Lori Lefkovitz, Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies
The days of this academic year have flown off the calendar for me. As I near the close of my first year as Director of Jewish Studies and the inaugural holder of Northeastern’s Ruderman Chair in Jewish Studies, I still feel the exhilaration of embarking on this journey, grateful to the devoted, energetic leaders who brought us to this juncture and grateful for the gift of this opportunity to help chart a course forward. We are beginning to elaborate a vision for the next stages of Jewish Studies at Northeastern.
The Jewish Studies Program at Northeastern is broadly interdisciplinary with particular strengths in Jewish Cultural Studies—Jewish literatures, music, the arts—history, journalism, education, political science, Holocaust and Israel Studies. Jewish Studies at this university is an active sponsor of events and academic and social occasions and collaborates widely across the university and into the community. Drawing faculty from diverse disciplines, Jewish Studies creates opportunities for extraordinary exchanges of knowledge.
We have established two subcommittees of the Jewish Studies Advisory Board: under Professor James Ross’s leadership, a program committee is planning a multi-year set of educational events on Global Jewish Identities, with an inaugural panel on “Homeland Insecurity: Comparing Diasporas,” a collaboration among African-American, Asian, and Mid-eastern Studies. Professor Joshua Jacobson is leading a second committee to assess the Jewish Studies curriculum and offer recommendations for the minor and combined majors in Jewish Studies.
This year, Northeastern Jewish Studies co-sponsored the gala at the Association for Jewish Studies; we co-sponsored a film in the Boston Jewish Film Festival, an event on Judaism and social justice with Hillel, and several programs as part of Holocaust Awareness Week. I introduced my work on the representation of the Jewish father in a public lecture, and spoke personally at a university breakfast about being the daughter of Holocaust survivors and what that subject position has led me to think about the future of Holocaust Studies. Our Schusterman Visiting Professor of Israel Studies, Sarina Chen, who will be teaching Israeli and Palestinian film in the first summer session and taught courses on Zionism and Jerusalem, taught the faculty about her research on the Third Temple Movement and sponsored an Israeli film series. Stotsky Professor Laurel Leff has been presenting her newest—very powerful—research on European refugees in the 1930s and the medical community in multiple venues, and Jewish Studies proudly participated in Josh Jacobson’s programs on Mid-eastern Harmonies.
Professor Janet Jacobs offered a feminist account of Holocaust memorialization, focusing her presentation on the little known women’s concentration camp, Ravnesbrück, part of a scholarly panel that was a fitting tribute to former Jewish Studies Director Professor Debra Kaufman. In a remarkable synergy, Gideon Klein scholar, Lynn Torgove, created a breathtaking cabaret of music from Ravensbrück, performed on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, to a nearly full house at the Fenway Center, a musical event that was at once poignant and bawdy, a unique memorial that deserves to be further developed and more widely performed. Professor Stephen Sadow hosted an exhibition of the paintings of an Argentinian Jewish artist, the first in a series of planned events on Latin American Jewish art and poetry. Jewish Studies has hosted students for dinner, soliciting their input for future directions, and we are working closely with co-op to enhance Jewish experiential learning, with the library to enhance our Judaica holdings, and with Hillel and campus life to develop plans for enhanced Jewish life and learning in all areas of this campus.
By establishing a chair in Jewish Studies, the Ruderman family is creating a significant legacy in the signature Jewish Studies program at Northeastern. I am honored to occupy this position and appreciative of the support of the intelligent philanthropy directed to our program. My colleague in development, Scott Friedman, has been a dedicated and hardworking comrade. Please do let us know if you are able to participate in our efforts to develop Jewish Studies at Northeastern at this critical time in our history when shows of support will be especially meaningful and will allow us to build momentum. We would love to hear from you.
I have received endless, cheerful support from my energetic colleagues in my first year. James Ross, the immediate past director and chair of the search committee that brought me to Northeastern, has my particular thanks, and Jenny Sartori, academic specialist and the Associate Director of Jewish Studies, is as capable, effective, and talented a partner in this work as one could wish for. A skillful supervisor and gifted manager, she makes big dreams possible and ensures the success of our many curricular and co-curricular offerings. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences, under the new dean Georges Van Den Abbeele, has relocated Jewish Studies to a lovely suite of new offices, and the English department is graciously contributing administrative support.
There is great promise here. Northeastern has become a destination school for the brightest students around the globe, students who are committed to globalism, diversity, experiential learning, and muti-disciplinarity. A strong Jewish Studies program is critical to the success of the dawning vision of this unique learning institution. We are grateful to the administration for continuing to seed this program and helping us to make the orchard flourish. Our gaze is forward and upward, as we anticipate the possibilities.