Program History

Jewish Studies at KU

1978, Fall

S. Daniel Breslauer is hired in Religious Studies to teach Jewish studies. He retires in 2003.


Rabbi Morris Margolies offers courses in Jewish history in the History Department.


Professor David Katzman (American Studies) oversees the Jewish Studies Committee.

2002, Fall

A minor in Jewish Studies is available to students for the first time, offered within Religious Studies.

2003, Sept

The Robert M. Beren Foundation of Wichita gave $500,000 to the Kansas University Endowment Association to create the Beren Professorship; a matching $500,000 gift was provided from the Hall Family Foundation of Kansas City, Mo. Beren is owner and chairman of Berexco Inc., an oil and gas exploration company based in Kansas and is chairman of Beren Corp., an oil and gas production and securities investment company. His foundation provides grants in higher education, human services and Jewish organizations, among others.

2005, Fall

Jonathan Boyarin becomes the Robert M. Beren Distinguished Professor in Modern Jewish Studies, Religious Studies.

Sari Havis hired to supervise Hebrew Language Program.

2007, Fall

Jonathan Boyarin leaves to take a position at UNC


Sergei Dolgopolski is hired by Religious Studies to teach Jewish texts, traditions and thought


Cheryl Lester, Chair of American Studies, is acting director

2008, Fall

Molly Zahn becomes Lecturer in Religious Studies

2008, Fall to Fall 2010

Lynn Davidman is appointed as the Robert M. Beren Distinguished Professor in Modern Jewish Studies (joint appointment, Religious Studies and Sociology) and Director of Jewish Studies; she was a professor of Judaic Studies at Brown

Renee Perelmutter is hired with Posen grant money to teach Yiddish (appointment is in Slavic Languages & Literatures)

2010, April 3-4 (Su-Mo)

Conference on “Narratives of Jewish Life and Jewish Studies” at the Hall Center, six speakers and a keynote address, “Freud, Jewishness and the Development of Psychoanalysis” by Eliza Slavet, University of California, San Diego.

2010, August 1

Sari Havis leaves - Shelley Rissien hired as her replacement

Sergei Dolgopolski takes a position at SUNY Buffalo

2010, October to June 2011

Henry Bial, interim director

2010, Fall

Molly Zahn appointed to tenure track in Religious Studies

2011 Fall

Lynn Davidman, Director of Jewish Studies

2012, Spring to Fall

no director of Jewish Studies

2012, Fall

Program shifted to the Center for Global & International Studies (CGIS)

Nimrod Rosler is Schusterman Visiting Assistant Professor, funded by American-Israeli Cooperative Institute (to Spring 2014)

2013, Jan 1

John Younger, Professor of Classics, becomes Associate Director of CGIS for Jewish Studies

2013, Fall

Study Abroad programs to Israel for KU students approved

Paul Nahme hired by Religious Studies

2014, Fall

Paul Nahme takes a position at Brown University

Sam Brody hired by Religious Studies

Gal Levy (Sociology, Open University, Israel) is Schusterman Visiting Assistant Professor, funded by American-Israeli Cooperative Institute (to Spring 2015)

2015, Fall

A major in Jewish Studies is approved

Younger becomes Director of Jewish Studies and Jewish Studies becomes an independent unit

Eric Welch is a hired as Visiting Assistant Professor in Jewish Studies

JS hosts the 27th annual conference of the Midwestern Jewish Studies Association (Oct 18-19)

2016, Spring

Renee Perelmutter, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures, moves .25 of her teaching line to Jewish Studies

2017, Fall

Renee Perelmutter, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and of Slavic Languages & Literatures, becomes Director of Undergraduate Studies for JS

JS hosts a one-day symposium on "Jews in the Midwest" (Nov 12)

2018, Spring

Eric Welch takes position at University of Kentucky

2018, Fall

Rami Zeedan hired as Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Political Science

JS hosts a one-day writing workshop and symposium called "Writing Jewish: Midrash, Myth and Miracle" (Oct 21)

2019, Summer

John Younger retires

Renee Perelmutter becomes Director of Jewish Studies



Jewish Studies Program statement in solidarity with protests against police brutality

Beloved community,

As an academic program in the University of Kansas, we stand in solidarity with Black Americans -- including Black Jewish people -- and everyone hurting after the senseless, brutal murder of George Floyd and all people targeted by systemic racism and injustice in our country. We continue to be committed to our core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This morning, the Association for Jewish Studies sent out an email reminding us that as scholars of Jewish Studies, we are keenly aware of the devastating impact of discrimination and violence against minority groups. Dr. Cécile Accilien, the Chair of the KU Department of African and African-American studies, shared with us the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The Jewish Studies academic community is rich and diverse – it includes scholars and students who are Jewish and non-Jewish, scholars and students of all ethnic and racial backgrounds and from multiple denominations and creeds, people who are immigrants (like myself) and those who are American-born. The Bible commands: צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף tzedek tzedek tirdof, which translates into English as “Only justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). In this well-cited verse, the Hebrew word tzedek, or justice, repeats twice. There can be many explanations of the repetition – textual interpretation in all its many forms is a beloved pursuit for many of us. Today, I am going to give you my own interpretation -- though I am sure that it already exists somewhere in the treasury of Jewish exegesis. One tzedek, or justice, you must pursue for yourself and for people like you; that is, perhaps, the justice that is easiest to understand, because we keenly feel injustices committed against ourselves and people like us. The other tzedek is the justice you must pursue for the sake of people who are not like you. It is often a harder lesson, but a necessary one. The justice, or tzedek, which we pursue thus also becomes a gift of chesed, of lovingkindness that enriches all of us.


In solidarity,

Dr. Renee Perelmutter,

Director of the Jewish Studies Program

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