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Judaic Studies Department History
The department evolved from the success of the Judaic Studies Program which was founded in 1973. The initial core faculty consisted of Samuel Morell, who was already on the faculty, teaching rabbinical and modern Hebrew literature in the Classical and Near Eastern Studies Department, and three new hires: Stanley Isser, who became the coordinator of the new program, Yedida Kalfon Stillman, who taught Hebrew language courses in the Classical & Near Eastern Studies Dept., and Norman Stillman, who taught Jewish History and Arabic. Faculty in other departments, who had some Judaic Studies interest or sub-field, affiliated themselves with the program including History, Sociology, and Philosophy.
Stanley Isser left for SUNY Albany in 1975 and was replaced two years later by David Biale, who coordinated the program till his departure in 1986. At that time, Yedida Stillman took over the direction of the program. Late in the 1970s, Binghamton established a link with Haifa University, and the ensuing exchange of faculty further strengthened the department’s offerings. Michael Taub also joined the program, teaching Yiddish and Hebrew language and literature. Lance Sussman, berthed in the History Department, taught American Jewish history. There was already a thought that the program should be a full-fledged department with joint faculty in existing departments. JUST was successful at fundraising for its programs, for its community outreach (well-attended public lectures, JUST Lunch, etc.) and programming, and for its highly productive faculty. Allan Arkush, who is still teaching, joined the department during the 1987/88 school year to teach Modern Jewish Intellectual History.
Led by Stillman, Arkush and the other faculty made the case for the establishment of a Judaic Studies Department. There also was sympathy for the move in the university administration, and despite opposition from faculty in some departments, the Judaic Studies Department was created in 1991 and flourished.
Over the years various instructors taught in the department, some were birthed in JUST and some in other departments. To name a few: Michael Taub, Shalom Shoer, Jack Weinstein, Deborah Hertz, Isadore Friedland, Saul Levin, Rachel Weitz, Liz Rosenberg, David Gitlitz, Daniela Cohen, Adina Ofek, Mirit Hadar, Aaron Slonim, Rivkah Slonim, Shai Cohen, Jerzy Mazur, Joseph Hodes, Wulf Kansteiner, Sariel Birnbaum, Assaf Harel, Barbara Goldman-Wartell and many more (*Please note that the list is not exhaustive*).
By the turn of the new century, of the department’s original faculty members only Morrell and Arkush remained, but they were joined in 2000 by Jonathan Karp who specialized in Early Modern Jewry and Jewish Economy and still teaches.
From the rest of the current faculty, Paul-William Burch joined us in 2009 to teach Holocaust Literature.
Randy Friedman (Modern Jewish Thought) joined the Department from Philosophy Department in 2012.
In Fall 2013 we welcomed Dina Danon, a historian of Sephardi Jewry and Modern Jewish History.
In 2015, thanks to enormous efforts of then-Chair Bat-Ami Bar On and Randy Friedman, our department has won over $500,000 in grant support provided by the Israel Institute (Washington, D.C.) to form the Center for Israel Studies with three tenure track faculty whose focus is solely on undergraduate education.
The first Israel Studies hire was Shay Rabineau (Modern Israel and Environmental Studies) who joined us In Fall 2015.
C. Beth Burch, a full Professor of American Jewish Literature, joined us as well in Fall 2016. She came back to teaching after serving as the Dean of the School of Education for many years.
And finally, in 2022 our third Israel Studies hire was Hebatalla Taha replacing Assaf Harel (who was with us from 2017 till 2021 when he returned to Israel).
Taha specializes in Israel/Palestine Politics & Economy.
(Writen and edited by Norman Stillman, Allan Arkush, and Maja Dragojlović)
Judaic Studies Department Today
We currently offer Majors in:
And Minors in:
We offer courses in American Judaism, Hebrew, Holocaust Studies, Israel Studies, Israeli and Hebrew Literature, ISR - PAL economic and political relations, Jewish History, Jewish - Muslim - Christian relations, Non-Profit Organizations, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Sephardi and Mizrahi Studies, Yiddish and Yiddish Culture, and more.
We provide students with high impact learning experiences through various paid and for-credit Internships in profit and non-profit organizations, as well Executive Mentorship Program with our Alumni Council.
We organize versatile programming schedule every year that includes academics, writers, directors, film screenings, lectures, workshops, simulations, and more.
We have our own Ha-Kol Newsletter that we send out a couple of times per semester to our students, Alumni, and local community.
|1973||Judaic Studies Program established|
|1973||Hebrew Major established (housed in Classical and Near Eastern Studies)|
|1975||Judaic Studies Certificate established|
|1978||Judaic Studies Major established|
|1985||Hebrew Minor established|
|1991||Judaic Studies Department established|
|2010||Religious Studies Minor established|
|2013||Religious Studies Program established|
|2015||Israel Studies Minor established|
|2015||Center for Israel Studies established|
Program Directors and Department Chairs
|1991-1994||Co-Chairs Yedida Stillman and Allan Arkush|
|2010-2015||Bat-Ami Bar On|
|2015 -2021||Randy Friedman|
|2022-present||C. Beth Burch|