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Welcome from Director

Welcome to the Jean & Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan! Since our establishment as a center in 1988, we have become one of the world’s leading programs of teaching and research in Jewish Studies in an incredibly broad array of fields and disciplines. Our interdisciplinary center brings together faculty with expertise ranging from antiquity to the present, from Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean basin, and from the Americas to the Middle East and North Africa. We are also one of the few Jewish studies centers to offer both Yiddish and Ladino language and literature instruction. Research at the Frankel Center encompasses innovative approaches to scriptural and biblical studies, to religious law and interpretation, to ethnic and social relations, to Jewish history and culture, to genders and sexualities in Jewish life and ritual. With its expansive curriculum, students can approach Jewish Studies from the perspectives of law and religion, literature and culture, or history and the social sciences.

Over the past decade, our Center has grown to encompass not only an undergraduate major and minor, but also a graduate certificate program that draws students from a range of departments including History, English, Comparative Literature, Middle East Studies, Germanic Languages and Literatures, and Anthropology. Every year we invite to the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies a group of research fellows from across the globe to explore together a theme at the cutting edge of Jewish studies. These fellows, joined by visiting speakers and our own faculty, offer an exciting array of public events aimed at encouraging discussion and exchange within the UM community and beyond. Our courses and public programing encompass issues that matter to twenty-first century Americans—the Holocaust and genocide, Israel and the Middle East, religious practices and doctrines, ethnic, gendered, and racial identities, global migrations and displacements, to name but a few examples.

The spirit of learning and debate have been central to Jewish communities from ancient to modern times and the field of modern Jewish studies reflects this openness to turn our sources over and over. The Frankel Center welcomes a diverse range of intellectual expression that can serve a broad public, both inside and outside of our College and University. We encourage students to wrestle with complex challenges, contend with ambiguous questions, and offer responsible and informed opinions. Through exposure to diverse ideas and comparative approaches, our students develop their creativity, civic-mindedness, and innovative thinking. We help our students attain the skills they need to think clearly and act wisely, and to recognize that there is a time for reflection and a time for action. The Frankel Center embraces this model of engaged learning.

With outstanding students, inspiring faculty, skillful staff, and dedicated alumni, the Frankel Center is an essential part of what makes the University of Michigan great. I invite you all to come in person or virtually and explore everything that the Frankel Center has to offer!

Maya Barzilai
Associate Professor of Hebrew Literature and Jewish Culture                                                                  Director, Frankel Center for Judaic Studies