By Aislinn Keely
As Fordham makes strides to become more research-oriented, a smaller program within the university is answering the call by building ties and creating opportunities within New York City. This minor currently has no plans to become a major, but rather focuses on research opportunities and courses designed to enrich other majors.
Fordham’s Jewish Studies program has grown since the 2013 establishment of the Eugene Shvidler Chair of Judaic Studies in the History Department and the installation of Professor Magda Teter, Ph.D., in the position. In 2017, the increase in research, dialogue events, internship opportunities and early plans for the introduction of modern Hebrew will further the ties between the program and the whole of Fordham as well as the university in the context of New York City.
Teter said they will be bringing scholars as fellows to Fordham. In late December, the department announced this joint post-doctoral fellowship program with Columbia University’s Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies for the 2017-2018 academic year, according to News Fordham.
In addition to the joint fellowship relationship with Columbia, there are plans for research in the social sciences, connecting scholars at Fordham with others of similar research backgrounds and interests.
“We’ll be announcing soon a small cohort of a first fellowship that is related to the social scientific study group … that is studying Jewish Orthodoxy,” said Teter. “That’s a group of scholars who are coming to Fordham to discuss newest research in social sciences on Jewish orthodoxy in different ways.”
Teter also said the program is currently fostering a relationship with Yeshiva University, as well as starting internship programs for students with New York institutions such as the Museum for Jewish Heritage.
Karina Martin Hogan, professor of biblical studies and Ancient Judaism, believes the new program will develop Fordham’s undergraduate research capabilities.
“Although the Jewish Studies program at Fordham is very new, I expect that it will contribute to the culture of undergraduate research that is developing here,” said Hogan.
However, in all the plans for the growth of the program, there are no plans for a major. Teter said only allowing a minor allows students to pursue interest outside of their career path and also opens up the study to all schools.
“One of the ways students choose majors is when they look at careers, whereas minors give them substance and follow interests. Also, a minor makes it accessible to all schools. For example, Gabelli students cannot have a double major, but they can have a minor,” said Teter.
The research and dialogue component of the minor put more focus on creating an environment that produces well-rounded students rather than training for specific career tracks within Jewish studies, according to Teter.
Middle eastern Studies major Mustafa Kilicarslan, FCRH ’19, said his studies gave him a greater comprehension of the world’s religions.
“I was always curious about Jews and Christians because Qu’ran accepts them. Taking those classes enriched my vision about life,” said Kilicarslan. “I have tried to understand for the first time, in a scientific and objective manner, a different religion and many cultures related to this religion.”
Michelle Chen, FCLC ‘17, a history major minoring in middle eastern studies and Mandarin said classes within the Jewish Studies program benefited her.
“Having taken these courses, I feel that I can better understand the Middle East conflict as I have pieces of both sides of the story,” said Chen. “As of now, my goal is to attend law school in fall 2018, and I feel like the skills that I’ve gotten out of Jewish studies, especially analyzing primary sources, will greatly help me tackle those difficult law school textbooks.”
The program even reaches as far as those difficult textbooks, as Fordham Law School offers a course in Jewish Law each semester.
Fordham Law School allowed undergraduates to enroll in the Jewish Law course for the first time last year. This opportunity allows students to establish relationships within the law school through this challenging and specialized course according to Teter. “We are forging these kind of ties between different schools, not just with the colleges on campus,” said Teter on the law school relationship.
Future events co-sponsored by the law school and the Jewish Studies Program include the annual Jewish lecture with the Shvidler Chair and efforts to emulate the Natural Law Colloquium in developing a community of interested scholars. “For the law school, the great contribution of the Jewish Studies Program is that it provides us with a way to draw upon the extraordinary resources of Prof. Teter and other faculty outside the law school and to join in building a community at the University of faculty with an interest in Jewish studies,” said Law Professor Russell Pearce.
The program also functions as a dialogue of faiths within Fordham, exposing students to traditions separate from its Jesuit Catholic identity.
“Obviously as a Jesuit institution many aspects of Fordham are going to be bent towards Christian culture, but sometimes it seems to the point where class subjects or even professors themselves barely acknowledge that there are other faiths, except when they want to throw in the ‘but we’re very accepting and diverse’ card,” said Angela He, FCRH ’19. “Courses such as these offered by the department offer a remedy to ignorance and a broadening of perspectives, which as a student on the prelaw track with an interest in social justice and politics is very important to me.”
Reaching further than the Fordham community, the program sponsors and co-sponsors In Dialogue events, which brings scholars in different areas together to give different perspectives within lectures on similar topics. For many of these events, the opportunity to attend is open to the public.