Elon University’s Jewish Studies program is marking 10 years on campus. The program was established in the fall of 2012 in order to teach modern Hebrew, raise awareness, and create an environment for Jewish and non-Jewish people alike.
To celebrate, the program hosted a reception at 5 p.m. March 1.
The Jewish Studies program consists of the Jewish Studies minor and extra curricular activities like Hillel.
Jewish Studies aims to bring together students and faculty who crave a deep understanding of Jewish history and culture. The program offers many opportunities to do so, such as classes, meetings and trips.
Hillary Zaken, the interim assistant dean of Multifaith Engagement, said the program is interdisciplinary and having a Jewish Studies minor has changed Elon University for the better.
“There is a very active Jewish life, but having an academic component too that has changed the way people here at elon can learn about Jewish culture and Jewish history,” Zaken said. “It’s vibrant Jewish life and vibrant Jewish studies, which are two companion pieces to creating an overall experience.”
Zaken also mentioned that Elon’s investment in these programs is very important.
Boaz Avraham-Katz, Jewish educator and instructor of Hebrew, said the program has evolved over this decade and attracted more people.
“When I started here I had very small classes — sometimes nine students, sometimes seven, sometimes ten. I didn’t get the bigger classes,” Avraham-Katz said. “Then in 2018, there was a change, because there was a big influx of Jewish kids who all wanted to do Hebrew. And for the first time I opened my roster and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have 22 students!’”
Sophomore Anna Okum said the Jewish Studies program is “robust” and a “huge part” of her Elon experience.
“It’s crazy to think that not all of the Jewish students who came here before me have had the same chances,” Okum said. “I had to take advantage of all that the Jewish Studies program has to offer.”
Okum said Claussen is receptive to students’ opinions on how to improve the program and “built the program from the ground up.”
Okum said she believes everyone should learn about Jewish history and culture because of how few Jewish people there are left in the world due to the Holocaust. She wants to keep the culture alive.
“As a Jewish individual, anti-semitism is nothing new to me. I’ve experienced it personally, as have my Jewish family and friends,” Okum said. “I think if more people took the time to understand the Jewish faith and Jewish history, the Jewish people wouldn’t receive nearly as much hate from others.”
Okum said what she loves most about the Jewish Studies program is the people she has met and experiences she has been offered, such as a Hebrew class and going abroad.
“After I took Hebrew 1010, I declared a Jewish Studies minor,” Okum said. “The Jewish Studies program has given me so many like-minded friends and mentors who have been a huge part of my college experience.”
For more information about joining Elon’s Jewish Studies Department, you can visit its website.