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EMU to offer new degree in Jewish Studies

Eastern Michigan University students who want to immerse themselves in Jewish history and culture will now be able to get credit for it; the school now offers a minor in Jewish Studies.

Marty Shichtman is director of Jewish Studies at EMU. He says classes will range from the history of Judaism to the Holocaust to the state of Israel and the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

"We have faculty members who are sympathetic to many different perspectives in reference to this conflict, and our students will be challenged to look at many different perspectives and to make their own decisions about what they think of this."

Shichtman hopes to create a class that will take students to Israel. He also plans to offer a class in Jewish theater, and take the students on a field trip to New York for the class.

Many students have shown an interest in the degree, and Shichtman expects enrollment will pick up in the fall.

Jennifer Rokakis, a junior at EMU, recently went on a study abroad trip with Shichtman and others to Berlin, Prague and Krakow, where they visited several concentration camps. She says that trip really sparked her interest in Jewish history.

Unfortunately, says Rokakis, she can't pursue the new Jewish Studies degree because she has already declared her major and minor. "But it’s a really good opportunity that Eastern has going on," says Rokakis, "and I feel the more diversity we can bring to campus, the better."

Michael Eisinger, an EMU senior, is also excited about the Jewish Studies minor, though he can't pursue it since he's close to graduating. He thinks potential teachers could benefit a lot from the degree. He thinks it will help future teachers learn about a different culture, and "when they’re in the classroom they can be more understanding of different faiths and different cultures."

U.S. Senator Carl Levin spoke at the EMU Student Center Ballroom today for the official kick-off of the new Jewish Studies program.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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