Jewish Studies

Jewish Studies

Spring '17 Update

The work of Jewish Studies is more urgent than ever. With antisemitic incidents on college campuses more than doubling between 2014 - 2016 (ADL), teaching students to understand and appreciate Judaism, Jewish culture, and the Jewish State is imperative.

In May, SMUJS graduated two minors in Jewish Studies. Trish Weisberg, BBA Real Estate Finance, was raised in Charleston, WV, Trish served as Co-President of Hillel of Dallas for two years and as Vice President of Chapter Development for her sorority Tri Delta. She was a reading mentor and volunteer at New Horizons, which provides a safe afterschool learning community for at-risk children and teens growing up in environments of poverty, academic failure, and hopelessness. Trish was a Hunt Leadership Scholar and one of the Chaplain's Faith and Learning Scholars, which gives qualified students the opportunity to integrate their studies with their faith through weekly service activity, small group interaction with faculty mentors and individual reading and reflection. She also interned at the George W. Bush Institute. For Trish, the Jewish Studies program has broadened her understanding of Judaism, as well as expanded her continued love for her religion. Patricia Nance, BS Chemistry, BA Mathematics, was named a 2016-17 Barry Goldwater Scholar to support her work on polymers for breast implants to reduce infections for women who get reconstructive surgery after breast cancer. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society, the SMU Chemistry Society, and SMU Women in Science and Engineering, which engages fourth and fifth grade girls in fun science and engineering activities. She was awarded SMU's Harold Jeskey, Lazenby and BRITE scholarships, and was a Hamilton Undergraduate Research Scholar. She also received the Chemistry Department's POLYED Organic Chemistry Award for outstanding performance in organic chemistry. Patricia found that the Jewish Studies program enriched and deepened her curiosity about Judaism. About her experience on SMU-in-Israel she wrote: “I once thought that this trip would elevate my understanding of Jewish history, but at the close of our journey I realize that it was integral to it.” We are so proud of them!

SMUJS hosted the fourth annual celebration of Judeo-Spanish culture the week of Jan. 20-29 with lectures by Profs. Maya Soifer-Irish of Rice University and David Blumenthal of Emory University and a special exhibit of Salvador Dali’s Aliyah series.

The Nate and Ann Levine Lecture Series continues to be a highlight of SMUJS programming. The Spring Levine Lecture was delivered by Director of the Hadassah Center of Brandeis University, Dr. Sylvia Barack Fishman, who spoke about new issues confronting the contemporary American Jewish Family at the second annual One Day Jewish University, Feb. 26.

The program continues to grow, adding two new courses in American Jewish Culture and Classical (i.e.Rabbinic) Judaism. SMUJS is also very excited to welcome Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman to our faculty. His return to Dallas will enhance SMU as well as the broader community.

Have a great summer!

Shira L. Lander

Director

Winter '17 Update

SMU-in-Israel was an unparalleled success!

              

                      Students at Masada                                         Students at First Century Synagogue of Magdala

 

Read these student responses:

"Standing at ruins from two thousand years ago was a reminder of how small I am, and learning about the culture and tension in Israel taught me the importance of gratitude for all that I have in my life. This trip was life changing."

"This trip helped me broaden my own views of spirituality and gave me new perspectives on religion and tradition that I hope I can use to become a more understanding and accepting person"

"Jerusalem was very moving for me personally because it brought me closer to my religion. The friendships I made with people in the class will be unforgettable. Honestly the entire trip was a highlight because each excursion taught me a little bit more about myself and my culture"

"My favorite place was likely Jerusalem. The city was beautiful and felt full of life and the archaeology was fascinating. It was also incredible to see various religions living side by side in a place considered so contentious."

"This was the first trip to Israel that SMU has done, and it was really something amazing. The class was brilliant and the sites were priceless. What was even better was that, even though Israel is riddled with conflicts, I felt completely safe no matter where we were."

 

We have a jam-packed semester of events this spring, including Judeo-Spanish Culture Week, One Day Jewish University--featuring the Nate and Ann Levine Lecture in Jewish Studies, and monthly Lunch Lectures and Seminars. Please check our events page to learn more about these exciting programs.

 

 

Student Responses to Holocaust Museum Trip in Antisemitism Class

“As I continue to live and learn each day, my perspective of the world is changing. I’ve come to find that you can never appreciate alternative perspectives until you make a concerted effort to educate yourself. Before entering college at SMU, I wouldn’t have thought of myself as someone who was interested in learning about cultures other than my own. I was rather unobservant of the world and I never attempted to understand people from other backgrounds and had no concept of how they lived their lives. When I started to notice the changing diversity in Dallas, and even here at SMU, I made myself a promise that I would choose courses that were extremely unfamiliar to me to further my quest for knowledge. With this in mind, I ultimately decided to take this course that explores anti-Semitism. This class has captivated my attention and inspired me from the first day and has encouraged me to learn as much as possible about the history of the Jewish people and how anti-Semitism has developed in our society, and the suffering the Jewish people have endured and triumphed over throughout history. …This course and my experiences by taking this class have changed my perspective of the world, and I have sincerely learned to appreciate other perspectives.”

--Student 1

“People like to believe that acts of great evil can only be perpetrated by inhuman monsters, but this point of view is problematic. I am not arguing that there weren’t a great many sick, sick individuals running the show and gladly signing up to participate; genocides were not invented by nice people, and active participation in such activities is highly attractive to sadists. However, the holocaust would not have been feasible without the complacency of ordinary citizens like you or me. No one wants to believe that they are capable of acts of great evil, but they forget that often the greatest evil is the silence of good people. It does not do to forget that events like the holocaust are highly personal, both for the perpetrators and the victims. …Experiences like our class’s visit to the museum are incredibly important and ought to be a requirement for every person, no matter how informed they believe they are, because such experiences are what make difficult things like the holocaust real. It wasn’t a bad dream, and Hitler isn’t the monster under your bed. These atrocities were done by people, to people, and we must remember that, or risk the same thing happening again.”

--Student 2

"I have been to multiple Holocaust Museums during my time as a student, but I left the Dallas Holocaust Museum with a feeling that was unlike any of my previous experiences. My prior visits to various Holocaust Museums across the country left me in a mixture of tears, gratefulness, and nervousness. Each museum I visited consisted of similar artifacts and pieces of history, but the Dallas Holocaust Museum had one unique aspect that I attributed to my difference in feelings. From the very beginning the Dallas Museum included the story of the three young men who saved over 200 people from their deaths. The story about these three young men really made me think and feel about the Holocaust through a new perspective. …At the end of the tour our tour guide told us about a Jewish saying, “And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” This saying truly resonated with me and allowed me to understand both the museum and the Holocaust with a more unique and meaningful viewpoint. Overall, I left the museum in awe because; through so much devastation and hurt the Jewish faith is able to remember that a human life means so much more than just a single being."

--Student 3

“I do not think one can completely grasp the true magnitude of the devastating, genocidal pure evil of that time in history without a visit to a Holocaust Museum. Before going to the museum in Dallas, I obviously knew that the Holocaust was catastrophic, but when I saw the artifacts in person, heard the docent’s account of their significance, and heard the stories of survivors and their families, it made these events seem more real to me. …The quote from the Talmud that our tour guide mentioned during the tour hit me very hard: “And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” Just typing these words makes me feel very emotional because it is so profound and so true. The people that survived the Holocaust went on to have their own families that could carry on their family names and share the stories of what they had to overcome and how they had the strength and courage to survive such a horrendous massacre. Before taking this course, I did not realize how prevalent anti-Semitic beliefs were in the world. Learning more about the Holocaust, Judaism, and the prevalence of anti-Semitism has made me grow as a person and has made me more informed about the world around me.”

--Student 4

“I have been to the Dallas Holocaust Museum a few times since coming to SMU, but this time is was a lot different because of the [Embrey Human Rights Program] trip I took over winter break. Being at the museum made all of the feelings and emotions I experienced in Poland in January come rushing back. I felt the eeriness of walking through Stutthof, the first camp I visited. I remembered how heavy I felt as I walked through the seventeen thousand stones at Treblinka. I felt the profound sadness I experienced at Belzec. I was horrified like I was when I saw the remains of the castle and the mass graves at Chelmno. I felt the enormity of Auschwitz-Birkenau and remembered staring at the remains of the crematoria covered in snow. I especially felt like I did walking around Majdanek on Christmas morning. I will never forget the blue stains on the walls from the Zyklon B and the nail marks in the concrete from people struggling to reach clean air and live a moment longer. This class has been really powerful for me because after the trip to Poland I needed to understand the history of antisemitism better. I am completely horrified to realize how anti-Jewish tropes have persisted for so long. I have always looked at antisemitism in interwar Germany as its own isolated concept, almost frozen in time. Understanding the development of antisemitism throughout time and space helps put things in perspective and helps me understand how the Holocaust could have happened, while still recognizing that numerous other factors were at play."

--Student 5

"Our trip to the Dallas Holocaust Museum was actually pretty difficult for me. Two years ago, I went on the Embrey Human Rights trip to Poland. This museum made me vividly recall that trip and all the emotions that have stuck with me since. … After I got back from Poland I think that part of me pushed those feelings out of the way because I wasn’t ready to process them. But while I was walking around this museum I finally started to organize my thoughts from that trip. This museum was amazing and it really helped me."

--Student 6

“Before taking this religion class, I used to think the Holocaust was just another excuse for the Jews to gain more attention. After going to the museum and actually learning detailed information about the Holocaust, I can say my way of thinking has absolutely taken a 180-degree turn.”

--Student 7

“I have learned a great deal this semester, both through class readings and in-class lectures. The trip to the Holocaust museum however, may have had the biggest effect on me. From the moment that our class walked into the Holocaust museum there was a much different feel than a normal class. We all understood that what we were about to see and hear would be both breathtaking and somber.”

--Student 8

"Initially, what strikes me from the Holocaust Museum is the sheer number of victims there were, the hatred that the Nazis had for Jewish people, and how the antisemitic themes we have been learning about this semester became so real in the Holocaust. There is a difference between learning about antisemitism versus seeing antisemitism displayed in such a real and tragic display. The biggest issue that I personally deal with, and has been addressed in this course as well as throughout the Holocaust Museum, is how someone can have such a hatred for another person. Or how antisemites can torture a group of people whether it be physically, socially or emotionally, based on stereotypes and tradition. The psychology of antisemitism is disturbing, and that people continue to have this mentality in the 21st ­century is also disturbing. …This says something about Jewish people and how they really are “upstanding” rather than “bystanding.” That being victimized for so long has not broken their resolve yet is astonishing. The difference between upstanding and bystanding presented by the Holocaust Museum was encouraging, and I appreciated how they promoted hopefulness for Jewish people and their fight against antisemitism, rather than bitterness or vengeance."

--Student 9

"Genocide, hatred, mutilation, maltreatment of others and the ignorance toward differences makes living hard. Coming from an affluent, homogeneous, white and Christian but loving community, … I have never personally experienced such extreme hatred, the way Jews did in the Holocaust. Everyone was the same from my home and since coming to SMU my eyes have been open to such diversity, although some argue that this campus is not diverse, but I beg to differ. I love knowing more about all the different people on campus with regard to their religion, background, culture, etc., and by taking this anti-Semitism class I have not only learned more about Jews, but differences in general. Everyone is different, and in order to live harmoniously we have to not only acknowledge and understand these differences but to accept them. These differences form the melting pot of a world we live in." 

--Student 10

 

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