New Committee on Jewish Studies
A new Committee on Jewish Studies has been established at the University, offering a program that is "unique within American universities," according to Michael Fishbane, the Nathan Cummings Professor in the Divinity School and chair of the committee.
Although several programs in Jewish studies have existed at the University for years, the Committee on Jewish Studies is expected to provide greater coherence among the existing programs and offer greater opportunity for students pursuing Jewish studies.
The committee, which was approved at a faculty senate meeting earlier this month, will be part of the Humanities Division and will grant a master of arts degree. Its program will begin in autumn 1995.
Faculty members from Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, the Divinity School and History as well as from at least six other areas -- Linguistics, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Slavic Languages & Literatures and the Committee on Social Thought -- will constitute the core faculty for the new committee. The committee will not replace or compete with existing programs in Jewish studies within NELC, the Divinity School and History, but has been designed to supplement current academic opportunities.
"The new program will be unique within American universities in its approach to Jewish studies at the graduate level," Fishbane said. "While there are currently numerous University faculty members whose work is in Jewish studies -- ranging from ancient architecture to present-day politics -- the committee will provide an opportunity for a coherent look at the range of Jewish studies at the University, without compromising existing programs. Indeed, this committee would not exist were it not for the depth of faculty in those current programs."
The core faculty for the new committee is essentially the same as that of the undergraduate program in Jewish studies, which was officially approved as a concentration in 1992 and was ranked as the top national undergraduate program in Jewish studies in 1994 by the Gourman Report on Academic Standards.
The idea of a Committee on Jewish Studies at the graduate level has been explored during the past two years, based on the success of the undergraduate program. During that time, the Chicago Humanities Institute awarded a grant to University faculty members to meet as an ad hoc committee to further explore and devise the new committee. Philip Gossett, Dean of the Humanities Division and the Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor in Music, also supported the idea. "The idea was in the air, but it needed something to give it form and substance, and that something was the support we received from Dean Gossett and the CHI," Fishbane said. "The University has shown great courage in allowing the committee to happen, and we in turn expect great things to happen in the committee."
The master's program of the committee is targeted at three types of students: those interested in expanding their knowledge of Jewish studies but not planning further work in the field; those for whom a general background in Jewish studies will contribute to advanced work in another field; and those who intend to pursue Jewish studies at a more professional level but need time to develop specific skills and interests.
"The committee will allow the various departmental and disciplinary offerings of the University to be coordinated and integrated," Fishbane said. "Also, it will encourage involvement and collaboration among a large number of faculty members whose work involves Jewish studies but who are not members of the Divinity School, NELC or History."
The A.M. in Jewish Studies will be a one-year, nine-course degree program. In addition to required courses, students will choose courses in a specific area or problem. Students must have a working knowledge of Hebrew equivalent to a 300-level course or must take three courses in Hebrew as part of their graduate study.
Once the committee structure is in place and after appropriate consultation with colleagues throughout the University, the development of an interdisciplinary and interdivisional Ph.D. program under the auspices of the Committee on Jewish Studies is anticipated.
"Until that time, the new committee will provide invaluable support at the master's level to those students who want an introduction to the field," Fishbane said. "They may go on to study in other University departments or they may not, but either way they will have received the best possible overall introduction to the range of work currently being done in Jewish studies."
-- Jeff Makos