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December 11, 1987 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-11

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Acceptance Through
Judaic Study Programs


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he director of Jewish
studies at a major
university suggests
the substantial numeric
growth of such programs
represents "an expression of
American willingness to
make room for the Jews and
American readiness to look
afresh at the Jewish ex-
That evaluation was offered
in a recent issue of Judaism,
the publication of the
American Jewish Congress,
by Robert Chazan, then direc-
tor of the Center for Jewish
Studies at City University of
New York. He is now chair-
man of the Hebraic and
Jewish studies department of
New York University.
Chazan began his appraisal
by noting he had not made a
wide-ranging scholarly in-
quiry into the subject, but
rather had based his conclu-
sions on his experience as a
teacher of Jewish studies.
He wrote that Jewish
studies programs "of substan-
tial size are available
throughout North America,
in both public - and private
universities. of all sizes and
orientations." He also
reported that "the smaller
programs, often involving on-
ly one or two instructors, are
yet more widely diffused."
Chazan found that the
number of serious faculty in
Jewish studies had grown
consistently, "even during
this period of general stagna-
tion in university hiring."
Though "by far the largest
number of students attending
these courses" is undergrad-
uates, he wrote, "there is
some professional training
taking place," for example,
"the combined social" work-
Jewish studies programs of-
fered at a number of univer-

To clarify any Jewish
misunderstanding, Chazan
stressed that the university is
in no way "an arm of the
Jewish community" and can-
not function as a high-level
Hebrew school. The universi-
ty must offer objectivity and
He explained he was em-
phasizing that basic universi-
ty philosophy because many
Jews "may feel that such an
ovjective and impartial stance
vitiates the vitality of Jewish
studies programs for the pur-
pose of Jewish identity and
Jewish survival."
He said Jewish studies pro-
grams have enriched the
university curriculum; have
offered university students ā€”
Jewish and non-Jewish alike
ā€” the opportunity to unders-
tand ingreater depth one of
the western world's great
traditions; "have opened the
eyes of those unfamiliar with
the Jewish past to its riches;
and have offered those
already committed the oppor-
tunity for broadening and
deepening their appreciation
of the civilization with which
they identify."
He said it was legitimate
for the Jewish community to
wonder whether such pro-
grams will untimately pro-
duce desired benefits.
Chazan wrote that, in the
absence of a serious study of
the phenomenon, "a
moderate answer seems in
order." He warned that
Jewish studies programs "are
certainly no panacea," as they
"will not solve the lingering
problems of anti-Semitism
nor will they affect a
renaissance of Jewish
Nevertheless, he contended,
"they should not be under-

Jewish Telegraphic Agency


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