YPSILANTI — Eastern Michigan University and Temple Israel in West Bloomfield are expanding their successful program for high school students interested in college-level Jewish Studies courses.

Thanks to a $15,015 Ignition grant from the New York-based Covenant Foundation, the University and Temple Israel will offer three, college-level, dual-enrollment Jewish Studies courses at the temple, located at 5725 Walnut Lake Road. Ignition grants are offered for up to one year to support new and untested approaches in the field of Jewish education.

The fall 2013 semester will offer three subjects: Hebrew I, Jewish American Literature and the Bible as Literature. Classes will include an online component as well as films, speakers and a wide variety of instructional approaches.

“Our team is busy preparing for this innovative program, which is the first of its kind,” said Martin Shichtman, professor of English and director of the Jewish Studies program at Eastern. “Each class will be open to 10 students from Temple Israel and the surrounding area.”

One of the nation’s largest Jewish congregations, Temple Israel has an active after-school program for students. The temple wanted to expand its programs and initially invited Eastern Michigan to offer a small dual-enrollment class to its members. That class was successful and now the program is using the grant to expand its offerings.

EMU currently offers an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies minor. The program has hosted such speakers as Aaron Lansky from the Yiddish Book Center in Mass.; pollster Jim Gerstein, and Mich. Sen. Carl Levin. Public events featured such issues as Jewish humor; the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York; and Polish-Jewish writers documenting their lives during the Holocaust.

“The program’s success will set the stage for an ongoing collaboration between Eastern Michigan and Temple Israel,” Shichtman said. “This allows the temple to draw from the more than 20 interdisciplinary Jewish Studies classes currently available at EMU.”

It will also reach well beyond that, Shichtman added. “It will provide a model for other universities and synagogues to create dual-enrollment curricula serving the needs of both.”

The Michigan State Board of Education has promoted the expansion of multicultural learning in Michigan’s public schools since 1978. Although many programs have been created, there are few programs offered in Jewish Studies, despite a large and dynamic Jewish population in southeastern Michigan. Eastern Michigan’s Jewish Studies program addresses this problem on the collegiate level.

The Covenant Foundation has awarded more than $23 million since 1991 to develop and support Jewish education and community-building projects and programs in North America.


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