This fall, students can again take a range of classes toward earning a minor in Judaic Studies at the University of Manitoba, something that hasn’t been possible for decades.
In the 1950s the University of Manitoba was the first Canadian university to have a department of Judaic studies, but in 1989, just as the idea was spreading across North America, the University reduced its program’s scope.
Then, about five years ago, professor Benjamin Baader joined U of M’s history department and asked about the program, spawning new interest in it. Consequently the university administration supported a new appointment in Judaism in the department of religion, which was filled by professor Justin Jaron Lewis last year. In April 2009, Baader and Lewis were appointed coordinators of the Judaic Studies program in the Faculty of Arts, and the program resumes this upcoming academic year.
“I am delighted that the Faculty of Arts has been able to revive this important academic program, which will enhance the quality and breadth of education we can offer to our students,” Richard Sigurdson, Dean of the Faculty of Arts said.
“Winnipeg and Manitoba have long been central to the Jewish experience in Canada, and the University of Manitoba is determined to be at the forefront in scholarship, teaching and service in the field of Judaic studies. We have a number of talented and committed faculty members engaged in this area, and we look forward to working closely with members of the local community to preserve and create knowledge about the language, literature, history and culture of the Jewish world.”
While celebrating this new beginning, those involved in the program’s rejuvenation are seeking community support to expand and support teaching and research resources. The first goal is to increase the number of courses available to students, allowing them to again major in this multi-disciplinary field.