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UAlbany Center for Jewish Studies Receives Grant Renewal for New Courses on Secular Judaism

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 13, 2005) -- The University at Albany has received a $50,000 renewal of a Posen Foundation Grant to support the development of new courses related to the study of secular Jewish life, culture and history. Administered by the Center for Cultural Judaism, the grant is renewable for up to thee years. UAlbany was one of only six U.S. schools to receive a grant last year.

The new courses will count toward the minor and/or major in Judaic Studies, part of the College of Arts and Sciences. Among the proposed courses are "Humanism and Modern Hebrew Literature," "Imagining the Jewish Nation: Varieties of Jewish Nationalism," "The Emergence of Secular Jewish Identity and Culture," "The Making of Modern Jewish Consciousness," and "Devils, Saints & Fiddlers: The Shtetl in Modern Jewish Literature." The courses will begin in the fall 2005 semester. While Jewish studies departments and programs have grown over the last two decades, few include bachelors and master's level courses in the study of the secularization of Judaism. The Posen Foundation and the Center for Cultural Judaism believe that the secularization of Judaism is a vital and irrefutable part of modern Jewish life, and requires study and understanding with respect to its history, texts and philosophers.

Mark A. Raider, chair of the Department of Judaic Studies and director of the Center for Jewish Studies, said "This is a spectacular opportunity to expand the breadth and reach of Jewish studies at UAlbany. We are grateful to Mr. Felix Posen for his visionary leadership in this critical area of scholarship and teaching."

Posen has declared it his mission "to be a service-provider for cultural and secular Jews, who represent the largest portion of the Jewish population and are by far the most underserved." In offering these grants, the aim of The Center for Cultural Judaism and the Posen Foundation is to support the teaching of new courses designed specifically to examine the phenomenon of Secular Judaism in its own right, as its own topic. The Posen Foundation established two colleges in Israel and initiated the launch of programs to teach secular Judaism at several Israeli institutions of higher learning. Negotiations are underway with top American universities to duplicate such efforts in the United States.

Secular Judaism is the study of Judaism as culture, stressing the concept of the Jewish people (independently of religion and of political citizenship), as the basic existential and collective dimension of Jewish identity. The Posen Foundation grant will significantly advance the department's efforts to promote the academic unbiased study of Judaism and the Jewish experience in the diaspora and Israel from antiquity to the present.


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