Duquesne University to offer Jewish studies

Duquesne University to offer Jewish studies

Beginning this fall, Duquesne University will offer a minor in Jewish studies. The announcement was made by Marie Baird and Mark Frisch, faculty members at the private Catholic university.

The 15-credit Jewish Studies minor “is trying to offer perspectives on Jewish studies from a historical, cultural and religious perspective,” said Baird, an associate professor in Duquesne’s theology department.

“It’s a minor that emphasizes Judaism in its many aspects: the history, the literature, the art, the religion,” added Frisch, an associate professor in the department of modern languages.

For students interested in the minor — and it is open to all Duquesne undergraduates — three of the courses will be required, and two will be electives, said Baird.

Included among the requisites are courses that have been taught at Duquesne for roughly the past eight years.

“Anti-Semitism,” an interdisciplinary course co-taught by Baird and Daniel Burston of the psychology department, will serve as one three-credit requirement. “Perspectives on the Holocaust,” which is led by both Frisch and Matthew Schneirov of the sociology department, is the other.

Rounding out the required classes will be “Introduction to Sacred Texts,” with Bogdan Bucur, also of the theology department, said Baird.

“This is an interdisciplinary program that currently involves four departments in the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts — modern languages, psychology, sociology and theology,” she added. “We may add possible departments as this thing is up and running and as it hopefully expands.”

“We’re still sort of evolving with it and trying to come up with some new and interesting classes, [but] I think it’s something that is going to be exciting on a lot of different levels,” said Frisch. “It will be exciting to teach, and I think students will find it enlightening because in the non-Jewish community there are probably a lot of misconceptions of who the Jews are and what they believe in.”

While one objective is that “more students can learn about Jewish studies,” the minor has another intended goal, said Baird. There has been a “troubling rise in this country as well as elsewhere” in anti-Semitism, she noted. “Part of what we want to do is offer another voice to fight against that, and Duquesne has been very supportive of our efforts.”

Whether or not the Jewish Studies minor quashes prejudice, however, Frisch is optimistic as to its effect.

“It very well could encourage students to come to Duquesne,” he said. “I think this might be an attraction to Jewish students who are looking for a good liberal arts education.”

Dan Marcus agreed.

“Offering a Jewish studies minor is a great value to current and future students,” noted the executive director of Pittsburgh’s Hillel Jewish University Center.

The minor will hopefully contribute to “a heightened Jewish presence on campus,” said Baird.

Hillel International estimates that roughly 1 percent of Duquesne’s 5,800 undergrads are Jewish.

“We want to become more visible. Although the Jewish presence on campus is small, we are trying to make it more visible,” said Baird.

Noted Frisch, “We exist, and we’re looking forward to creating the program.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at adamr@thejewishchronicle.net.

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