Guest Blogger: Dahlia Krutkovich, “Petition for Jewish Studies at Davidson College”

Hey everyone,

A group of students has been organizing to create an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program at Davidson. This comes as part of a broader response to the events of last semester (the Pittsburgh shooting, “Hitler did nothing wrong,” and the neo-Nazis on campus).

This wouldn’t be possible without the work of students who came before us. We acknowledge and admire those who fought for Africana and GSS at Davidson and those continuing to advocate for Asian-American Studies, Indigenous Studies, and other initiatives that will ultimately make Davidson a place more people can call their own.

We hope that you’ll sign on, but we also want to answer your questions in person. Members of the working group will be at the tables by the fireplace in the Union this Monday to Friday from 11 to 3. This petition and its signatories will serve as proof that the Davidson community sees this as an urgent need. Talk to your friends, professors, alum friends and parents, etc. Thank you for your support.

Petition for Jewish Studies at Davidson College

1/27/19

To the Davidson College community:

The unmasking of Davidson students with neo-Nazi affiliation in November 2018 has left many students to wonder about Davidson’s commitment to its curricular and social values. We believe the creation of a Jewish Studies program at Davidson is crucial to the College’s wellbeing.

This is not the first time the College’s commitment to religious inclusion and academic integrity has been called into question. Less than 50 years ago, Davidson refused to hire a Jewish professor because he denounced a tenure policy that required professors to promote Christianity on campus (1). In response to student outrage and national attention, the first Jewish professor in Davidson history was hired two years later, in 1979 (2).

The Anti-Defamation League reports an 89% increase in anti-Semitic incidents on American college campuses between 2016 and 2017 (3). Over the same period of time, FBI Hate Crime Statistics Report show a 37% increase in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide (4).

Just a few months ago, we confronted anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism on our own campus. Though our push for Jewish Studies is a response to homegrown white supremacy, it is also informed by conversations Jewish students had following the exposure of the radicalized students’ twitter feeds. Suddenly, Jewish students were burdened with explaining everything from the differences between Reform and Hasidic Judaism to the concept of conditional whiteness, while also processing neo-Nazism so close to home. Even though non-Jewish students were willing and eager to learn about Jewish identities, it is unacceptable that these conversations were catalyzed only by tweets including “gas the kikes” and “I don’t actually give a ____ about Jews getting shot up” (5).

Although Davidson already offers some Jewish Studies courses, two or three classes a semester is not enough; a more complete curricular program in Jewish Studies would humanize and demystify Jewish culture, history, and identity. The student authors of this petition are advocating an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program, which would span at least three disciplines and include at least one tenure-track position devoted to the study of Jewishness, be it through Religious Studies, History, Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and/or Literary Studies. We envision Jewish Studies courses as dynamic, enriching spaces where students can more deeply engage with their academic pursuits.

Of the twenty institutions Davidson cites as its peers, nine have interdisciplinary or formal Jewish Studies departments, while eight others have access to programs or offer a significant number of courses devoted to a more expansive study of Jewish identity (6). If Davidson wants to maintain its status as a leader among other top colleges and continue to expand beyond its origins as a regional institution, adding a Jewish Studies program must become an immediate priority.

As an institution of higher learning that claims to serve as a “place where those who live, work, and study see differences as an opportunity to learn about themselves,” we have a responsibility to learn from our differences, engage with complicated topics, and combat ignorance with education (7). We hope the foundation of an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program will move Davidson towards a greater, more inclusive understanding of Jewishness. Community support is vital to our success, so we implore those of you invested in the future of Davidson to show solidarity.

To demonstrate your support, sign your name below.

Sincerely,

The Student Working Group for Jewish Studies

References:

1. http://library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19770422.pdf
2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1977/04/25/christian-nc-college-rebu
ffs-jew/bff9b129-00d3-499e-8978-5da6a9b3cfb0/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9ac
82f27a402; http://davidsonjournal.davidson.edu/2010/03/another-news-story/
3. https://www.adl.org/media/11174/download
4. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2016/tables/table-1;
https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/topic-pages/tables/table-1.xls
5. https://twitter.com/WorkersCarolina/status/1060331304741453824?s=20
6. https://www.davidson.edu/offices/institutional-research/peer-institutions
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1mnuIWvvhtnU_A4ubsWBnjcclX-H2
KjWRak37valaPFc/edit?usp=sharing
7. https://www.davidson.edu/admission-and-financial-aid/diversity

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