A message from Lori Lefkovitz, Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Jewish Studies Program
Summer at last!
As I write this note to you, we are celebrating our graduating seniors on campus, and the Jewish community is observing the holiday of Shavuoth, when it is customary to stay up all night studying in celebration of receiving Torah on Mount Sinai. If we understand “Torah” in a broad sense to mean “learning” or “wisdom,” sharing “Torah” is the vital center of Jewish Studies at Northeastern, where students learn about Jewish literature and history, philosophy and religion, music and art, international affairs and Israeli politics and culture. Jewish Studies is a microcosm of a liberal education.
My favorite part of each spring is receiving the Torah of our Jewish Studies students. In the capstone Jewish Studies Module, we ask each graduating senior to develop a project that makes a connection between Jewish Studies and his or her major area of study, and the creativity evidenced in these projects never fails to astonish me. As you will read in these pages, Theresa Burnham, our marine biology student, developed a richly informative presentation that she gave to students at Hillel about the “eco-Judaism” movement, including the history and details of kosher laws and how mindful eating has been adapted by environmentalists. Jenny Travis, who is interested in fashion and marketing, developed a prototype with real entrepreneurial potential: a web platform about Jewish (and other) religious beliefs, values, and laws related to modesty in dress, and images of fashion possibilities that are both stylish and respectful of tradition. Anna Meyers, who graduated with an independent major in Jewish Studies, just staffed a Birthright trip to Israel and is now a staff professional at our own Hillel! These students exemplify the best of Northeastern’s commitment to experiential liberal arts: they traveled the world, acquired a broad and deep education, and thought about how to make a positive difference in the work that they do. Please share our pride in these wonderful students.
Our faculty, too, is actively engaged everywhere, from our local community to international arenas. As an example, Dov Waxman, our new Israel Studies professor, not only offers regular commentary in major news outlets, but he models the importance of being responsive to world events with educational public programs on campus; he presented a program to explain the Israeli elections and participated in a faculty panel on the Paris terror attacks. Waxman also hosted our inaugural Israel Studies lecture by Hebrew University Professor Anita Shapira, who spoke brilliantly to a full audience about her new biography of David Ben Gurion.
This semester, journalism Professor Jim Ross taught a course on covering conflicts, and Jewish Studies hosted two renowned Israeli journalists, Eeta Prince-Gibson and Linda Gradstein, who each spoke to the class about the challenges of reporting from Jerusalem. Professor Josh Jacobson, who is enjoying a well-deserved sabbatical, nevertheless mentored our Gideon Klein scholar, Elijah Botkin, in the composition of “The Closed Town,” based on a poem written by a child in Terezin and performed this April by NU Chamber Singers, with string quartet and chimes. Stotsky Professor Laurel Leff, who chairs the Holocaust Awareness Committee, created a remarkable semester of educational and artistic programs around the theme of legacy, about which you can read in these pages.
Like many of our faculty, I, too, teach in the local community; I led a session contrasting the Joseph stories in Judaism and Islam at a multi-generational Shavuoth event in Brookline attended by hundreds of people. Next year, I will teach the semester on Bible when Northeastern hosts Me’ah, a highly regarded adult education program. Jenny Sartori, our Associate Director, who advises our students, teaches, and develops and implements our many programs, has also been presenting in the Jewish and academic communities about her new research on adoption in the Jewish community. We are thrilled to welcome Dina Kraft, associate program coordinator of the new Media Innovation concentration for graduate students of Journalism, to the Jewish Studies Executive Committee. In the pages of Haverim, we feature an interview with Executive Committee member Max Abrams. We look forward to continuing to introduce you to our faculty, who exemplify the Northeastern ideal of excellence in scholarship while modeling a commitment to engagement in our world.
Thank you all for your commitment to Jewish Studies at Northeastern University. We wish you a refreshing and happy summer season. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to learn more about our program. We love to hear from you.