New minor adds substance to history studies
After 20 years of negotiation and questions, MTSU’s history department now offers an undergraduate Jewish and Holocaust Studies minor.
The program highlights the culture and history of the Jewish people, and focuses on the tragedy of the Holocaust.
“Developing this exciting new two-track interdisciplinary minor has been a cooperative labor of love across disciplines and fields of study,” said Elyce Rae Helford, director of the Jewish and Holocaust Studies minor. “There has been an interest in creating a Jewish Studies minor pre-dating my arrival.”
The first committee came together to discuss a Jewish minor in 1988.
“There were questions of what courses to offer in the minor. Should there be Judaic culture, philosophic classes, should we include the Holocaust? And there were also budget concerns,” Helford said. “We never really pushed to officially request the minor. Then Mark Byrnes, dean of Liberal Arts, encouraged us to submit the minor.”
In 2011-12, 300 surveys were sent out to non-graduating students in various majors to see if they would be interested in a Jewish and Holocaust Studies minor.
“We were pleased to get the positive response that we got,” Helford said.
With the support of the dean, Helford took all the materials from 1988 to the present, and created a committee of 10 faculty members from several divisions to decide how it should be structured and to determine the requirements.
Some of the courses included in the program are: “Geography of the Middle East,” “Israeli Film,” “The Bible as Literature,” and “Nazis and Victims.”
“This new minor, in my view, complements our Middle East program,” said Allen Hibbard, director of the Middle Eastern Center. “When we established our minor over six years ago, we proudly introduced Arabic and Hebrew language courses as key components of the program. Since then, thanks to Dr. Sonja Hedgepeth, department of foreign languages and literatures, we have added a course in Israeli Cinema. I certainly hope this new minor will help sustain and re-ignite interest in our offerings.”
As an additional bonus, Jewish-American Literature and Culture, JHS 2020, will also fulfill the general education literature requirement.
MTSU also has been playing host to the Holocaust Studies conference, a biennial event with speakers, survivors and academic panels since 1992.
The next conference will be November 2013.
~ Photo of Elyce Rae Helford, director of the Jewish and Holocaust Studies minor, courtesy of MTSU.