courses from other fields provided the course subject matter is significantly relevant to the area of Jewish Studies.
Jewish Studies offers its undergraduates several opportunities to futher their research and language skills with Undergraduate Research Awards. In 2014, students used these awards to travel to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to conduct archival research and to attend Yiddish Farm, an immersive Yiddish language program. In addition to the research awards, students who wish to further their study of the Holocaust with experiential travel abroad may apply to the Caller-Zolondek Holocaust ScholarshipTravel Award.
Director Janice W. Fernheimer first came to the University of Kentucky just four 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 builds upon the College of Arts and Sciences Passport to the World: Year of the Middle East, to bring the Middle East to the Southern Midwest. We hope you'll join us for one of the many lectures, performances, and programs we're co-sponsoring.