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November 03, 2011 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-11-03

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Bringing Israel To East Lansing

MSU offers bounty of Jewish and Israeli-related learning opportunities.

Hannah Posen
Special to the Jewish News

to Israel, bringing in Israeli professors or
having the opportunity to study Israel on
campus:' Michael Serling said. "I think
he Michigan State University's
for Jewish students, it awakens their
Jewish Studies Program (JSP) is
roots, and for non-Jewish students, they
bringing Israel to its students.
have the chance to learn about the great
Through the JSP's numerous programs,
country Israel is and the thousands of
MSU students can have in-depth study of years' connections between Israel and the
Israel and Judaism.
Jewish people."
New for the 2011-2012 academic year
Because of the importance of a con-
is the Irwin T. and Shirley Holtzman
nection with Israel, the Serlings have
Collection of Israeli Literature as well as
created the Michael and Elaine Serling
a partnership with Hebrew University
Lecture on Modern Israel, which takes
in Jerusalem for a MSU Spring Semester
place every fall. This annual lecture
there. These two new programs join
began during the 2006-2007 academic
other established programs, including
year. Serling lecturers have included Ilan
the Michael and Elaine Serling Lecture
Troen, the Stoll Family Chair in Israel
on Modern Israel, the MSU Israeli Film
Studies at Brandeis University, editor
Festival and the MSU Jewish Studies
of Israel Studies and convener of the
Summer Program at Hebrew University.
Brandeis Faculty Israel Studies Seminar,
Joining these programs in the fall of
and Avishai Margules, an Israeli philoso-
2012 will be the Serling Visiting Israeli
pher and a recipient of the Israel Prize.
Scholars Program.
This lecture gives students the chance to
The breadth of offerings follows the
connect with world-renowned scholars in
JSP's mission to focus on modern Jewish
subjects related to Israeli history, politics,
civilization and the Jewish experience.
society, language and culture.
"We crafted the program to fit the
Last spring, the Serlings pledged $1
culture and orientation of our students:'
million to create the Serling Visiting
said Dr. Kenneth Waltzer, JSP director
Israeli Scholars Program. This program
since 2004.
will allow the JSP to partner each year
A key question in Jewish life today is
with another MSU department to bring
the relationship between Jewish life in
in a visiting Israeli scholar or other
the two centers of Judaism: Israel and the Jewish Studies scholar for one semester
United States. The JSP was built around
the observation that places once central
"We're a small program:' Waltzer said,
to Jewish life have become peripheral and "but having this program, we can bring
places once peripheral have now become
in outstanding people on a regular basis.
central. The JSP focuses less on European This will bring in new perspectives, addi-
Jewish life and more on life in the new
tional courses and will influence other
centers of Judaism.
departments to make courses visiting
"We learned the hard way during the
scholars teach regular offerings."
Intifada that we couldn't always get to
With this pledge, the JSP also will
Israel," Waltzer said. "We realized that we
be able to partner with other founda-
had to bring Israel to our students?'
tions and granting agencies to bring in
other faculty who expand the program's
Serlings And MSU
resources and who can stay a full year
Michael and Elaine Serling have played
rather than just one semester.
a large role in bringing many of these
programs about Israel to the MSU com-
Art, Film And Literature
munity. Their involvement began roughly Additionally, the JSP also has been
15 years ago when they sponsored an
awarded a Schusterman Visiting Israeli
event for visiting Israelis from Detroit's
Fellow for 2012-13 and a Schusterman
sister region in Israel's Central Galilee. At
Visiting Artist for one semester in
the reception they met Steven Weiland,
2012-13. These fellows will work in
JSP director at the time, who asked them
James Madison College and with the
to get involved and create a relationship
Department of English, in conjunction
between the JSP and the Detroit Jewish
with the JSP.
The JSP also sponsors the Israeli Film
"My connection with Israel made such
Festival, now in its seventh year. It is a
a difference in my life as a Jew, and I felt
two-day festival that showcases Israel's
it would be important for students to
award-winning movies and TV pro-
have contact with Israel, either by going
grams, bringing them to the MSU and



November 3 2011


greater East Lansing communities each
"We wanted people to encounter Israel
as a functioning society and culture,
not just a polemical caricature in an
ongoing conflict," Waltzer said. "We also
wanted people to get a sense of the issues
involved in living in Israel and a sense
of the remarkable diversity of the soci-
ety. Finally, we wanted to show off the
vital film industry of Israel, which makes
good films?'
A notable JSP addition this year is the
Irwin T. and Shirley Holtzman Collection
of Israeli Literature. The collection covers
Israeli literature from the earliest days of
statehood in 1948 up to the present and
includes literary journals and literary
criticism. The collection also features a
wealth of primary resources, including
manuscripts of poetry and drama, post-
ers advertising literary events, political
cartoons and other original artwork as
well as Irwin Holtzman's extensive cor-
respondence with many important Israeli
literary figures, including Amos Oz, A.B.
Yehoshua, Amalia Kahana-Carmon and
Yoram Kaniuk.
This collection will strengthen the
Hebrew focus at MSU and the JSP. There
are plans to catalog the collection quickly
and to organize an international confer-
ence to highlight the new collection in
2013. The collection and conference will
allow the JSP to teach about Israel, the
Arab-Israeli conflict, Israeli society and
culture in a new way.

Summer Program
The most hands-on, in-depth study of
Israel that the JSP offers is the MSU
Jewish Studies Summer Program at
Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This
experience offers students the opportuni-
ty to earn college credit while living and
studying in Jerusalem. The program is
designed for students interested in learn-
ing firsthand about the history, politics,
society, religions and culture of Israel.
This program has attracted more than
70 students over six years and focuses on
study and exploration of Jerusalem as a
sacred space.
This spring, the university will launch
its MSU Spring Semester in Jerusalem
program. MSU and Hebrew University
are offering a special spring semester
program that will allow students to con-
tinue making progress in their academic
programs while studying Israeli culture
and history.
To create this program, the JSP and the

Elaine and Michael Serling

Kenneth Waltzer

MSU Office of Study Abroad received a
MASA grant of $50,000. With this pro-
gram, the JSP hopes to include more col-
leges in the Israel study abroad program,
including Business, Communication Arts
and Sciences, Social Sciences and Arts
and Humanities.
Rina Bergman, a student in MSU's
Residential College of Arts and
Humanities specializing in Judaic studies,
is evidence the program fulfills its mis-
sion in connecting students with Israel.
"The JSP specialization has made me
much more appreciative of Israel and
Judaic studies as a whole she said. "I
went to Jewish day school my whole life
so I kind of took for granted the opportu-
nity to learn about Judaism, and I never
thought I would miss it. When I got to
MSU and didn't have any Judaic studies
classes, I actually found myself missing
it. Being able to specialize in Judaic stud-
ies makes me feel so much more intact
with being Jewish and with Israel?'

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