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From the Director

A message from Lori Lefkovitz, Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Jewish Studies Program

Lori Lefkovitz at Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev, July 2014

In Judaism, the winter festival of Hanukkah emphasizes themes of freedom and dedication. Here at Northeastern, we have been reflecting on current events, talking about freedom, and asking how we can use education to manifest dedication to our ideals. Jewish Studies, inherently interdisciplinary, offers a microcosm of a liberal education. The students in our Jewish Studies classes come from a wide range of backgrounds and pursue varied interests, and Jewish Studies contributes to their appreciation of diversity as we investigate the resilience of the Jewish people and Jewish contributions to civilization. We are wrapping up what has been a busy fall semester and looking with hope toward the longer days of spring and renewal.

Six months ago, sixteen Northeastern students and I were in Israel, the site of the Maccabean revolt that is part of the Hanukkah story. This and other ancient stories resonated as we managed the emerging story in which we found ourselves. Our month-long Dialogue of Civilizations program “Contemporary Israel and Its Complexities” was interrupted by the war in Gaza. Northeastern called us home a week early, where we completed our classes—one on literature and art and the other on politics and communication—online instead of on-site. For those who participated, the Dialogue was a powerful experience, blending site visits from 3,000 years of history with classroom instruction, reading, and intimate encounters with opinion leaders. The scholars and journalists we met helped us balance the multiple perspectives expressed in various media. Read more about the students’ experiences in this issue of Haverim.

We have sustained the conversation this fall. One of the delights of this semester has been the arrival on campus of Israel Studies Professor Dov Waxman, an important addition to our faculty. Professor Waxman, who contributes regularly to major international media outlets, offered a thoughtful public lecture entitled “Judging the Gaza War (from afar).” His presence is enabling us to expand the range of classes on Israel and the contemporary Middle East. Learn more about Waxman’s background and interests here.

When planning the annual Morton Ruderman Memorial program for this year, our faculty, under the leadership of Jewish Studies associate directors Professors Laurel Leff and Jenny Sartori, were mindful of the turmoil in our world and the life-and-death importance of journalism, especially in trying times. Because people on all sides of every issue have been passionate about press coverage, we rightly expected that both the Boston Jewish community and the Northeastern academic community would want to engage in a serious discussion about the media—the Jewish media as well as the mainstream media’s coverage of issues that have long been of critical concern in the Jewish community. The October 20 event, “On the Jewish Media,” featured a panel of distinguished experts and a lively question-and-answer session with the audience.

Forums such as this, as well as our curriculum, outstanding faculty, dedicated students, and rich program of events, make a visible and significant impact at the university. In these pages of Haverim, you will be treated to details about some of our events and the people in our Jewish Studies program. Professor Josh Jacobson, one of the hardworking members of our executive committee, has been faculty host this semester to visiting Israeli artist-in-residence Dubi Lenz, who is teaching a class in music industry. Our Jewish Religion and Culture class opened the classroom to guests when we were visited by Alex Cicelsky, Director of the Research and Development Center for Creative Ecology at Kibbutz Lotan, who gave an interactive presentation on “Eco-Judaism.”

Our faculty is hard at work developing fascinating new courses. In the spring, Jim Ross, a faculty member in the School of Journalism, will be teaching a timely new course entitled “Covering Conflicts: Peace, War, and the Media,” which will include a substantial unit on the Middle East. Professor Jenny Sartori, whose research focuses on adoption in the Jewish community, will be teaching an innovative new course on race, ethnicity, and identity in the Jewish experience. Professor Leff, who is researching a new book about Jewish refugees to the United States during the years immediately preceding the Holocaust, is offering a new course this fall on American responses to the Holocaust.

Professor Leff also chairs the university’s Holocaust Awareness Committee, which will be presenting a week of events this January on the theme of the legacy of survivors for the next generations. Please join us for the 23rd Annual Robert Salomon Morton Lecture on January 27, when Helen Epstein, author of Children of the Holocaust and Where She Came From: A Daughters Search for Her Mother’s History, will speak on “Intergenerational Effects of Genocide: A Survivor’s Daughter Reflects.” I will moderate a conversation between a current undergraduate, our Gideon Klein scholar Elijah Botkin, and his grandmother Irene Selig, as they discuss the place of Holocaust memories for future generations. Elijah has set to music poems written by children incarcerated in Terezin, and we will be treated to a performance of his original arrangements at our annual commemorative breakfast on January 28. That morning, Phil Brown, University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences and a member of the Jewish Studies advisory board, will give a talk on “Jews in the Catskills During and After the Holocaust” Later the same day, Brown will moderate a discussion with film producer Matt Lavine following a showing of Lavine’s “Four Seasons Lodge.”

On January 15, Professor Dov Waxman will inaugurate an annual Israel Studies lecture at Northeastern with a talk by Professor Anita Shapira, the foremost historian of Israel and a recipient of the Israel Prize. Shapira will speak on “David Ben-Gurion: The Making of a Leader.” Please join us. Also this spring, please look forward to our announcement of this year’s Ruderman Scholar.

After reading a recent issue of Haverim, Jason Leinwand, an alumnus from the 1980s, wrote to me to marvel at how much Northeastern has changed over the years, and in particular, to express his pleasure at the range and extent of Jewish Studies programs. As you might imagine, I have very much enjoyed receiving these kinds of notes, and we decided not only to share Leinwand’s reflections with you but to make reflections from earlier years a regular feature of Haverim. If you have memories that you would like to share, please send them along. We would love to hear from you.

Jewish Studies makes an important contribution to the curricular and co-curricular offerings of this extraordinary university. We enjoy the support of an administration that has strengthened our faculty, enriched our offerings, and made it possible for Jewish Studies to present the best imaginable programs for our students and community. Like all Jewish Studies programs, we depend, too, on the loyalty, generosity, and confidence of donors. The Ruderman and Morton lectures, the Gideon Klein, Brudnick, and Ruderman scholarships, and the Giessen Memorial Fund enable us to recruit and recognize excellent students and actualize big dreams when we plan programs that address urgent educational needs. The Ruderman family and our other contributors have our enduring gratitude. Gifts in any amount help us build our program, enhance research opportunities, and enable us to treat our students. We thank you for your interest in Jewish Studies at Northeastern and value your support.

With all best wishes for this holiday season and hopes for a brighter, more peaceful world.

More Stories

STUDENT PROFILE: Carlos Elias Campos


Dialogues of Civilization: Summer 2014


Faculty Profile: Dov Waxman

Haverim Newsletter Fall 2014