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Lori_250Please enjoy the spring edition of HAVERIM, which features some of the highlights of Jewish Studies at Northeastern this semester.We recently had a unique opportunity to host and engage with six members of the Israeli Knesset from five different political parties.

These political leaders, whose views on Israel’s most urgent strategic concerns could hardly be more divergent, was an important opportunity for our faculty and students and members of the Boston community to experience the vibrancy of Israel’s democracy.  The distinguished delegation was brought to Northeastern under the auspices of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which has a longstanding commitment to the Jewish Studies Program at Northeastern and has among its other priorities creating opportunities for meaningful dialogue between the American Jewish community and Israeli leaders.  As expressed on the Ruderman Family Foundation website:  “For decades, the American Jewish Diaspora supported Israel as advocates and funders. Now, as both Israel and the United States rapidly evolve, that relationship is changing, too.  Efforts abound to help Americans understand and support contemporary Israel, but Israeli leaders have few resources for gaining strategic insight into the changing American Jewish community and how it may affect Israel’s future.” I share the Foundation’s commitment to creating opportunities for meaningful American-Israeli exchange and am very pleased that Northeastern will be welcoming incoming Israel Studies Professor Dov Waxman, whose expertise includes the relationship between the American-Jewish community and Israel and who will begin teaching in the fall.

Looking forward, this summer I will again accompany sixteen Northeastern University undergraduates to Israel, where we will study for the full month of July.  We will be based in Jerusalem, hosted by Hadassah Academic College, and in Tel-Aviv, and we will travel the country, exploring the theme of complexity through the study of contemporary literature and art.  We will be joined by Professor Dov Shinar, a specialist in Israeli politics and media, who will introduce our students to the Israeli political system and its history and lead us in study of the representation of Israel in the world press. Our students this year are a remarkably diverse group, coming from many different personal, national, and religious backgrounds; these students have wide-ranging interests but share a desire to better understand today’s Israel.  As a professor of literature, I have seen how studying texts in context both hones analytic skills and makes readers alert to the implications of meaningful nuances.

The university honors and struggles with diverse perspectives on complex issues.  As you will read in these pages, this spring our Jewish Studies program participated in a number of programs that confronted complexity.  Our annual Holocaust Awareness Week grappled with the immediately compelling questions of art stolen or sold during the Shoah and possibilities for restitution.  Under the leadership of Jewish Studies Associate Director Laurel Leff, a world-class group of experts assembled here to represent different points of view.  Also that week, Samuel Bak, a child survivor, discussed his art to a standing-room only crowd of students, faculty, and staff and spoke about the relationship between art and justice.

I write these words during Passover and Holy Week, a season that expresses a timeless desire for redemption.  During the weeks ahead, Jews around the world celebrate liberation and count forty-nine days to the holiday of Shavuot, a celebration of Torah, the defining sacred symbol of Judaism that embodies the inextricable relationship between learning and responsibility.  I have been writing recently about how time is conceptualized in the Jewish mythos.  Whether in the liberation from Egypt or crossing the Red Sea or receiving Torah, there is a conviction that the Jewish people are always and still present for these events, including the unborn and the dead, again, for the first time.  This paradox of eternal presence in a recurring history suggests a cosmic point of view from which time is not linear, where there is no before and no after.  The lesson that I draw from this awareness of being forever in the middle of things is that from a Jewish point of view, the work of learning and assuming responsibility—the work of Torah—holds infinite redemptive promise.  This is the promise of spring and renewal.  We wish you a happy turn of season.

The Jewish Studies program graduates eight wonderful minors this year, and we warmly congratulate them and wish them every success.  I want to take this opportunity to thank our faculty, students, staff, and supporters for contributing to the growth and vitality of this program, and especially Jenny Sartori, long-time Associate Director of Jewish Studies, who works closely with our faculty colleagues, administration, and our students to envision, plan, implement, and sustain our program.

Please be in touch if you want more information about Jewish Studies at Northeastern and our plans for growth.  I can always be reached at 617-373-8437 or

Read the rest of the Haverim Spring 2014 Newsletter here.