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 Tuesday, August 11, 2009 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Jewish Studies acquires new faculty and courses
by Melanie O. Massengale

Last May, four students walked in CU-Boulder's first Jewish Studies graduation ceremony. Currently, students may receive a Jewish Studies certificate in the program, and tremendous recent growth makes offering a major a foreseeable goal. Since Inside CU last reported in 2007, Jewish Studies has realized the appointment of a permanent director as well as the enrollment of large numbers of new students.

David Shneer, director of Jewish Studies since August 2008, is excited about the expansion of the program as well as the increasing student and faculty interest in the past two years. “We have 62 students currently; it was 15 in 2007,” he said. “It shocked us all, including the administration, to see how much need there was. We offer 22 classes now, up from eight.”

Shneer came to CU-Boulder after five years as director of Center of Judaic Studies at the University of Denver. “I was convinced that CU was absolutely committed to growing its Jewish Studies program,” he said. “Everyone—the dean, the faculty, the chairs of other departments and the students—was quite excited about the program. This situation doesn't always happen at a university, where a vision is laid out, comes to fruition, exceeds everyone's expectations and flourishes. We've gotten tremendous support for it, both internally and externally.”

Also new to the Jewish Studies faculty is Robert Adler-Peckerar, assistant professor in the department of Germanic & Slavic languages & literature, who teaches Jewish history. Jewish Studies needed someone who worked in Hebrew, Yiddish and German, and Adler-Peckerar had just the right credentials. He came to CU-Boulder from UC-Berkeley at the beginning of the 2009 summer session, having just completed his doctorate in comparative literature with emphasis in these three languages. Adler-Peckerar and Shneer were already well acquainted through collaborative work at UC-Berkeley. Moreover, Adler-Peckerar served as the educational director of the National Yiddish Book Center and had recruited Shneer as head instructor of the Summer Intensive Yiddish Program. “David and I also ran a literary tour to the Ukraine through the Yiddish Book Center, during which we read books and poetry in the places where they were written,” he said.

Adler-Peckerar has 25 students in his summer session class on Jewish history. His fall classes are already full and waitlisted. He said of the program, “Students are amazingly engaged. Those who come to class having been exposed to Jewish culture from a religious angle are surprised to find that this is an academic course; it's not a rabbi instructing them and it's a secular way of education. I get very positive responses.”

Both Shneer and Adler-Peckerar eventually hope to offer an international option within the program through Study Abroad. “We'd like to plan a Jewish Studies global seminar that would take place in Venice,” Adler-Peckerar said. Shneer is also focused on obtaining the major, since he has seen such tremendous student and faculty interest in the program. “That's what I'm working on this summer,” he said. “The next stage in the strategic plan is the major in Jewish Studies.”

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