New minor brings diversity training to UNCG students

Posted on September 22, 2022

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For those still deciding what they want to be when they grow up, taking a few courses with a multidisciplinary approach can be enlightening, instructive, and helpful in narrowing down interests. With this in mind, the Department of Religious Studies designed a new minor with broad applications.

“The Jewish Studies Minor is useful for a number of different professions,” says Ellen Haskell, Director of Jewish Studies and the Herman & Zelda Bernard Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies at UNCG. “Jewish Studies, at its heart, is diversity training. It’s useful for careers that interface with the diverse American public. It’s a nice suite of studies because it is so interdisciplinary: you get religious studies training, and you also get training in history, the arts, and in literature. These are all aspects of Jewish Studies.”

Students to Gain Well-Rounded Perspective 

Students in the minor, which started this Fall, network with departments and programs across the university including History, Communication Studies, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, and the Islamic Studies Research Network, among others.

With a foundation in Judaism’s culture, history, thought, and practice, students will gain a new understanding of how the religion developed and informed world culture, as well as how Judaism relates to literature, history, ethics, and the arts.

“Students can really tailor the minor in Jewish Studies to personal interests,” says Haskell. “For example, they could take a religion and theology focus on Hebrew and Jewish thought courses. Students can also develop a more socially oriented minor by taking courses like Jewish Medical Ethics and Judaism and the Construction of Gender.”

The program offers an option for remote Hebrew Language class through UNC Chapel Hill. Students may also apply for summer archaeological coursework in Israel. 

Lecture Series Engages Students + Community 

In addition, each year the program hosts the Henry Samuel Levinson Lecture Series. The endowed series brings many scholars to campus, engaging both the public and the UNCG campus community.

“Last year we had a speaker on interracial Jewish adoption and children’s literature, and we’ve had speakers that interfaced with environmental and sustainability studies,” Haskell says. “ I want to bring programming to UNCG for Jewish Studies with the ability to spread interest outside the Jewish community, showing different and diverse academic groups where we all intersect with each other.” 

On October 27, the series will bring former Jerusalem-based NPR correspondent and current professor of journalism at NYU-Tel Aviv and Hebrew University Linda Gradstein to campus to discuss “Women in Israeli Society: The Army, the Rabbis, and Me.” Gradstein will discuss her experience with rabbinic courts and her daughter’s army service in Israel.

Haskell encourages those interested in a wide variety of fields to take a course from the program and broaden their interests.

“A lot of times students ask, ‘What do you do with a degree in Religious Studies or Jewish Studies? Do I have to be in the clergy?’ But the vast majority of our students get jobs in nonprofits. We have some who go into the ministry, and others who go into education. The field prepares you to understand a different culture and trains you to appreciate diverse individuals so you are better able to interact, appreciate, and work together.” 

The Jewish Studies Program at UNCG is supported by the Herman and Zelda Bernard Distinguished Professorship in Jewish Studies, the Henry Samuel Levinson Program Endowment in Jewish Studies, the Barbara Colchamiro Endowment in Jewish Studies, and the Judith Rosenstock Hyman Jewish Studies Program Fund.


October 27, 7 p.m.
Elliott University Center – Auditorium

Written by Alice Manning Touchette


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