Jews Are Not a Race. But They Have Their Own Race Problems.

by Ingrid Anderson, PhD,
Associate Director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies

Ingrid Anderson earned Masters and Doctoral Degrees in Religion, with a specialization in Jewish Studies, at Boston University, where she has been teaching in the Kilachand Honors College, the CAS Writing Program, and the Jewish Studies program of the College of Arts and Sciences. This year, she has spearheaded teaching a new course, titled World Cultures of the Jews, which is a required course for the Minor in Jewish Studies. Her first book Ethics and Suffering since the Holocaust (2016) is a study of ethics as “first philosophy” in the works of Elie Wiesel, Emmanuel Levinas, and Richard Rubenstein.

 The topic of Jews and race is complicated. But exploring race is more important now than ever. The Black Lives Matter movement has prompted many white Americans to become more aware of “white fragility” and white privilege. Meanwhile, anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S., as tracked by the Anti-Defamation League since 1979, reached an all-time high in 2019

Officially, Jews have long been considered “free white persons” in the U.S. They were permitted to become naturalized citizens under a 1790-law passed by the first Congress. Yet in 1911, Jews were re-classified as “not quite white” by the Dillingham Commission Report, which identified 36 different European “races,” and some Jews were classified as “Hebrew.” The report was largely a reaction to the millions of Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe who flocked to America since the early 1880s. The first wave of refugees fled a Czarist Russia that fomented anti-Jewish violence. Other violent incidents followed in 1903 and 1905 (Kishinev pogroms). Ashkenazi Jews brought with them dreams of equality, and many were instrumental in creating the labor movement. America was, in Yiddish, di goldene medine.

The influx of Ashkenazi Jews, who today make up about 80% of American Jewry, profoundly changed the demography of the American Jewish population. The first Jews to settle in the Americas had been Sephardi Jews from Southern Europe and North Africa. The two oldest synagogues in the U.S., Touro Synagogue, Newport, RI and Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, Charleston, SC are Sephardi, and they are still in use today.

In 1924, the passage of the Johnson-Reed Act (also known as the 1924 Immigration Act) established a quota system that limited primarily Jewish and Slavic immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe and barred Asian populations completely. This racialization of Jewishness set the tone for the interwar period as the most anti-Semitic period in American history. In the decades following the end of World War II, life began to improve for many American Jews, especially for those who had served in the war and were eligible to receive GI Bill benefits that emphasized education. The GI Bill helped foster a long term expansion in white wealth, including white Jewish wealth. Black Americans benefited far less from it than whites, especially in the South. The GI Bill did not, in fact, lead to a significant growth in Black wealth. The law benefited many American Jews, especially those who “presented” as white, even though religious stereotypes and prejudice against the Jews prevailed, leaving them with a sense of distrust toward non-Jewish America’s “embrace” of Jews.

However, not all Jews are white people, even if most Americans say they are. 12-15% of American Jews are people of color, and many young Jews who grew up in multiracial households identify as non-white.  This means that 1 million of America’s 7.2 million Jews are non-white, and Jews of Color account for approximately the same percentage of the American Jewish population as Black Americans represent in the general population.  Counting Inconsistencies, a new study by the Stanford Graduate School of Education, found considerable inconsistencies in how Jews of Color were counted in recent population studies of American Jews, because many studies didn’t even ask about race or ethnicity. This is likely because they assume that Jewishness is a race or ethnicity that any Jew would name as their primary identification. That many researchers who focus on Jews and Jewishness think of Jews as white and of Eastern European extraction—with a few “statistically insignificant” exceptions that “prove the rule”—means that American Jewry is largely ignorant of its own diverse nature and subsequently denies the powerful presence of racism in their own institutions.

Founder and Executive Director of Jews in All Hues, Jared Jackson, reports that on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish liturgical year, he gets calls from Jews of Color who are refused entrance to their synagogues. Their Jewishness is denied because of the color of their skin. Many Jews report that their experiences of micro-aggression and racism (subtle as well as overt) keep them from participating in Jewish communal life as much as they would like. Jews are not, in fact, “a race.” The Jewish community is much more diverse than many may suspect: Jewish communal life is a global affair; hence our required course on “World Cultures of the Jews” (JS100).

Jews of Color experience racism from their fellow Jews and anti-Semitism from non-Jews on a regular basis.  Jews of Color are often demeaned in conversations with their fellow Jews in ways that white Jews are likely not even aware of. The most basic example of this are questions like “So, HOW are you Jewish?” or “When DID your family convert?” Jews of Color are even accused of lying when they tell fellow Jews that they are Jewish. Despite their physical presence in Jewish spaces, they are often made to feel invisible.

What can white American Jews do, who want to join the fight against racism and support anti-racist organizations and policies? Start in our own backyards! Many white people who want to support the Black Lives Matter movement turn to People of Color to tell them how. This is a mistake. If you want to join the fight against racism, teach yourself about the history of racism and white privilege. There are many resources available. Find out exactly how white privilege works, and if you are a white Jew, you need to understand that, in the U.S., white Jews have white privilege. Interrogate your understanding of Jewishness. Bravely consider how you, as a white Jew, despite the scourge of American anti-Semitism, may succeed more easily than Americans of Color because of your whiteness and in spite of your Jewishness.  Learn more about American Judaism by studying the work of Jews of Color and support their efforts. Learn from the work of Jews of Color. Here are some suggestions on where to start:

There are many books, websites, newsletters, and films to choose from. Consider Rabbi Sandra Lawson, the first openly gay, female Black rabbi in the world. Read the amazing words of Shais Rishon, known as MaNishtana. His books include Thoughts From a Unicorn: 100% Black, 100%. 0% Safe, and The Rishoni Illuminated Legacy Hagadah; if you prefer fiction, look at  Ariel Samson, Free Lance Rabbi, Rishon’s remarkable first novel. This is the story of a “black Jewish Orthodox rabbi looking for love, figuring out his life, and floating between at least two worlds.”

If you want to become involved in active Jewish anti-racism, consider Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish action organization that has joined the Black Lives Matter movement.  Or visit Jews in all Hues on Facebook to find out how this organization facilitates conversations about race. Subscribe to Alma and JTA, which regularly feature pieces written by Jews of Color.

How about Yitz “Y Love” Jordan? Yitz Jordan is a Black Jewish gay man who is a musician and JOC (Jews of color) activist.  Jordan founded The Tribe Herald, a JOC news outlet, and is currently raising money for a JCC for Jews of Color. Shais Rishon and Y Love are also featured in Punk Jews.

Explore the work of Yavillah McCoy, who founded Ayecha, a non-profit Jewish organization that provides Jewish diversity education and advocacy for Jews of Color in the U.S. She is currently CEO of Dimensions, an organization that provides training and consultancy in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Or check out the play she co-wrote, The Colors of WaterFollow Amadi Lovelace, whose Twitter feed is an excellent source for information during BLM protests. Go to Tema Smith’s website, a collection of valuable resources about community building, Jews, race, diversity, and interfaith families.

Want to learn about initiatives for “building and advancing the professional, organizational, and communal field for Jews of color”? Visit the Jews of Color Initiative website.  Attend a live online Be’chol Lashon event that celebrates Jewish diversity.

American Jewish communities are not alone in struggling with intra-Jewish racism. As painful as it is for some to acknowledge, Israeli society also suffers from long-standing prejudice against Jews of Color, let alone Jews of Arab origin. Israel is the home of  diverse communities of Jews. Nearly 15% of the Jewish population is of African descent, 11% are of Asian descent, 38% are of Arab and other Middle Eastern extractions, and only 36% are of European descent.  For many of my students, the diversity reflected in Israeli society offers a first glimpse of the surprising racial and ethnic heterogeneity of Jews and Jewishness. But this diversity is not always gladly embraced. Read the heartbroken words that model, singer, and radio host Tahuonia Rubel penned when Ethiopian Jews took to the streets during the summer of 2019 to protest the murders of Ethiopian Jews by Israeli police.  Here is an excerpt from a June Instagram post from Rubel’s feed responding to Israeli celebrity posts stating that Black Lives Matter:

So much grief is caused here [in Israel] to ‘Blacks’ as you say in your do-gooder posts that I don’t remember that one of you uploaded a black picture when we blocked the roads [in summer 2019]! When you called us hooligans! When we broke glass!  When we burned tires! When we cried tearfully the name of Yosef Salamsa! Solomon Tekah! Yehuda Biadga! And so many mothers who are crying every day for their children!! Get out of the horrifying bubble you live in! … You are far from empathizing with our pain!

Given that 40% of all Ethiopian Jewish men serving in the Israeli Defense Force have “seen the inside of a military prison,” Israel, too, must commit itself to identifying racist policies, abolishing them, and in turn adopt anti-racist policies.

Last but not least, white American Jews, when American Jews of Color like Shais Rishon say that “at least there is Israel” offers no comfort to them in times of American political turmoil, listen.  They are telling you that the idea that Israel is a shelter from the disease of bigotry for all Jews is still, for now, just a dream.

Guest blog: There are No Bystanders. Reflections of a Rabbi and BU Alum

by Rabbi Greg Weisman, (CAS ’05) who is a rabbi at Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, FL, where he is striving to make his city, county, state, and nation more just and fair for all.

I came to BU because of Prof. Wiesel. Like so many Jews I turned to his writings to help me understand the legacy of the Holocaust, and was inspired to find a man who turned his experience of horror into a life devoted to preventing others from suffering a similar fate. I came to BU hoping that just by being on campus with him I might catch a glimpse or a morsel of his moral wisdom. I was blessed to learn from him in class in the fall of 2004. The class met in STH, the School of Theology building, a building where another one of our University’s Nobel Laureates studied, Dr. Martin Luther King. When I reflect on that, the weight of it still hits me: I sat in a classroom with Elie Wiesel, in the same building where Martin Luther King studied.

The two men came from very different backgrounds, but the legacies they left behind have much in common. Both were gifted with extraordinary eloquence and they used their words, written and spoken, to inspire others to pursue causes of justice and peace. They reached generations of people across the globe and urged them to care for the vulnerable, the forgotten or ignored, and that each of us, regardless of our station in life, has a role to play in that work.

For the last seven years, I have served as a rabbi in Boca Raton, Florida. My journey into the rabbinate started at BU, through my work in the Jewish Studies program, which has since been renamed in Prof. Wiesel’s honor. In my work, I often reflect on my memories from that time, in particular on the lessons from Professor Wiesel’s class on “Literary Responses to Oppression.” With the rise of national awareness for the pervasive ill effects of systemic racism and race-based inequality, members of my community and I have been poring over modern-day responses to the oppression of People of Color in the US. We travelled together in the past year to Georgia and Alabama to visit the sites, memorials, and museums of the Civil Rights era. We have listened to podcasts, watched films, and read books and articles about white privilege, racist violence, and most recently, antiracism. While this learning was in light of the ongoing struggle for racial justice, it took an even more pressing turn after the murder of George Floyd.  When the leadership of our local Black community organized a Peace March through Boca Raton, my congregation turned out in great numbers in support. Our membership wanted to learn more and asked us to put together a panel on race in our community with a local pastor, a community leader, and a Black member of our congregation sharing their stories.

I also heard from members of my congregation that they wanted to read together and discuss How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, that we might learn from him how we can combat the ills of racism in our day through our own lives and behavior. Right after I announced this book discussion group to the entire community, the news broke that Dr. Kendi would be relocating to BU. Like many alumni I felt a sense of pride, and was curious about what prompted his decision. When I heard that he chose to come to BU because of its history of the acceptance of students of Color and because it was where Dr. King pursued his doctorate, I thought back to the STH building and my time in those classrooms.

As a Jew and a rabbi, what compels me about Dr. Kendi’s thinking is that it leaves no room for standing by. The core message in his book, and of antiracism in general, is that everything we do either reinforces a system of racism that has been erected and reinforced over centuries or strives to tear that edifice down. In each action we take, we are either being racist or being antiracist. There is no neutrality when it comes to racism. As I processed his argument and began to think about it in Jewish terms, I couldn’t help but think about the acceptance speech Professor Wiesel gave in Oslo when he received the Nobel Prize for Peace, where he cautioned against neutrality: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

The burden Dr. King, Prof. Wiesel, and Dr. Kendi lay upon us is great. “The day is short, the work is much” (Avot 2:16), Jewish tradition says. But along with that burden, these great minds of BU inspire me each and every day.


For George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery

I am a BU professor of religion and director of an academic center named for Elie Wiesel. For those who don’t know, Elie Wiesel (1928–2016) was a Jew from Sighet, a town on the border between Hungary and Romania, who, along with a million other Hungarian Jews, was handed over by their own government to the SS to be gassed and cremated or enslaved in the thousands of labor camps across German-occupied Eastern Europe and the homeland that supported the German war industry. Wiesel wrote about his experience at Auschwitz in the memoire Night, a short book that is still widely read today. The reason it is still widely read is because Wiesel found words to evoke what is ultimately indescribable: the psychological horror of abject dehumanization. The Elie Wiesel Center carries on Elie Wiesel’s mission by teaching about Jews and Judaism, the Holocaust and other genocides, and the importance of universal human rights.

Today, Americans are called upon to confront the long shadow of slavery in multiple recent acts of white-on-black police brutality. We are horrified by the murder of George Floyd. We are horrified by the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. And we are horrified by the murder of Breonna Taylor. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.

I want to say to our students: If I am hopeful for the future, it is because of you. Over the past few days, I have listened to many of our students who made one thing very clear: expressions of empathy and solidarity are good and necessary, but students expect more from us than words.

Our students are deeply conscious of the complexities of race, economic inequality, and the many ways in which systemic injustice manifests on our own campus and elsewhere.  They are also tired of having to explain themselves to others over and over again, including to faculty, advisors, and counselors charged with their well-being. Meanwhile, they have acted. The BU student government and black student association, Umoja, just raised nearly 100k in support of social justice organizations. Their initial goal was a modest 10k. It was a BU student who organized last Sunday’s momentous rally in Boston.

Many of us have joined vigils and marched in protest, despite the raging pandemic. But expressions of solidarity go only so far. Our students expect more of us. Social justice, equity, and inclusion must be more than slogans disseminated in official communiqués. Justice, equity, and inclusion manifest in who occupies positions of power, influence, and trust. It manifests in making sure students see their own skin color reflected in the faces of their faculty, advisors, counselors, and university leadership. Systemic change is painful, as it means relinquishing customary privilege and truly opening oneself to difference. This requires that those of us who take their white privilege for granted pause and listen to the anguished cries of protest and the calm voices of student leaders who are willing and eager to engage. We need these voices, and we need to listen.

Last year, which was a particularly bad year for race relations on the BU campus, we listened to the students and took action when we offered a response to a speech by conservative activist Ben Shapiro that was provocatively titled “America was not built on slavery but on freedom.” (See Shapiro’s much-hyped speech, which was accompanied by exaggerated and expensive security measures, was a blatant example of how white power can manifest on a campus that likes to claim the legacies of Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King Jr. We need to understand that the first step toward inclusion is to refrain from actions that suffocate the concerns of Black and Brown students. At the time, the University did not even rise to that minimal level of consideration. Though the Elie Wiesel Center decided to do something in response, it was too little and too late. (See

A BU graduate student told me, that “sustained thriving of students of color will require an examination of and reckoning with systems of power in the university with the lens of anti-oppression and bias-prevention. Those with the most power must make that commitment in order for any kind of truly welcoming environment to be created.” The Elie Wiesel Center is ready to partner with faculty, students, staff, the Dean of Students and the upper University Administration to do the work necessary to bring about lasting systemic change on campus.

Change requires self-examination. We want to know, and we want to be told what prevents students from feeling included and respected. Starting in the fall, we will offer listening sessions to students, where we listen as students speak. We want our students to be our teachers so we can learn how to be better teachers and mentors to them.

We would love for you to reach out to us with suggestions and ideas.

Michael Zank, PhD
Professor of Religion and Director, EWCJS

Why Pray? from Three Encounters with Elie Wiesel Lecture Series 2005

Eli Wiesel Lecture - Why Pray

Why Pray? from 9/19/2005
Recorded on September 19, 2005, as part of the “Three Encounters with Elie Wiesel: The Fascination with Jewish Tales.”, Elie Wiesel speaks about how “people must bring to prayer the fullness of their experience — including doubt, disappointment, or even anger — in order for their prayers to be meaningful.” He also addresses the  most critical question: why pray?
In 2005, he told  David Levy in  the Jewish Advocate: “I love tales, I always have,”  crediting the centrality of storytelling in his life to his early upbringing in the Hasidic world of Eastern Europe. “Hasidism is not only tales, but it’s also tales. No other religious movement concentrates so much on storytelling and tales as the Hasidic movement,” he said.
Professor Wiesel is introduced by his long-time friend, former University President Dr. John Silber.
Running Time: 54:06.

Reflections from my bedroom (and also my classroom)

by Jacob Gurvis

Jacob Gurvis (2)If you had told me two months ago that I would be finishing college from my bedroom on Zoom, I would probably have laughed. A global pandemic? Postponing commencement? Nice try.

Well, here we are. We are now more than a month into our new virtual reality, and the word “unprecedented” feels like an understatement. Classes have moved online, events and gatherings cancelled, and the future has never been more uncertain.

In this time of social distancing, it’s easy to feel hopeless. Helpless. Lonely. Trust me, I’m no fan of this, either. This is a truly scary time, and it is absolutely natural and okay to be sad, angry, or any other emotion you are feeling. It’s important to allow yourself to feel.

But even through my boredom, anxiety, and fear, I try to find at least one reason every day to remain hopeful. We have already seen this crisis bring out the best in humanity. Companies, celebrities, and ordinary people are demonstrating selfless acts of generosity, supporting those most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and lifting up the heroism of our frontline workers. John Krasinski Some Good NewsLook no further than actor John Krasinski’s new YouTube show, Some Good News, for your weekly dose of inspiration. Seriously, it’s worth it.

Beyond looking for reasons to smile, this strange time has also caused me to take stock of the things and people in my life for which I am most grateful. As the cliché goes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Has this ever been truer? Would any of us turn down the chance to return to our normal, even mundane, lives? I never thought I’d miss my three-hour classes. Or waiting in line at Starbucks. Or rushing down a crowded Comm. Ave to try to catch the BU Shuttle. What I’d give for any of that right now.

Most of all, I miss the many communities I was lucky to be part of during the past four years. I miss my friends and professors in the journalism, political science, and Jewish studies programs. I miss my community at Hillel, which quickly became my home on campus freshman year. I miss my BUTV10 family, and picking up a fresh copy of the Daily Free Press every Thursday. I miss my fellow interns and staff at BU Today, where I have been fortunate enough to work for four semesters. More than anything, I hate that I am missing out on the opportunity to enjoy my final moments with each of these communities.

With just days left in my college career, I am doing my best to stay motivated and positive. We will get through this, and I have no doubt that our country and world will be stronger for it. The resilience and creativity of the human spirit are often at their best when things are at their worst. To quote a friend of mine, this isn’t the new normal. It’s just the new right now. This, too, shall pass. And when it does, I look forward to celebrating these amazing four years with friends and family, in person at last.

JS100 World Cultures of the Jews

by Deni Budman (COM ’20)

One of the newest Jewish Studies courses, which is being taught most semesters, is “World Cultures of the Jews” is in many ways unique. It is also highly engaging. The course introduces students to the study of Judaism in its many forms by exploring Jewish communities across the globe today, their different historical origins and cultural contexts, and their strategies of preserving cohesion and transnational solidarity.

Did you know there are vibrant Jewish communities in Ethiopia, China, and Morocco? Well, there are. And the global context of Jewish Studies opens up a new path to understanding religion, culture, and heritage. Have you wondered how race, religion, culture, law, and nationalism shape particular Jewish communities? By taking a look at Jewish histories in diverse environments, this course highlights the wide array of Jewish practices. It even challenges the definition of “Judaism” itself. Meta, right?

Professor Ingrid Anderson, who launched the course this semester, is well-loved by her students for her ability to break down difficult topics and stay clear of bias. She actively engages her students in class discussions, encouraging them to discuss complex ideas confidently, with insight and rigor. 

Evan Brown (COM ‘23), a freshman in the current spring 2020 course, says, “Professor Anderson has done an excellent job at creating a safe space that encourages everyone to participate in our conversations, regardless of their background or views. My peers have been a key part of my experience in class because they have allowed me to see beyond what I was taught in Jewish day school, so I can create my own unbiased opinions. Because everyone in JS100 comes from a completely different upbringing, we all learn and grow from each other.”

Every session in JS100 begins with a student-led conversation. At the beginning of the semester each student chooses a reading that stands out to them on the syllabus and they present it to their colleagues. 

The course also takes advantage of the community outside the classroom. As a part of the class, students form groups to complete community visits with different Jewish communities across the Boston area. This semester, some had planned to volunteer at the annual Cape Verdean Passover seder held at the Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. Students share their experiences with the rest of the class, so they can learn from each other. Other assignments include two brief writing exercises and a research paper.

JS100 is an incredibly popular course. It’s no surprise that it was one of our first classes to fill up this past semester. 

JS100 counts toward the minor in Jewish Studies. The course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: the Individual in Community, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Teamwork/Collaboration.

April 15: A second birthday. A note on the liberation of Bergen-Belsen

Today is April 15, the day, 75 years ago, when the 11th Armored Division entered the gates of hell that was Bergen-Belsen. If you want to know what it looked like, spend eleven long minutes to listen to BBC correspondent Richard Dimbleby’s description from April 19, 1945.

April 15 is what my father-in-law, York University professor emeritus of mathematics and statistics Abe Shenitzer used to call his second birthday. He was among of the 40,000 survivors who greeted the British liberators at the gate of the concentration camp. The attached document attests to his incredible resilience. By July 1945, the British officer, signing the document, attests to Abe’s services as an interpreter.

Aside from his love for learning, his wit and humanity, Abe brought with him a fierce devotion to linguistic precision. He went on to become a sought-after translator and editor of books on mathematics and other subjects. He was also a superb teacher.

Born in Warsaw, Abe had grown up and attended Heder, followed by a Hebrew Gymnasium, in Sosnoviec, Poland. In 1943 he was deported to Gross-Rosen (referred to by inmates as the yeshive) from whence prisoners capable of labor were farmed out to the hundreds of labor camps dotting the so-called General Gouvernement, a virtual SS state. He considered himself fortunate that he was placed in a wood-working factory (Hubert Land Werke, Bunzlau) where he worked sawing and planing machines alongside German and other workers, and could forget for hours at a time that he was no longer human. There was starvation, of course. But he rarely spoke of being brutalized, and attributed his survival to the kindness of a few strangers at key moments.

When the Germans began to evacuate the east, moving prisoners westward, Abe’s odyssee led him via Nordhausen, Risa, and Ellrich to Bergen-Belsen where he was liberated by the British. This month he turned 99. Twice.

For more on Bergen-Belsen, see the following links:

Further reading by Boston-area author Bernice Lerner:

Pnina Lahav: A laudatio  

In what is officially her last semester before retiring from BU School of Law, Professor Pnina Lahav teaches a comparative constitutional law course focused on the two states and societies she is most intimately familiar with: the United States and Israel. For the first time, the course enrolls not just LAW students but also advanced undergrads in Political Science and other CAS programs.

Over her distinguished career, Professor Lahav published scores of journal articles and three books, including the critically acclaimed Judgment in Jerusalem: Chief Justice Simon Agranat and the Zionist Century, Winner of Israel’s Seltner Award (1998) and the Gratz College Centennial Book Award (1998). She is presently completing a biography of Israel’s fourth prime minister, Golda Meir, a biography that asks how a lone woman surrounded by men makes it to the top. As with her work on Agranat, her biography sheds light on the role of American Jews in shaping the Israeli judicial and political landscape. In 2017, the Association for Israel Studies recognized Professor Lahav’s contributions to the field with a Life Achievement Award.

Professor Lahav held fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, from the Center for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In March 2015, she delivered the Lapidus Lecture at Princeton University, and in 2017 she gave the Rockoff Lecture at Rutgers University and the Taubman Lecture at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Lahav has taught at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Herzlia, Oxford University and Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 in Lyon, France.

Lahav says that teaching Constitutional Law “automatically keeps your teaching fresh. Each year the Court addresses new issues and revisits old ones. Thus, there is always intellectual challenge and deeper exploration.” Known as an outstanding teacher, Professor Lahav was the recipient of the 2011 BU Law Melton Prize for excellence in teaching.

The faculty and students of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies are proud to count Professor Lahav as a founding core member of the Center and a persistent supporter of the Center’s activities. We hope to have her as a guiding voice and an active contributor to all our endeavors for many years to come.

The photo above is  Pnina Lahav with Sir Hans Kornberg and EWCJS director Michael Zank at the 2018 Elie Wiesel Memorial Lecture on “Kristallnacht” (Photo credit: Bill McCormick)




JS286 / HI393 Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

by Deni Budman (COM ’20)

Classes like JS286 / HI393 Israeli-Palestinian Conflict are hard to come by. The course topic presents a unique challenge: how to teach an international conflict in an engaging and unbiased way. The way it is taught at BU does just that.

The history of the conflict in the Middle East is taught with conflicting narratives using primary sources and film. It is a blend of historical context and contemporary political analysis. Throughout the course, students present their own reflections on the conflict and debate possibilities of resolution.

Professor Nahum Karlinsky, who has taught the course for several years, has mastered the art of pushing his students to come to their own conclusions; supported, of course, with all the necessary background knowledge to make informed decisions.

Shrinking Palestine

David Tay (COM ‘22), a student in the current spring 2020 course, says, “One of the biggest realizations that I’ve come across is that this conflict is incredibly hard to define in American political terms. With most topics debated in America, it comes down to a Republican perspective and a Democratic perspective. The Israeli Knesset alone has dozens of parties, and that’s not including the dozens of different Palestinian and Arab groups who are also stakeholders, but aren’t necessarily represented in the Knesset. There have been several times where I caught myself trying to put historical events into two-sided conflicts when in reality, it’s never actually that simple.”

Practically every student who’s taken the course agrees that one of the best parts of the class is the environment of discussion. Students break up into small groups to dissect assigned readings, and they are often surprised to see how others interpreted the same text differently. These discussions culminate at the end of the course in a staged peace conference.

Dynnor Shebhsaievitz (CAS ‘20), another current student, enjoyed being able to learn about the conflict from a historical perspective as opposed to the emotional perspective she knew from before. She chose this class because she “felt that would help me shape my own opinion while learning to respect others.” 

When asked why students should take this course, Professor Karlinsky joked that they should take other more fun courses such as cooking classes. But, “If they want to learn about one of the most contentious and well-known conflicts in our contemporary world, from both Palestinian and Israeli perspectives, in a balanced, informed but also engaging (so I hope) manner, they should sign up, now!” 

We agree. Sign up for JS286 and other Jewish Studies classes for the Fall 2020 semester!

More info about Jewish Studies course HERE

And HERE is all you need to know about which Jewish Studies course fulfill which HUB requirements.

JS286 / HI393 counts toward majors and minors in History, International Relations, Middle East & North Africa Studies, and Jewish Studies. The course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Historical Consciousness, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy.