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Meet The Director
Mark W. Rosenblum
Director of the Jewish Studies Program and
Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College
Mark W. Rosenblum is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Michael Harrington Center, Queens College.
The author of numerous scholarly and popular articles on his field of expertise, the Middle East, Professor Rosenblum has appeared as a Middle East analyst on CNN, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and National Public Radio. He has met with virtually all the major players in the region, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, King Abdullah II, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His project, “The Middle East and America: Clash of Civilizations or Meeting of Minds,” seeks modes of reconciliation for all interested in the Middle East, and recently won a major Ford Foundation grant. He was also one of two winners of an award in the field of Religion, Conflict, and Reconciliation by the Clinton Global Initiative. In 1999 the Forward newspaper named Professor Rosenblum as one of the 50 most influential American Jews, and in 2003 he received the Queens College President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The Year in Review
The Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College has just completed an extraordinarily challenging year—a year marked by both tragedy and triumph. The fall semester began with the sudden tragic death of our beloved former Director Benny Kraut. This was followed by the global economic crisis that has strained educational resources and the financial capacities of friends like you. The loss of Benny and the continuing economic downturn have spurred our staff, students, faculty, and supporters to deepen their commitment to sustaining the excellence of both the Center’s Culture & Arts offerings and the Jewish Studies Academic Program. And sustain and even grow them, we have. The Center’s Expanding Culture & Arts Program: This past year we offered seventeen programs. These included: world class scholars and educators, renowned diplomats and political analysts, virtuoso musicians and singers, compelling cinema, uplifting Jewish-Muslim interfaith dialogue, and a fascinating and very adult evening with producers of “Sesame Street” on the promise and perils of bringing their educational programming to Israel and the Arab/Islamic world. Many of these superb and creative programs were free to the public, and several of them included a sumptuous complimentary banquet. (Please see the detailed review of this past year’s Culture & Arts guide that follows this report.) Our Distinguished and Growing Faculty: Our worldclass Jewish Studies faculty, drawn from fifteen different departments within the college, includes some of America’s most eminent scholars. More than half a dozen of our professors have won the coveted Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching. Strong as our faculty is, we are still growing.
This fall we will be adding four new, young, gifted scholar/teachers to our program: Dr. Francesca Bregoli (The Joseph and Oro Halegua Professor in Greek and Sephardic Jewish Studies), Dr. Sari Kisilevsky (The Pearl and Nathan Halegua Family Professor in Ethics and Tolerance), Dr. Elissa Bemporad (History of the Jews in Eastern Europe and the Holocaust), and Dr. Arnold Franklin (Medieval Jewish History in the Arabic-speaking world). Our Diverse and alented Students: At our commencement, an overflow crowd of parents, relatives, friends, and faculty filled the Q Side Lounge, kvelling as our graduates and awardees demonstrated anew their staggering academic achievements. Every one of our minors and majors was graduating with honors or high honors and they had a cumulative GPA that exceeded 3.7 out of 4.0! These graduates and awardees are among the more than 2,000 students who annually enroll in over 80 of our Jewish Studies courses. Their academic acumen is complemented by their ethical commitment and community service. They represent a core of the campus leadership, from the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Knight News, and the founder and president of the QC chapter of Stand, an antigenocide coalition, to the president and co-founder of the Israel Student Alliance and the president of the Chabad Jewish Student Club.
IN MEMORY OF BENNY KRAUT
While this has been a memorable year of stellar academic performances and cultural programs, it has also been a year of tragedy and loss. professor Benny Kraut, our distinguished former Director, died suddenly this past fall. For eight years Benny was a miracle worker, building our center into a showcase that others have emulated. Our inheritance from Benny is invaluable, our loss a constant reminder of his high standards and great expectations. We will be honoring Benny in our first annual program on november 15 that commemorates the Holocaust and considers ways to combat anti-Semitism and hatred. Join us as we light candles commemorating Kristallnacht with survivors and discuss creative ways of countering anti-Semitism and hatred with our distinguished keynote speaker and alumnus Dr. Michael Berenbaum.
The dedication and excellence of our students manifested itself in another arena: the eleventh edition of the Queens College Journal of Jewish Studies: A Student Production. This completely student-run initiative will delight and stimulate readers, making them swell with pride to be associated with the Queens College Jewish
Studies Program and the Center for Jewish Studies. A labor of love, this issue of the Journal once again has
been produced by a distinguished group of students who have mastered all aspects of the publication process: soliciting contributions, selecting those to be included, editing all materials, preparing camera-ready copy, and scouring the marketplace for the best printer at the most competitive price. No matter what hour of the day or night, the editors were busy evaluating submissions and pondering themes in our charming Simon and Roslyn Gold Jewish Studies Library.
The co-editors-in-chief, Faigy Abdelhak and Laura Sonneborn-Turetsky, and their equally talented and exuberant
editorial board—Rachel Lifshitz, Daniella Adler, Alexandra Elbaum, Andrew Goldstein, Lori Holzman, Beth Ann Prupis Kern, Chana Rosenthal, and Stephen Surrett—produced a memorable work. This beautiful and inspiring publication is worth having in your collection. It is available for $12.00 from the Office of Jewish Studies, Jefferson Hall, room 307; 718-997-4530. Against the odds, economic downturn and all, we have pulled off a triple play at Queens College. While many fret over the fate of our Jewish youth and the perceived foreboding atmosphere on some college campuses, at Queens College—in our nation’s most diverse county—
our Center for Jewish Studies is thriving. First, our academic presence is robust and growing. Two thousand
students, including many non-Jews, are immersed in studying Jewish history, culture, civilization, and religion.
Second, we are successfully recruiting a new generation of talented, charismatic professors devoted to both teaching and scholarship. Third, during a period of severe economic contraction, we have sustained the high quality and broad range of programming in our cultural and arts performances.
Our exemplary educational work has been recognized. The Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College has been awarded a grant of $285,000 from the United States Department of Education. We have been singled out as the worthy host of a “Center on Ethnic and Racial Understanding.” We will bring together students, family members, and relevant community members from various racial, religious, and ethnic groups to increase their appreciation,
tolerance, and understanding of others who do not belong to their own group. This latest grant from the epartment of Education, along with the continuing generosity of Elsi Levy and her beloved late husband Leon’s largesse in his will, is helping us through these difficult economic times. However, you have no doubt been reading in the Jewish press and elsewhere that like all institutions—for profit and not-forprofit— CUNY and Queens College have been impacted by the economic downturn. We are carefully addressing these challenges to ensure our long-term health, but we rely on your support to enable us to continue to offer so many free programs and to play such a pivotal role in the world of Jewish Studies. We thank you for your past support and hope you will take a few moments to fill out the enclosed envelope. Please join us as a new member or renew as a Friend of the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College.
There are several others whom I would like to thank. President James Muyskens and Vice President for Institutional Advancement Sue Henderson have been steady and generous supporters of our work. The president
has found time in his frenetic schedule to introduce and attend many of our programs. “Time is money,” and
he and the vice president have invested both in the center. They have provided us with a new staff position that
will help coordinate our various activities, and they have facilitated the hiring of new professors that will join our
faculty in the fall. I would also like to thank my esteemed colleagues Professor William Helmreich, former director, and Arthur Anderman, chairman of the center, who so wisely took the initiative in pursuing our new Center on Ethnic and Racial Understanding that has now been funded.
Thanks and deep appreciation are also in order for the two pillars of our program, Pat Tortorici and Rita Shliselberg. Their service to the center and the academic program is distinguished by a devotion to our students and community that goes beyond their job description and their paycheck at the center office. Thanks also to Elsi Levy, one of the stalwarts on the center’s board of directors. Her presence is felt in every dimension of our program. From stuffing envelopes in our office and planning our enthralling music programs to her generous philanthropy, Elsi is there with a helping hand and a reassuring nod of support. And what we support is a center that is committed to continuing to ask the hard questions that require responses from a diverse range of erspectives: Is it 1938, again? What is the future of Jerusalem? Are the U.S. and Israel under Obama and Netanyahu heading towards a strategic collision or a Solomonic compromise? In the past three years we have brought together some of the greatest minds and notable leaders in Jewish life to address these provocative questions. Instead of one-sided answers, we have participated in dialogues that include strikingly divergent ideas.
In my preface to The Jewish Condition: Challenges and Responses—1938–2008, I attempted to make a case for
the broad band of opinion approach:“Multiple sides were represented, not because we are devotees of some kind of insipid relativism that insists every point has an equally valid counterpoint, but because there are fundamental issues about which we as a community are resolutely unresolved. Too often, these issues are explored in forums for the like-minded who gather to cheerlead, recite their best arguments, and send their embedded ideologues out to engage in political battle. Our hope was that we might clarify our differences and perhaps discover some unexpected agreement.” The students who edited the eleventh edition of the Queens College Journal of Jewish Studies clarify our mission. Co-Editor Faigy Abdelhak’s engaging artistry on the Journal’s cover incorporates a rabbinic saying that captures the spirit of our endeavor: “Who Is Wise? One Who Learns From Everyone” (Pirkei Avot 4:1). Drawn from the collection of rabbinic axioms that over the centuries have become a principal ethical scripture for Jews, this inscription honors the mission of the Jewish Studies Program and Center at Queens College, which explores— through competing perspectives—some of the most searing questions that confront Jewry.
Professor Mark W. Rosenblum Director, Jewish Studies Program