Students may now declare a minor in Jewish Studies as of the Fall Semester 2015.
Senior finance major Trish Weisberg came into SMU as a religious minor and declared a Jewish Studies minor after she decided to learn more about her own faith.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s enhanced all parts of who I am,” she said.
She said the program is a way for her to get away from all the numbers she deals with in her finance major, and get a more faith- based perspective on life. It has helped her understand the Jewish religion in a more historical and theological sense.
“Understanding yourself and other people’s faith is so essential in today’s world,” she said.
This new minor requires 15 hours of courses and provides students with structure and guidelines on how to make them educated in their field.
SMU now offers a total of 24 classes in Jewish studies, including five courses new to the curriculum this semester or beginning in spring ’16.
The classes offer an interesting way to study the various Judaic cultures by spanning more than 3,000 years of history.
The courses are not just for the Jewish students. In fact, most of the students who take these classes are not Jewish. So far, there are about 500 students enrolled in the courses.
“It provides a way to study side-by-side the different Jewish cultures,” said Shira Lander, director of Jewish Studies.
Senior Robyn Langley is studying fashion media and minors in art and Jewish Studies. She decided to pursue Jewish Studies because she had grown up in Hebrew school, and when she went through college, she always kept religion in her mind. However, it was important to her to make it her own decision to learn more about her faith instead of being “coerced” into taking Hebrew school.
“It gives a broader perspective, if you’re Jewish or not, you can really [gear] towards what your interested in and learn about something you don’t know,” she said.
SMU estimates that it has a 2 percent Jewish population and Hillel, the Jewish organization on campus, estimates closer to 5 percent. Landry says this is likely because not all students chose to disclose their religious preference to the admissions office.
This program is unique because it offers classes in Dedman and Meadows. Students now have the opportunity to learn about culture, politics, art, music, poetry, English, and history in a versatile way.
According to Professor of Religious Studies Serge Frolov, offering major and minors in ethnic studies is a growing trend for at some the country’s largest universities. The Jewish Studies program was started to prevent SMU from falling behind its fellow peers.
“I can only speak for my own classes. The study of religion is interdisciplinary; they get a good idea of the different cultures and the role of religion,” he said.
More information on the Jewish Studies minor can be found at:
For interested students, the new classes offered under the major are:
Introduction to Jewish Studies (JWST 1300)
Introduction to Jewish Music (MUHI 1322)
Literature of the Holocaust (ENGL 3370)
Reel Judaism: Cinematic Representations of Jewish Life (RELI 3383)
A Persistent Prejudice: Anti-Semitism in Western Civilizations (RELI 3390)