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Deborah Lipstadt

Haskel Greenfield
photo by Rhonda Prepes

Bob Freedman

Itay Zutra


Greenfield Wants to Develop an Israel Studies Program- WJR Asks Federation and Asper Foundation about need for Robust Jewish Studies Program

May 16, 2013

In an exclusive interview with the Winnipeg Jewish review when she was in town recently, world renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt was asked whether she believes that a vibrant Jewish Studies program (note this is wider than just a Judaics program) is needed at the University level to help ensure the long term survivability of a small Jewish community.She answered an unqualified yes.

"I think vibrant Jewish studies programs are important,"Lipstadt said.

She noted that when she referred to Jewish Studies programs, she said it is "important to study how Jews live," as well as "how Jews have died."

Lipstadt also stated that in referring to Jewish studies, she means that "this includes the study of Holocaust and Anti-Semitism."

Lipstadt also stated that "the existence of the Museum [Canadian Museum for Human Rights] only makes this -a vibrant Jewish Studies Program on campus- all the more important."

Lipstadt referred in particular to the "'enormity" of the task of portraying human rights issues in the CMHR, and of the "incredible" importance of the research aspect of the CMHR which will be ongoing and the need to ensure that "active, vibrant Jewish scholars" will be on hand based in Winnipeg to engage and deal with the profound questions that the CMHR will raise now and in the future vis-a-vis Anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, Judaism, Jews and Israel.


On Thursday May 9, Dr. Haskel Greenfield, Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology and Codirector of the Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology Laboratory (with his wife Tina Greenfield) was asked by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts to be the new coordinator of the Judaic Studies Program at the University of Manitoba.

Dr. Greenfield codirects a major archaeological excavation in Israel with Professor Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University at the biblical site of Tell es-Safi/Gath, the ancient hometown of Goliath of the Philistines. He currently holds the single largest grant for archaeological research ever awarded for a single project in Israel.

Greenfield told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that his goal is to build upon the success of the previous coordinator, Dr. Ben Baader (who revived the program).

He hopes to continue to "revitalize" the program. Since it was resuscitated in 2009, it has had low but steady enrollment which places it in jeopardy for being continued by the university administration. To revitalize and grow the program will mean a significant injection of financial resources.
Greenfield says that there are significant numbers of students taking Judaics courses who are majors in other departments.

However, "as of now, there are only four students registered in Judaic Studies as their minor program."

Greenfield says "In order to grow the program, we need to develop a major. In order to institute a major and attract students, significant funds will need to be raised and it won’t come from the administration. Students won’t be attracted to the program unless we are able to offer the kinds of courses that they are interested in taking. In order to do this, we need to raise funds to attract high quality faculty who can deliver a comprehensive program of study."

Greenfield Would Like like to see current Judaics Program evolve to a Jewish Studies and Israel Program.
Greenfield told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he looks forward to the continued revitalization of the Judaics Program. Ultimately, he would like to see it evolve from the current Judaics to a Jewish Studies and Israel Program. A larger dimension of Israel content makes sense since this is where half of the Jewish population of the world lives. It is a dimension that should not be ignored. For the same reason, Arabic is taught within the Judaic Studies Program at the University of Manitoba. This is not surprising given that it is the second most commonly spoken language of Israel. (Editor's note: A revitalized Jewish Studies Program could also include various specialty programs within its rubric, such as Greenfield’s Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology Laboratory.)

In an email correspondence with the Asper Foundation, the Winnipeg Jewish Review asked the Asper Foundation whether it agreed with Professor Lipstadt that the need for a more robust university level Jewish Studies program is all the more important in a city with a CMHR. It also asked whether the Asper Foundation would use its good offices to meet with the University of Manitoba, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, and the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg to discuss the opportunity and the need to establish a more robust Jewish Studies Program in Winnipeg.
Jeff Morry of the Asper Foundation wrote in reply:

"The Asper Foundation agrees that it would be beneficial to have a more robust Jewish studies program at the University of Manitoba. However, as the representative body of the Winnipeg Jewish community, this issue would most logically be coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg with other community organizations including, of course, the synagogues.

"As I’m sure you know, The Asper Foundation is quite involved in Holocaust and Jewish education in Winnipeg, Canada and Israel through The Asper Foundation Human Rights and Holocaust Studies Program, the Asper International Holocaust Studies Program at Yad Vashem, the Asper Institute for New Media Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, the Asper Center for Entrepreneurship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and support of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, CISA, Birthright Israel and the Holocaust gallery at the CMHR. … We encourage you to discuss this issue further with the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg."
The Winnipeg Jewish Review met with Bob Freedman in regard to this matter.

In response to Deborah Lipstadt's comments that there will be an increased need for Judaics/Jewish Studies at the University of Manitoba as a result of the CMHR, Bob Freedman, CEO of the Jewish Federation said, "I can't comment on that as it is somewhat speculative. What I can say, is that leaving aside the CMHR, there is a need for a more robust Jewish studies program on the University of Manitoba Campus. We met with Dr. David Barnard, President of the University of Manitoba last month and expressed this view. We have also told him that the Jewish Federation would be prepared to work in partnership with the university to help it look for potential funders, but they should understand that the Jewish community should not be expected to find all of the financial resources for this. There needs to be a partnership."

When asked whether the Federation believes it would be beneficial to conduct a feasibility study to ascertain what kind of courses would attract students, and to look at models in other centres for Jewish studies and assess what would be best for Winnipeg, Freedman said, "I think that a feasibility study would be worthwhile and I would think that the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba might be interested in funding such a project."


Ben Baader, who has been the coordinator of the Judaic Studies program until now will be on sabbatical for the next year. Dr. Baader received a fellowship/visiting professorship at the Frankel Institute for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan for next year
In the past year, there were only 4 students in Introductory Yiddish, which is taught by Rachela Secter who has taught the course for years. Baader wrote to the Winnipeg Jewish review "In the past years, the enrollment has been as high as 20, but there are natural fluctuations, and yes, this past year it was lower."
An example of this kind of fluctuation comes from Rory Paul, Head of School at the Gray Academy. He told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that there are currently 25 students studying Yiddish at Gray Academy. Of these 25, only one is in Grade 12.

The Winnipeg Jewish review has learned that there are only two students currently enrolled in the second year, advanced course in Yiddish Language and Literature which is being taught the new I.L. Peretz Folk School Teaching Fellow, Dr. Itay Zutra.
In an email Justin Jaron Lewis, who is Associate Professor of Judaism, in the Department of Religion, wrote that teaching at Gray Academy is “a very important part of his [Zutra's] work” and “we are also hopeful that some of these students will come to U of M and continue studying Yiddish”.

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