our history

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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. 

Our language lectures Gina Glasman (Yiddish Language and Culture) and Orly Shoer (Hebrew Language) came to the Department in 2003 and 2011, respectively.

Randy Friedman (Modern Jewish Thought) joined the Department from Philosophy Department in 2012.

Douglas Jones (Religious Studies and Christianity) came to the department in 2013, and along with Randy Friedman has formed the Religious Studies Program.

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.

Next was Lior Libman (Hebrew and Israeli Literature) who joined in 2016. And so did Michael Kelly, as lecturer of Medieval History and Religious Studies.

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 return 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. 

We work closely with Hillel at Binghamton, as well as The College of Jewish Studies

Come and visit us!


Timeline

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

1973-1975 Stanley Isser
1975-1977  
1977-1984 David Biale 
1984-1991 Yedida Stillman
1991-1994 Co-Chairs Yedida Stillman and Allan Arkush
1994-1998 Allan Arkush
1998-1999 Lance Sussman
1999-2007 Allan Arkush
2007-2010  Jonathan Karp
2010-2015 Bat-Ami Bar On 
2015 -2021 Randy Friedman 
2022-present C. Beth Burch