Oberlin College Celebrates 50 Years of Jewish Studies Program | Local News

Oberlin College’s Jewish Studies program celebrates its 50th anniversary with two days of events on October 30 and 31.

Established in 1971, Oberlin College’s Jewish Studies program teaches students to appreciate and analyze the continuities and differences in Jewish history, religion, and culture around the world. Professors in the program offer courses in many fields, including art history, comparative literature, German, history, Latin American studies, philosophy and religion, according to the website of Oberlin College.

The program, which is led by President Shari Rabin, associate professor of Jewish studies and religion, has five other staff members – Matthew Berkman, visiting assistant professor of Jewish studies; Cynthia Chapman, Professor of Religion Adelia AF Johnston and Harry Thomas Frank; Administrative Assistant Brenda Hall; Laura Herron, Associate Dean for Academic Status; and Sheera Talpaz, assistant professor of comparative literature and Jewish studies.

“This is an exciting step and we take this opportunity to reflect,” said Rabin, who came to Oberlin College in the fall 2019 semester and was named president in July. “There have been obstacles along the way, but the interest and determination to make Oberlin a place of Jewish study and Jewish life has continued over the years and is truly inspiring to see.”

A group of student researchers also looked at the history of the program and put together a presentation that will be presented as part of the weekend festivities, as well as in the college library until the end of the semester. The program has six major programs and a few minor programs, compared to just one major program in 2019.

“(Student researchers) have been struck by the continued passion and activism of students, faculty, campus organizations and staff members,” Rabin said. “This Oberlin, this historically Christian institution, had Jewish students and a vibrant and large Jewish community.”

In a statement to the Cleveland Jewish News, Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar said that upon arriving at the university in 2017, she understood the importance of a “vibrant” Jewish community to the world. campus.

“When I came to Oberlin in 2017, I had the opportunity to add a tenure-track position in an academic department,” she said. “I chose to expand the Jewish Studies department because I felt it was important that our students be able to study the history, culture, religion and community of the Jewish people in a non-judgmental or of criticism. Today, a vibrant Jewish Studies department dedicated to academic excellence celebrates its 50th anniversary with a focus entirely on Oberlin’s thriving Jewish community.

On October 30, there will be an alumni panel featuring David Eaton, Class of 1971, Amalia Haas, Class of 1991, and Kendell Pinkney, Class of 2009, at 5 p.m., which will also be webcast.

On October 31, the day begins with the opportunity to participate in various Jewish studies courses; an art exhibit on “Judaism in Modern and Contemporary Art” at the Allen Memorial Art Museum from 11 a.m. to noon; lunch at the college’s new Heritage Kosher Kitchen; an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Terrell Library on “Finding Him: The Quest for Jewish Life and Jewish Studies at Oberlin College”; and a 4-5 p.m. presentation, “The Present and Future of Jewish Studies at Oberlin,” followed by a reception and performance by Shtick-and-Poke, a group of klezmer students.

“This program offers Jewish students the opportunity to explore their origins and their entities, through the program and the courses. As much as we celebrate these six majors, it’s about offering these courses to students who don’t come from a Jewish background as well, providing a perspective to understand the human experience.

First created out of student activism and a desire to see a larger university presence for Jewish students, Rabin said it’s been amazing to see the program hold up and stand the test of time , although higher education trends fluctuate over the years.

“I’m excited to look back and hear (alumni) talk about how the program has changed,” Rabin said. “I’m excited to reflect a little more on these changes and show a little. Oberlin is a great place for Jewish study and students. So it will be very rewarding to show that to former students, the rest of campus and the community. wider Oberlin community as well.

“We are ready to put the Jewish Studies curriculum on the map at Oberlin and in the wider educational community. We want to build on this momentum and create more opportunities for our students to learn and get the most out of their education at Oberlin.

According to the Hillel International College Guide 2021, approximately 22% of enrolled students are Jewish. It lists the college as having 650 Jewish students among its nearly 3,000 enrollees.

For more information about Jewish Studies programming at Oberlin, visit bit.ly/3ENgXc1.

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