2019 Judaic Studies Newsletter

Message from the Program Director
Program Spotlights
Program Kudos
Alumni Updates/Class Notes
Donor Recognition

Message from the Program Director


Daniel Schwartz

Daniel B. Schwartz
Director, Judaic Studies Program

Greetings from GW, where wind-swept autumn leaves are falling down and the fall semester’s classes are in full gear. The Judaic Studies Program, currently celebrating its forty-fifth anniversary, is once again offering a wide range of courses in areas from the history of Jewish civilization to the Dead Sea Scrolls to Israeli cinema. Our distinguished and dedicated faculty are busy publishing books and articles, teaching students, mentoring Judaic Studies majors and minors, and lecturing to audiences around the world. And we continue to host a broad array of cultural events on campus on topics including Jews and human rights, Jewish comedy, and Zionism and the left.

I often hear from alumni about their recollections of studying Judaic Studies at GW. Often these reminiscences single out the experience of taking classes with the brilliant and genial Rabbi and Professor Max Ticktin, who taught at GW from 1978 to 2014 and passed away three years ago. Happily, Max’s memory lives on at GW through the Max Ticktin Professorship in Israel Studies, created four years ago as a result of a major gift by the private family foundation of Susie and Michael Gelman. I am also always glad to hear from alumni about their news and accomplishments, which you can read about in this newsletter. Thank you for your engagement with the program and for your generosity that helps support the kind of programming we are able to sponsor. I hope, moving forward, we can continue to count on both of these things.


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Program Spotlights

Ghetto: Chronicling a Word's Tortured History

In his new book Ghetto: The History of a Word, Daniel Schwartz examines the centuries-old past of the word “ghetto” and how it has come to symbolize both pain and pride. He was profiled in the CCAS Spotlight news magazine.  

Greater Washington Jewish History Colloquium Enters Third Year

Judaic Studies researchers and students gathered at a table

In the fall of 2017, the GW Judaic Studies Program created the Greater Washington Jewish History Colloquium, a forum for researchers who are working in the field of Jewish history (broadly defined) and for interested students to gather together six times a year to discuss works in progress. At each meeting, a scholar gives a presentation on a pre-circulated paper, followed by robust discussion, feedback and Q&A.

Since its inception, the colloquium, organized by Professor Arie Dubnov, the Max Ticktin Professor of Israel Studies, has done a great deal to foster a sense of intellectual community among scholars and students of Jewish history and has made GW into something of a hub for Jewish history research in Greater Washington. More meetings will take place in 2019-20.

The Hebrew Café: Part of a Hebrew Revival at GW

Once a month on Wednesday evenings, the Hebrew Café brings Hebrew speakers and Hebrew learners at GW together to converse in Hebrew over pizza. The café is the brainchild of Professor Orian Zakai, assistant professor of Hebrew language and culture and coordinator of the Hebrew program. 

Since her arrival at GW two years ago, Professor Zakai, who came from Middlebury, has resurrected the Hebrew program, which had fallen on hard times in the middle of the decade. Enrollments are up and popular new courses on Hebrew and Israeli culture have been added to the already existing ones. In September 2019, 21 students and faculty—some in their first semester of Hebrew, some native speakers—attended a Hebrew café, where they discussed topics ranging from the upcoming Rosh Hashanah holiday to foods they liked and disliked. It was yet another sign of the Hebrew revival at GW.

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Program Kudos

  • The newly established Mayburg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership, run by Professor Erica Brown, received a Covenant Grant to launch “Text and Tradition,” a cohort-based program in Jewish literacy for those in senior leadership positions in Jewish non-profits.
  • Professor Erica Brown’s newest book, The Book of Esther: Power, Fate, and Fragility in Exile (Maggid/OU Press), will appear in print in January 2020.
  • Professor Masha Belenky’s book Engine of Modernity: The Omnibus and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris (2019) was published by Manchester University Press.
  • Professor Barry Chiswick completed a book titled Jews at Work: Their Economic Progress in the American Labor Market, to be published by Springer.
  • Professor Carmel Chiswick delivered the Dr. Fritz Bamberger Memorial Lecture at Hebrew Union College on “Freakonomics and American Judaism: Economic Incentives That Help Shape American Jewish Traditions.”
  • Professor Arie Dubnov’s co-edited volume Partitions: A Transnational History of Twentieth-Century Territorial Separatism (2019) was published by Stanford University Press.
  • The Program in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts, directed by Professor Jenna Weissman Joselit, received a $238,000 from the Jim Joseph Foundation.
  • Professor Jenna Weissman Joselit was a faculty member at the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Summer Institute on “The Jews of the South,” held at the College of Charleston in the summer 2019.
  • Professor Daniel Schwartz discussed his recently published book Ghetto: The History of a Word (2019) on the WAMU show The 1A with Joshua Johnson:

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Class Notes

Marc Friend, BA ’10, is the U.S. assistant director for government relations at the ONE Campaign, a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease. He was previously at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Rachel Lautenschlager, BA ’12, accepted a faculty position in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Denver. She thanks her GW mentors and  all the support she received from Dr. Daniel Schwartz and the GW Judaic Studies Program.

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Donor Recognition

The Judaic Studies Program would like to gratefully acknowledge the following generous donors who made a gift to the program from July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019.

+ Faculty/Staff | # Parent | ~ Student | * Friend

  • Jules Cahan, BS ’49, MD ’53 +
  • Lisa Dale Moore, BA ’76
  • Yael Moses +
  • Nachama Moskowitz, BA ’74
  • Rabbi A. James Rudin, AA ’53, BA ’55
  • Allan Wattenmaker, BBA ’94
  • Yonni Wattenmaker, BA ’93

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