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Jewish studies course revived this fall supports Jewish Studies Certificate

The Classics and Religious Studies Department is reviving interest in the Jewish Studies Certificate by offering the introductory course, JS 1000: Introduction to Jewish Studies, this fall for the first time in several years.

"With the drastic increase in anti-Semitism across the United States, it is essential for institutes of higher education to provide opportunities for students to learn the culture and history of Judaism," said Brian Collins, Ph.D., the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy at OHIO and chair of Classics and Religious Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“I am very grateful to the Classics and Religious Studies Department for reviving interest in the Jewish Studies certificate,” said Florenz Plassmann, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  “Beyond offering the opportunity to learn about Jewish history and culture and to gain a better understanding of the Jewish Diaspora, these courses provide special insights for students seeking careers as diverse as counseling, fund raising, journalism, and human resources.”

The course, which will meet on Wednesdays from 5 to 7:30 p.m., introduces Jewish culture, history and politics, examining how the Jewish people and their religion emerged in Biblical times and how Jewish culture has evolved and flourished for 3,000 years. The course also explores the impact that Jews have had on their non-Jewish neighbors, and students will learn about largely unrecognized aspects of Jewish culture. The course includes group activities with experiential learning opportunities on and off campus. The course is open to all OHIO undergraduates.

Though the Jewish Studies Certificate is currently housed in the History Department, Collins said the Classics and Religious Studies (CARS) Department is making a new home for it and working on revising the curriculum. The department already houses the Islamic Studies Certificate and a World Religions Minor.

"This relocation will provide greater visibility of the certificate to CARS majors and students enrolled in CARS courses, as well as a more appropriate refashioning of the certificate by active faculty. A large number of the faculty who originally organized the certificate are no longer with Ohio University, and several core courses were not being taught anymore," Collins said.

"As an interdisciplinary certificate with its core raison d’être being the study of the history, culture, beliefs, and experiences of a group whose primary identity is religious, a home in CARS, where we can direct the growth and revision of the certificate, makes more sense," added Collins, noting that several CARS faculty have active research in related areas. Cory Crawford's scholarship focuses on the textual and archaeological study of the First Temple Period in Jerusalem, and Collins recently published an intellectual biography of an Austrian Jewish scholar of religion who was imprisoned by the Nazis in Dachau and Buchenwald in 1937-1938.

Working with the significant overlap of the Jewish Studies Certificate and the Islamic Studies Certificate, Collins said the department will be developing some new courses, including transforming the class on Sufi traditions into a more general course on mysticism that deals with both Islamic mysticism (Sufism) and Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah), along with Neoplatonism and Hindu/Buddhist Tantra. They also are changing the course CARS 2440: Pagan to Christian in Late Antiquity to “Pagans, Christians, and Jews in Late Antiquity.”

Other certificate-related courses offered in the fall include:

  • HIST 3532: History of the Crusades
  • HIST 3371: Modern Middle East History
  • POLS 1500: Themes in Global Politics
  • POLS 2500: International Relations 
  •  POLS 4580: Introduction to War and its Causes
  • CARS 3000 – Hebrew Bible
  • CARS 2030 – Archaeology of the Ancient Near East

JS 1000: Introduction to Jewish Studies will be taught by Sarah Livingston, executive director of Hillel at OHIO.

April 15, 2022
Staff reports