The Norman Transcript

Local news

July 11, 2008

OU's Judaic studies program expands

Regents approve major

The University of Oklahoma's Judaic studies program recently expanded to encompass a major of its own.

The OU Board of Regents approved the new Judaic studies major at its June 25 meeting.

The major will accompany several other expansions in the program. An $800,000 grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation was accepted by the regents at their January meeting.

The gift endowed a Schusterman Professorship of Jewish Religious and Intellectual History. Dr. Alan Levenson was chosen to fill that position and will begin teaching at OU in the fall.

"I would just like to say I'm very grateful to the university for creating this position," Levenson said over the phone as he was packing up his office at Siegal College in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Schusterman gift also will endow a Schusterman Chair in Modern Israel Studies a few years in the future. The grant also includes a matching gift program that would provide $50,000 over five years in support of general activities relating to Judaic studies at OU.

The program was established with a gift from the Schusterman foundation in 1993. Since then, it has grown to include six core faculty members in addition to other related faculty members, said Norman Stillman, director of the Judaic studies program and Schusterman/Josey Chair of Judaic History.

Every year at least 700 students take classes within the program, most for general education requirements. About four or five students at any time are getting the minor.

In five years, Stillman estimates about five to 10 people per year will get a Judaic studies major.

The program is interdisciplinary, and uses resources in several departments, including history, religious studies, anthropology and modern languages.

"It's in the same vein as, say, classical studies, Western civilization," Stillman said.

The program is attractive to Jewish students who want to learn about their heritage, but Stillman said most of the students who take Judaic studies classes are not Jewish.

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