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University Of Haifa Starts Israel's First Program For Study Of American Jewry
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Israel’s first-ever academic program devoted to the study of American Jewry is launching this fall at the University of Haifa. According to the Jewish News Service (JNS), the Ruderman Family Foundation made an initial $1 million contribution to the one-year, seven-course program, an amount matched by University of Haifa.

Initially, the academic program will have 21 graduate students, who will survey Jewish-American immigration history, modern foreign policy, and governmental structures, as well as genderissues and the religious makeup of U.S. Jewish communities.

“The key to understanding American Jewry is first to understand American society,” Gur Alroey, chair of the history department the University of Haifa and director of the new program, told JNS.

A highlight of the curriculum will be a 10-day trip to the U.S. Students will attend lectures, tour Ellis Island, and explore the Tenement Museum in lower Manhattan. The group also will visit Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History, which houses a comprehensive exhibit detailing Jewish immigration to America from colonial times through the present.

“The trip will be the equivalent of Birthright for Israelis, only the experience will be academic rather than primarily cultural,” Alroey said, referring to the free 10-day trip to Israel.

Based in Boston and Israel, The Ruderman Foundation has become well known in the American Jewish community in recent years for its advocacy on behalf of Jews with disabilities.

The foundation’s president, Jay Ruderman, has lived in Israel since 2005. He told JNS that his support for the new program was inspired, in part, by his observation that when American Jewish leaders visit Israel or when Israeli leaders visit the United States, the conversation is “always about Israel” and how the Jewish state relates to Iran, Syria, the Palestinians, and others.

“What’s happening in the American Jewish community?” and how those events impact future support for Israel never seem to enter the conversation, Ruderman said.

Alroey said, “The reality is that our treatment of the Jewish American community in Israel has been superficial at best. How can it be that numerous programs exist at Israeli universities for Asian, African and European studies, yet there is not a single program dedicated to the study of the American Jewish community?”; @julie_wiener

Last Update:

10/13/2013 - 07:40
Jay Ruderman, Julie Wiener, Ruderman Foundation, University of Haifa
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Haifa University is not the first Israeli university to offer a program of Study in American Jewry. From 1971 to 2007, Tel-Aviv University had an extensive program in American Jewish History. The courses were taught by Professor Lloyd Gartner and Professor Robert Rockaway. Lecture courses covered the history of the Jews in the United States from 1654 to 2000. Seminars and reading courses included topics such as, "The Zionist Idea in America," "The Great Immigration," "The History of Black Jewish Relations in the United States," "The Attitude of Americans Toward Jews, 1860-1924," "The Image of the American Jew in Film," and "American Jews, the American Government, and Nazi Germany," among others. The program offered a masters degree and doctorate in American Jewish history. The program ended with the retirement of Professor Rockaway in 2007. In the 36 years of its existence, over 5,000 Israelis took classes in the program.

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