Jewish Studies Comes Of Age


The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor last week announced the creation of an institute for advanced Judaic studies, made possible by a $20 million gift from Samuel and Jean Frankel, two UM alumni. It is believed to be the largest gift ever earmarked for Jewish studies at any university, and the most sizeable donation ever given to UM’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts.When it opens in the fall of 2007, the institute, to be housed in the existing Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, will bring together 14 international Jewish studies scholars. They will spend a year at the university collaboratively researching a single pre-selected topic. The area of study will be expansive enough to be relevant to academics focused on a wide

* range of eras and regions, UM officials said.“Our goal is to become the place that sets the national agenda for Jewish studies … by giving [scholars] a place to figure out where the frontier is,” said Terrence J. McDonald, the LSA dean. Jewish studies, which encompasses history, literature, anthropology and other subjects, cuts across many of LSA’s disciplinary boundaries, McDonald said.The infrastructure and financing of Judaic studies departments at North American colleges have grown significantly during the past 30 years, said Todd Endelman, director of the Frankel Center. Endelman said Jewish studies has also begun to flourish in Europe, and he called the UM’s forthcoming institute “a sign of maturation of Judaic studies.” The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia is home to the only other similar program, Endelman said. UPenn’s Center for Advanced Judaic Studies annually brings together about 20 Jewish scholars around a single research subject. Recent topics have included “Law and Spirituality” and “Christian Hebraism.”Regional BriefsAfter more than a decade of discussing a possible move from Huntington to Central Islip, L.I., Touro Law Center last week broke ground on its new, $33 million, 180,000-square-foot complex. The Jewish-sponsored school is slated to relocate to Central Islip in the fall of 2006. The move and construction of the multimillion-dollar facility has been in the planning phases since the early 1990s. The new center will stand adjacent to the Alfonse M. D’Amato United States Courthouse. Touro’s Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, affiliated with the Manhattan-based Touro College, has a student body of more than 750.

* The New York campus of Hebrew Union College, Reform Judaism’s flagship institution, last week launched a series of seminars featuring female HUC faculty. The first lecture, given by Professor Carol Ochs, centered on Spinoza’s quest for happiness and meaning. Future topics for the series, entitled “Women of the Torah,” include feminist Midrash and a character study of King David. Series is open to men and women. For more information about the upcoming lectures and prices, call Amy Lehr at 212-824-2293. Registration is required.

* “Esther & Mordechai: Role Models for American Jews,” “Tower of Babel: The Emergence of Diversity” and “Jewish American Artists Respond to the Shoah,” will be among the workshop topics at the March 20 community-wide day of learning, sponsored by the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester. The four-hour event will feature a myriad of session topics and a special presentation, “Flirting with Disaster: The Struggle to Maintain a Jewish Identity in America.” The registration deadline is March 4. For more information or to register, call (914) 948-8333, ext. 117.National Briefs

* Middle-school students are vying for a chance to create a logo to be displayed on the body of an airplane that will take North American émigrés to Israel. Entries should portray an aspect of “aliyah and homecoming.” In addition to the winner’s design being featured on the aircraft, the artist and a guest will travel this summer on the plane carrying a group of North Americans moving to Israel. American and Canadian students in sixth through eighth grades are eligible to participate in the contest, sponsored by Nefesh B’Nefesh. NBN is an organization that assists North American Jews moving to Israel. The deadline for submissions is May 12. For official rules, visit

* Jewish young adults are invited to weigh in on what they like and dislike about Jewish communal life for a recently launched essay contest, sponsored by the journal Shma and the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture. Jews ages 22-40 can choose one of five essay topics that include, “How would you create a more engaging, sustaining Jewish community?” and “What are the two most pressing Jewish concerns, and how should they be addressed?” Entries of 1000 words or less must be received by April 1. A complete list of guidelines is available at “We’re trying to create a conversation among young Jews about which Jewish norms resonate in their lives and which make them feel disenfranchised,” Shma editor Susan Berrin said. Ten winning essays will be published in the journal, and $5,000 in cash prizes will be awarded.

* The Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education is inviting its member educators to apply for grants to subsidize innovative educational programs. A pool of $20,000 has been set aside for CAJE’s 2005-2006 grants. Individual grants will be awarded in denominations of $10,000 or less. CAJE has a special interest in recruiting Jewish educators ages 21-35. Young educators, teachers at Jewish nursery, congregational and day schools are urged to apply. For more information, visit nE-mail Class Notes to