Eastern Michigan, Temple Israel reach out to high school students interested in college-level Jewish Studies courses

Offerings include Hebrew, Jewish American Literature, Bible as Literature

by Pamela Young, Published May 23, 2013

Eastern Michigan University and Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, Mich. are expanding their successful program for high school students interested in college-level Jewish Studies courses.

Thanks to a $15,015 Ignition grant from the New York-based Covenant Foundation, the University and Temple Israel will offer six college-level, dual-enrollment Jewish Studies courses at the temple, located at 5725 Walnut Lake Rd. Ignition grants are offered for up to one year to support new and untested approaches in the field of Jewish education.

The Fall 2013 semester will offer three courses at Temple Israel: Modern Hebrew I and Modern Hebrew III, taught by Libat Aviv, and the Bible as Literature with Rabbi Joshua Bennett.

Winter semester 2014 will offer: Modern Hebrew II and Modern Hebrew IV with Aviv, and Jewish-American Literature, taught by Eastern Michigan's Martin Shichtman. Classes will include an on-line component as well as films, speakers, and a wide variety of instructional approaches.

The classes are open to the public. For further information on cost and possible college credits, contact EMU's Extended Programs & Educational Outreach at 800-777-3521 or extend.programs@emich.edu

Marty Shichtman, director of EMU's Jewish Studies program

"Our team is busy preparing for this innovative program, which is the first of its kind," said Shichtman, professor of English and director of the Jewish Studies program at Eastern. "Each class will be open to 10 students from Temple Israel and the surrounding area."

One of the nation's largest Jewish congregations, Temple Israel has an active after-school program for students. The temple wanted to expand its programs and initially invited Eastern Michigan to offer a small dual-enrollment class to its members.  That class was successful and now the program is using the grant to expand its offerings.

EMU currently offers an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies minor. The program has hosted such speakers as Aaron Lansky from the Yiddish Book Center in Mass.; pollster Jim Gerstein, and Mich. Sen. Carl Levin. Public events featured such issues as Jewish humor and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York. During the Fall 2013 semester, EMU Jewish Studies will offer, "The Jews of Tin Pan Alley," an evening of music and conversation, as well as a lecture on "The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls."

"The program's success will set the stage for an ongoing collaboration between Eastern Michigan and Temple Israel," Shichtman said. "This allows the temple to draw from the more than 20 interdisciplinary Jewish Studies classes currently available at EMU."

It will also reach well beyond that, Shichtman added. "It will provide a model for other universities and synagogues to create dual-enrollment curricula serving the needs of both."

The Michigan State Board of Education has promoted the expansion of multicultural learning in Michigan's public schools since 1978. Although many programs have been created, there are few programs offered in Jewish Studies, despite a large and dynamic Jewish population in southeastern Michigan. Eastern Michigan's Jewish Studies program addresses this problem on the collegiate level.

The Covenant Foundation has awarded more than $23 million since 1991 to develop and support Jewish education and community-building projects and programs in North America.


Pamela Young

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