A message from Lori Lefkovitz, Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Jewish Studies Program
Dear Haverim (Friends),
Now, at the turning of the secular year, our Jewish Studies program turns its attention to the spring semester and beyond the bounds of the current academic year, as we plan new directions for our courses and co-curricular events. As the features in these pages suggest, we continue to provide a sense of the Jewish historical experience and the wide range of Judaic expression in literature, the arts, and world cultures in the hope that our students come to appreciate the dynamics of Jewish history, the scope of Jewish creativity (religious and secular), and the ever-shifting relationship between Israel and Jewish Diasporas. This spring, I will once more be teaching our foundation course on “Jewish Religion and Culture,” using new materials. Our dynamic new Hebrew language instructor, Doron Friedman, an educator with a wide expertise, will also be offering a course in Environmental Studies entitled “Ecology in War and Peace: Sustainability in the Middle East,” focusing on both conflict’s destructive impact on the environment and the hope for the future seen in cooperation on environmental issues.
After a year’s hiatus, we are resuming our summer Dialogue of Civilizations program in Israel with a broadened focus to include travel to both Israel and the West Bank. Under Israel Studies Professor Dov Waxman’s leadership and with me as the co-teacher, students will acquire a deep, first-hand appreciation of life in Israel, as well as an understanding of the complex competing narratives that inform social interaction and political discourse.
The challenge of doing journalism in a land of conflicting realities was addressed by this year’s annual Ruderman lecturer. Jodi Rudoren, New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem, spoke eloquently about her four years holding what may well be the most scrutinized journalistic posting in the world, followed by a spirited question and answer period. We have been privileged to host several speakers this year who bring diverse perspectives to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and I am continually impressed by the thoughtful, intelligent, challenging, and respectful questions that our students pose, always extending and deepening the conversation. Watch a recording of the conversation here.
I am a student of narrative, and I have been working collaboratively with my colleague Julia Epstein on a project about the recent proliferation of Holocaust memoirs written by descendants of survivors, who have been motivated by the discovery of family letters or journals and have written reflections on these materials and on journeys to their families’ places of origin. Professor Epstein and I have shared in these experiences of both confronting family artifacts and traveling to the places of our family stories. This semester, I presented a piece of this work-in-progress to Northeastern faculty, specifically about how the shaping of time in these narratives represents a distinctively Jewish attitude towards life and loss.
We will commemorate Holocaust Awareness Week at Northeastern this year the week of January 25th, when the world remembers the liberation of Auschwitz. We have planned a rich week of events and talks all inspired by Ann Kirschner’s book, Sala’s Gift, and the events described by Kirschner’s mother Sala in the cache of letters that she gave to her daughter from her years as a slave laborer under Nazism. If you are in the area, we hope that you will join us for these events and our other spring programs, including our second annual Israel Studies lecture presented by Oxford University Professor Derek Penslar on April 11. We would love to see you.
Please stay in touch. As ever, I remain grateful to our dedicated faculty, especially the Jewish Studies Executive Committee and co-associate directors, Jenny Sartori and Laurel Leff, who share in the editing of Haverim. I thank you for your interest in and support of Northeastern’s Program of Jewish Studies. Wishing you a happy 2016!
Read the rest of the Fall 2015 Haverim Newsletter here.