Jews have fit in with cultures ranging from English to Asian, sustaining their identity while adapting to the cultures around them.
Whether that adaptability has been beneficial or not will be debated in a series of lectures at the YM-YWHA of Union County in early 2013.
Four professors from Kean University will be joined by Rozi Ben Ami, the community youth shliha, or Israel emissary, in the 2013 Jewish Studies Series, the third in a collaboration between the Y and Kean, both in Union. It will run from January through April.
“We organized this series in light of growing globalization and the role of the West in our present multi-polar world,” said Dennis Klein, who chairs Kean’s Jewish Studies Department and has headed up the Y-Kean program each year. “In my talk, I’ll distill the history of the Jews in the modern West and will argue that this paradigm has become a template for interpreting Jewish culture generally.”
The lectures that follow will explore the idea that Jewish dispersal has actually resulted in many and varied versions of Jewish culture. The presenters will be Ruth P. Griffith, Sue Gronewold, and Melodie Toby, all affiliated with Kean’s Jewish Studies Program and/or with the university’s Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies program. Each will take on a different geographic aspect of Jewish adaptation.
“They will explain why Jews have always incorporated aspects of their surrounding cultures into their own,” said Klein.
Ben Ami, who is spending the year in the Greater MetroWest community as part of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s cadre of shlihim, will open each session with a half-hour discussion exploring what is happening in Israel.
The program is funded in part by the JOY Grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and by a HEART Grant from the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.