A program to train professors in Israel-area studies instruction is gearing up for its second year, this time incorporating a trip to Israel as part of its appeal.
The Brandeis University Summer Institute of Israel Studies consists of two weeks of seminars on Israeli topics at Brandeis, followed this year by a week in Israel visiting archaeological sites, Arab communities and other sites of public interest
Seminars at Brandeis will address current issues ranging from Middle Eastern politics to Israeli film, art and culture.
Among its featured scholars are director of the new Crown Center for Middle East Studies Shai Feldman, Professor of Israeli Society at New York University Zvi Ben-Dor and Professor of Jewish Thought at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem Aviezer Ravitsky.
"The program is designed for professors who aren't necessarily professors of Judaic Studies," Charles Givre, an intern with the Summer Institute, said. "The goal of this [program] was not just to teach Judaic studies professors about Israel, [but] to get people from all different disciplines."
The trip will offer participants a taste of various aspects of Israeli society, according to Sylvia Fuks-Fried, the executive director of the Goodman Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel, which runs the program under the auspices of Brandeis' Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry.
"We plan to visit with contemporary Israeli writers, representatives from the Israeli media, foreign ministry officials [and] representatives from Arab and Bedouin communities," Fuks-Fried said.
Last year's program hosted participants from educational institutions all over the world, including Pennsylvania State University, the University of Miami, the Claremont College of Theology, Turkey's Bilkent University and Toronto's York University.
Fuks-Fried said that many of the program's participants come from history, sociology and literature backgrounds.
"We're very pleased that we have a whole group of people out there that are making available to students on campus high-quality courses about Israel in a variety of disciplines," Fuks-Fried said.
"Our first group of alumni went back to their institutions and taught in the fall and spring semesters of this year and have courses projected for next year," she said. "Some went back and revised courses, [while] others developed new courses."
Givre, who works at the Institute, said that last year's participants reacted very positively to the seminars, even staying late into the night to delve further into contemporary Israeli culture.
"All the participants gained a very solid understanding about Israel, how to teach Israel and how to develop courses about it," Givre said. "My impression of last year's participants was that they loved it. Everyone felt it was a very valuable experience."
This year's program will run from June 15 to July 7.