|MTSU’s new Jewish and Holocaust Studies minor can clarify much of what it means to be Jewish.
It’s an undergraduate minor with two tracks – Jewish Studies and Holocaust Studies. A total of 18 credit hours is required for the minor in either track.
Three general requirement courses for the minor are “Jewish Culture and Civilization,” “The Holocaust,” and “Current Trends in Jewish and Holocaust Studies.”
Students may choose from among nine hours of electives in either track. Some of the elective classes include “The Bible as Literature,” “Women of the Middle East,” “Israeli Film,” and “Nazis and Victims.”
Studies include history and culture, theology and philosophy, the arts and social sciences and the methodologies of Jewish Studies and Holocaust Studies disciplines.
Dr. Elyce Helford, an MTSU English professor and director of the program, says, through “developing this new and fields of study,” students can examine the multifaceted aspects of Jews in diaspora in numerous ways.
They can learn the Hebrew language; read the works of Jewish authors; explore hate crimes from a sociological perspective; compare and contrast Judaism, Islam and Christianity; and delve into the complicated history of the Middle East.
The topics students are discussing in these classes are vital to local and global awareness.
They include multiculturalism and the meanings of diversity, religious tolerance and intolerance and genocide studies.
Just to give you a little bit of the flavor of the minor, consider “Jewish American Literature and Culture,” for example. Although this is an introductory literature course aimed at non-majors and non-minors, it explores the unique traditions of Jewish Americans through literature about the immigrant experience and issues surrounding assimilation into the dominant culture.
One of the most interesting facets of this course is an examination of Jewish American responses to the lynching of African Americans. While the course does not focus on religious issues, it does concentrate on cultural identity and ethnic, class and gender issues.
Students in this class read poetry, drama and fiction, with most of the readings being short stories.
They also screen, discuss and write about several films. Some of the films that have been shown in class include “Hester Street,” “Zelig,” “Miss Rose White,” and “The Jazz Singer.”
The Holocaust Studies track enables students to take advantage of MTSU’s Holocaust Studies Conference.
This event, which attracts renowned scholars from all over the world every two years, is one of the most acclaimed and respected gatherings of its kind.
The most brilliant minds from numerous nations analyze and dissect not only the Third Reich, but modern-day genocides ranging from ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia to atrocities in Rwanda and Sudan.
The new Jewish and Holocaust Studies minor is just another means by which MTSU’s innovative faculty continue to instill in their students an appreciation of what it means to be considered “the other.”
It also provides another opportunity for students to develop the critical thinking skills they will need to navigate an increasingly interconnected world.