History of the Center
February 2003 First advisory board meeting for a center of Jewish Studies. Eli N. Evans, ’58 is the chair.
April 2003 The Center is officially established and announced. Professor Jonathan Hartlyn is founding director.
July 2003 Jonathan M. Hess is named director; he joined Carolina’s Department of Germanic Languages in 1993 and held the Moses M. and Hannah L. Malkin Distinguished Professor appointment. Jonathan served as Director for 10 years, until June 2013. He later was department chair of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures.
Fall 2003 The Center’s first community events are held.
Fall 2003 The Charles H. Revson Foundation makes a 10-year grant to the Center to support community events and public outreach initiatives. The grant is made in honor of Eli N. Evans.
Fall 2005 Thomas M. Uhlman, Ph.D. ’75, endows the Uhlman Family Fund to support annual continuing education seminars in Jewish history or culture.The inaugural seminar was held in October 2005 and the topic was “Escaping the Holocaust and Starting Life Anew.”
Fall 2008 Ruth von Bernuth and Yaron Shemer join the Center’s faculty, in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures and Department of Asian Studies respectively. Yaron is the inaugural Levine/Sklut Fellow in Jewish Studies.
Fall 2009 Evyatar Marienberg joins Carolina’s Department of Religious Studies and is named the inaugural E.J. and Sara Evans Fellow.
Fall 2009 “Introduction to Jewish Studies” is offered for the first time. The new course was designed to be the gateway course for the Jewish Studies minors [and the planned major].
Fall 2009 Hal Levinson ’78 becomes chair of the Advisory Board. Eric Sklut , ’80 is vice chair. Eli N. Evans is named founding chair.
Spring 2009 T. Fielder Valone, Jr., ’11, a History and American Studies major, became the first recipient of the Elsie Kaplan “Mother Shapiro” ZBT Undergraduate Research and Travel grant in Jewish Studies. Fielder’s research paper went on to win a national award from the American Historical Association and Fielder went on to pursue a PhD in European history from University of Indiana.
Fall 2010 David Lambert joins the Department of Religious Studies.
Fall 2010 The Levine Family creates an endowment to support student research in the field of Jewish Studies.
Fall 2011 Flora Cassen joins the Department of History and is the first JMA and Sonja van der Horst Fellow in Jewish History and Culture. Joseph Lam joins the Department of Religious Studies as lecturer. He is promoted to assistant professor in 2014. Hanna Sprintzik and Martin Sueldo join Carolina as lecturers in the Department of Asian Studies and Department of Romance Studies, respectively.
Fall 2011 The Center moves into new office/meeting space in Pettigrew Hall.
Fall 2011 The new undergraduate degree is approved by the College, will launch the following academic year.
Spring 2012 Naomi Graber is awarded the first Silver Fellowship, funded by Rhonda and Robert Silver to provide a graduate student with a full year of support so the student can focus on research and writing his/her dissertation. Graber’s research focused on the American works of the Jewish-German composer Kurt Weill, who fled Nazi Germany in 1933. She went on to hold a faculty position at University of Georgia.
Summer 2012 Jodi Magness, who joined the Department of Religious Studies in 2002, leads excavations in Huqoq, Israel and her team discovers stunning mosaics showing Samson and the foxes. Each summer since, the team has uncovered more mosaics at Huqoq.
Fall 2012 The B.A. in Religious Studies with a concentration in Jewish Studies is launched. It is the first official undergraduate degree in Jewish Studies in the state of North Carolina.
Fall 2012 The Capstone Course in Jewish Studies, an upper-level research seminar for advanced undergraduates in the field is launched. The course features a new topic and faculty leader each fall semester. The first course was taught by Jonathan M. Hess.
Spring 2013 For the first time in its history, the Center provides top-up grants for graduate student recruitment packages. The funds, in combination with funds available from the primary academic unit, help the University attract the most promising graduate students. In fall 2013, Rachel Gelfand in American Studies and Alejandro Moreiras in Religious Studies start their studies at Carolina with top-up support.
May 2013 Hayley Wright is the first student to graduate with the new Religious Studies/Jewish Studies undergraduate degree.
July 2013 Ruth von Bernuth is named Director for the Center. Yaakov Ariel, who joined the Department of Religious Studies in 1994, is named Associate Director.
Spring 2014 Karen Auerbach joins Carolina’s Department of History and is the inaugural Stuart E. Eizenstat Fellow.
Fall 2014 The Center awards its first Tau Epsilon Phi Graduate Student Fellowship for graduate student recruitment. Tine Rassalle, Department of Religious Studies, working in archaeology under the direction of Jodi Magness, was awarded the fellowship in spring 2013 and she started her studies in fall 2014.
Fall 2014 Andrea Dara Cooper joins the Department of Religious Studies and is named a Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Fellow. Michael A. Figueroa joins the Department of Music as lecturer. He is promoted to assistant professor in 2015. Danielle Christmas comes to Carolina as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English & Comparative Literature, and in 2016 she is promoted to assistant professor and becomes a Delta Delta Delta Fellow in the Humanities.
Spring 2015 The Center awards its first Christopher R. Browning Research and Travel Grant for undergraduate and graduate students working in the field of Holocaust studies. The grant was established in honor of Professor Browning‘s contributions to the field and to Carolina, upon his retirement. Caroline Nielson received the grant and spent the 2015-2016 academic year conducting research in Germany.
May 2015 The first two doctoral students earn the Graduate Certificate in Jewish Studies: Emma Woelk and Elissa Sampson.
Fall 2015 Gabrielle Berlinger joins the faculty in the Department of American Studies and is the inaugural Tanenbaum Fellow in Jewish History and Culture.
Fall 2015 More than 20 faculty members, and more than 20 graduate students, are affiliated with the Center. Both are all-time high numbers.
February 2016 The Center’s first external review is conducted. The reviewers met with more than 30 faculty members, administrators, staff members and students to analyze the Center’s programs and operations. The final report spoke highly of the Center’s achievements and contributions to the University.
April 2016 Reconsidering Antisemitism: past and present is the Center’s first major, international conference. This three-day conference featured academic panel discussions, two keynote lectures, and student research and delved into the history of antisemitism and explore the topic from a scholarly viewpoint.
July 2016 Requirements for the undergraduate degree program are revised to better reflect the goals of the program.
March 2017 Jewish Food in the Global South symposium is held and includes cooking class, film screenings, and a full day of talks. it is part of the University-wide Food for All initiative.
April 2017 Defiant Requiem is performed by UNC Music Department. Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín tells the story of the courageous Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp (Terezín) during World War II. Also this month, the department of music and the Center hosted a three-day conference titled: Performing Commemoration: Music and Politics of Trauma.
July 2017 Michele Rivkin-Fish is appointed acting director during Ruth von Bernuth’s leave.
March 2018 Jewish Studies the Carolina Way showcase is held to celebrate the Center’s 15th anniversary. The Showcase featured mini-lectures by faculty and demonstrations by faculty and grad students.
April 2018 Jonathan M. Hess Memorial Fund established in honor of former director of the Center.
July 2018 Michael Figueroa, assistant professor, department of music, is appointed Associate Director for the Center.
November 2018 Wandering Objects: Collecting an Interpreting Jewish Things conference is co-hosted as a joint program with the NC Museum of Art.
April 2019 Moments of Enlightenment: German Jewish interactions from the 18th century to the present is held to honor Jonathan M. Hess, former director of the Center.
July 2019 Eliza Rose joins the department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures.
March 2020 Due to Covid-19 campus-wide closures, the Center moves events and classes to online/remote events and teaching. The Center is unable to award research and travel grants for the summer, so it creates a grants program to support graduate student remote research and writing projects. Twelve students received awards.