Israel Studies is one of the areas of academic strength in the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers. The department offers a wide range of courses on the social, cultural, religious, and political life in Israel, the history of Zionism, and Israel in the Middle East. These courses are cross-listed with other academic units including History, Middle Eastern Studies, Political Science, and Comparative Literature. In addition, the department offers Hebrew language courses ranging from the elementary level to more advanced literature courses in Hebrew.
Rutgers University offers its students the opportunity to study abroad in Israel through its programs with Ben-Gurion University (BGU), University of Haifa, and Hebrew University. Jewish Studies provides competitive stipends to study in Israel at approved accredited universities. Additionally, the Rutgers School of Social Work (SSW) offers a Winter Study Abroad program to Israel for graduate students to examine the provision of social services within the nonprofit sector, led by Bert Goldberg. The program is affiliated with the Spitzer School of Social Work of BGU and Haifa University’s School of Social Work. The School’s Center on Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC), directed by Judy Postmus, and BGU collaborate on faculty exchanges and research initiatives.
Since its inception in 1996, the Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life has hosted over 20 visiting scholars at Rutgers from all the major Israeli universities, including the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, University of Haifa, Bar Ilan University, and Ben-Gurion University, to promote research and scholarly exchange with Rutgers faculty, as well as to teach courses in Jewish Studies. This active visiting scholar program has contributed to the diversity of Israel studies courses at Rutgers and to the university’s international visibility. Visiting scholars participate in faculty seminars, provide extracurricular lectures to students, and contribute to the Bildner Center’s community outreach program.
The Bildner Center maintains an extensive community outreach program that offers lectures and seminars on Israel both for the general public and faculty, and frequently brings Israeli speakers to campus. Its Israeli Authors Forum includes public lectures in Hebrew. The Rutgers New Jersey Jewish Film Festival is a well-attended annual film festival that regularly features Israeli films, invites Israeli filmmakers and speakers, and includes special programs on Israeli cinema.
The Bildner Center collaborated with the international Association of Israel Studies (AIS) when it hosted its annual meeting in 1998. Former Rutgers faculty, Myron Aronoff and Chaim Waxman, and the Bildner Center’s Director, Yael Zerubavel, served on the AIS board in leadership positions. The center also sponsored educational programs with major Israeli research institutions, including a three-day international conference with the Hebrew University that brought together 52 international scholars to Rutgers; and with Yad Vashem on its Holocaust education for teachers in 2008.
The Bildner Center offers workshops and mini-courses to public and private school teachers in the areas of Israel studies. It has also offered a program in cooperation with the New Jersey State-Israel Commission, featuring Rutgers faculty on the challenge of preserving democracy in the age of terrorism. The Center’s Director and Associate Director both serve on the New Jersey Israel Commission.
Two online courses on the History of Zionism and the Israeli Political System have been part of Jewish Studies Online, a program sponsored by the Bildner Center, offering free non-credit courses that were developed by visiting Israeli scholars. Many people in the United States and throughout the world have taken these courses, including participants in the Middle East.
Jewish Studies faculty are heavily involved in Israel studies and conduct considerable research in collaboration with Israeli colleagues. The Department of Physics is engaged in collaborative work with the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel) on quantum impurities out of equilibrium. The Graduate School of Education is working with colleagues at Beersheva University on studies of probabilistic reasoning of middle-school children. The Department of Mathematics is collaborating with scholars at Hebrew University on cryptography while a faculty member at the School of Pharmacy is the principal investigator in a collaborative study with an Israeli scholar funded by the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation, titled “Targeting Neoplastic Tissues with Multifunctional Sacchardic Platforms Loaded with Model Anti-Cancer Peptides.” Along with colleagues at Hebrew University, the Department of Jewish Studies is focusing on the ancient history of the Hebrew language. The Institute of Marine and Coastal Science and the Department of Plant Biolgy and Pathology at the School of Environmental Sciences have conducted research in and have strong ties with Israel.