Skip to content

Programming and Educational Initiatives to Combat Antisemitism

he Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies is composed of scholars who cover a wide range of specializations, including multiple experts on antisemitism with specialties ranging from antisemitism in the early church to the Holocaust. The director of the program is one of the program's two Holocaust scholars. There are two parts to the Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program at UT: (1) The academic interdisciplinary program offers a major, a minor, and classes that examine Jewish culture, history, languages, and texts, including multiple classes that cover antisemitism. (2) Campus and Community programming including public-facing lectures and workshops on the richness and diversity of Jewish life, as well as programs to address antisemitism on campus and in the community. 

Some recent highlights include:

  • The program has hosted several UT events that address antisemitism. Recent examples include: 
    • Panel Discussion on Antisemitism (fall 2020) 
    • Rachel Fish, Executive Director of the Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism held multiple events on campus and in the community and met with Chancellor Plowman to discuss ways to combat antisemitism on campus (fall 2019)
    • Collaborated with Diversity and Engagement to host the Anti-Defamation League on campus; ADL held workshops with students, faculty, administrators, and community members (Spring 2019) 
    • Teach-in against antisemitism (Spring 2018) 
  • Annual Holocaust Education. Recent examples include:
    • A Conversation with Art Spiegelman. This discussion centered around Spiegelman's Pulitzer prize-winning MAUS. (spring, 2022)
    • Holocaust Conference (fall, 2021)
    • Holocaust Remembrance Day Programs (e.g., WUOT Radio Show, 2020)
    • Screening and Discussion of "Who Will Write Our History" at downtown cinema (2019) 
    • Extensive programming on the Holocaust for the students and the community, including talks with Holocaust Survivor Inge Auerbacher, Professor Anna Shternshis of the University of Toronto, and Helene Sinnreich, director of Judaic Studies
    • Numerous academic lectures on the Holocaust geared for specialist and academic audiences including 
  • Workshops and programs to raise awareness about anti-Judaism and antisemitism on campus. Examples include:
    • Workshops for University communications, marketing, and event planners on holidays and dietary customs (2019-present)
    • Workshop series for the campus and community Christian ministers on anti-Judaism and antisemitism (2019-2020)
    • Workshop for campus and local law enforcement on antisemitism (2019)
    • Round tables focused on religious diversity in the public workplace and in student engagement (2019-present)
  • Serving the wider Tennessee community: Judaic Studies faculty are available free of charge to give a public lecture anywhere in the state of Tennessee  
  • Connections with other Judaic Studies Programs: for the past five years, the director of Judaic Studies and the faculty have led, organized, and been involved in domestic and international efforts by directors of Jewish Studies to address antisemitism on campuses 

Recent Examples 

  1. Curriculum

Students may take courses to fulfill a major or minor in Judaic Studies, several connections packages (e.g., Ancient Mediterranean Studies), and several general education requirements. Faculty who teach these courses are housed in multiple departments, including Religious Studies, History, Modern Foreign Languages and Literature, English, and Art History. Faculty also offer independent studies for more advanced students. Through these courses, the Program in Judaic Studies reaches hundreds of students per year. The program also provides scholarships for Judaic Studies majors and minors. Courses include:

HEBR 141 - Beginning Modern Hebrew I

HEBR 142 - Beginning Modern Hebrew II

HEBR 241 - Intermediate Modern Hebrew I 

HEBR 242 - Intermediate Modern Hebrew II 

HEBR 315 – Introduction to Israeli Culture and Society

HEBR 341 – Advanced Modern Hebrew I

HEBR 342 – Advanced Modern Hebrew II

REST 121 - Beginning Biblical Hebrew I

REST 122 - Beginning Biblical Hebrew II

REST 221 - Intermediate Biblical Hebrew I 

REST 222 - Intermediate Biblical Hebrew II 

JST 311 - Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

JST 312 - Early Judaism

JST 350 - The Afterlife of the Holocaust

JST 381 - Judaism

JST 382 - Archaeology of the Biblical World

JST 383 - Early Jewish History

JST 385 - Contemporary Jewish Thinkers

JST 386 - Voices of the Holocaust

JST 405 - Modern Jewish Studies (Spring 2022 topic: Zionism and the State of Israel)

JST 413 - Seminar in Early Judaism

JST 484 - Studies in Jewish History

REST 361 - The American Jewish Experience

REST 320 - Gender and Religion

JST 321 - New Testament and Christian Origins

JST 322 - Medieval Philosophy

JST 369 - History of the Middle East and the Islamic World, ca. 1050-1500

JST 370 - Modern Middle East

HIME 385: Studies in Jewish History

JST 395 - The Crusades and the Medieval Christian-Muslim Relations

JST 426 - Early Christian and Byzantine Art to 1350

REST 225 - Judaism, Christianity, Islam

REST 481 – Public Health in Holocaust Ghettos

2. Study Abroad and International Collaborations

2024: Ricketts-Frankel scholars in Israel program: This program which was generously endowed by Dan Ricketts and Steven Frankel will have students take a course during the spring semester and then travel to Israel for a spring break trip.

2019-2020: UT in Israel (deferred till 2024 due to COVID).

Several faculty (e.g., J.P Dessel, Erin Darby) have brought UT students to Israel for educational tours and archaeological research. In 2019 the program began the process of creating an annual study abroad experience under the direction of the Program Director, Helene Sinnreich. The program has been generously endowed and will be launched in 2024 as the Ricketts-Frankel scholars in Israel program.

2019: Delegation to Israel

A delegation led by University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd traveled to Israel to meet with top research universities throughout Israel and create research collaborations, opportunities for faculty exchange, and sites for student experiences in Israel. The Program Director, Helene Sinnreich was among the faculty who met with their counterparts throughout Israel and helped lead pre-departure orientation and in-country planning.

3.Selected Public Lectures Hosted by Judaic Studies

The program hosts several public lecture series for the campus and East Tennessee Community. Recent examples include:

2022: Yael Zerubavel, "Desert in the Promise Land"

2022: Rachel Harris, "Tel Aviv and Urban Zionism"

2022: Jan Rybak, "Zionism and World War I"

2022: Joshua Shanes, "Zionism: Ancient Dream or Modern Revolution"

2022: Arthur Spiegelman, "A Conversation with Art Spiegelman"

2021: Yehonatan Indursky, "Meet the Creator of Shtisel: A Conversation with Yehonatan Indursky"

2021: Julia Watts Belser, "The Politics of Risk and Resistance: Thinking Gender, Disability, and State Violence through Ancient Jewish Story"

2021: Arielle Agababa Levites, "Preserving Jewish Culture: Growing Spirituality in a Contemporary Jewish Agricultural Program"

2021: Adrienne Krone, "Sustainability and Spirituality in the Jewish Community Farming Movement"

2019: Rachel Fish, "Imagining Israel's Future: One state, Two-state Paradigms"

2019: Etgar Keret, “An Evening with Etgar Keret”

2019: Richard Elliot Friedman, "The Book of Exodus"

2018: Nicholas Chare, "Matters of Testimony: Interpreting the Scrolls of Auschwitz"

2018: David Ellenson, “From Brandeis and BG to Bibi”

2017: Rachel S. Harris, "With a Six Shooter and Spurs: Imaging the Israeli Western" 

2017: Rachel S. Harris, "Israeli Film Festival and Lecture Series"

2017: Anna Shternshis, "Machine Guns and Lonely Orphans: Yiddish Music in the Soviet Union during the Holocaust"

4. Selected Public Presentations by Judaic Studies Faculty

Faculty in the program regularly deliver public presentations to campus and community groups. The following include examples of presentations that address issues in anti-Judaism, antisemitism, and/or that were hosted in collaboration with Jewish community organizations

2022 "A Memory of Violence: The Radicalization of a Sixth-Century Christian Conflict." Christine Shepardson. Invited lecture at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel 

2022 "To See Ourselves: Anti-Jewish Polemic and its Modern Interpreters." Christine Shepardson. Invited conference speaker, Jewish-Christian Relations and Christian anti-Jewish Polemics in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, at the University of Toronto (Toronto, Canada.

2022: "Understanding Jerusalem: The Holy City and Why it Matters." Erin Darby. The Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies and the College of Humanities, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

2021: Panelist, Roundtable on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work and Antisemitism on College Campuses, "Antisemitism and Racism in a Moment of Reckoning." Erin Darby. Virtual Symposium, University of Minnesota Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Center for Jewish Studies

2021: Invited panelist, "Synagogues, Churches, and Heretics: De-Ciphering Judaizers in Antioch and Edessa." Christine Shepardson. Westar Christianity Seminar

2021: Invited response to Ross Kraemer, The Mediterranean Diaspora in Late Antiquity: What 

Christianity Cost the Jews. Christine Shepardson. Society of Biblical Literature, San Antonio

2021: "Speaking of Jews: Late Antique Antioch's Shifting Anti-Jewish Rhetoric." Christine Shepardson. Faculty Research Seminar on Late Antiquity

2021: "From Jewish-Christians to Christian Anti-Judaism: The Complexity of Early Christianity." Christine Shepardson. Knoxville Jewish Alliance

2021: "When Jesus was Jewish: The Important Legacy of Early Jewish/Christian Relations." Christine Shepardson. Lecture at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Knoxville

2021: "Know Your Biblical Archaeology?" Erin Darby. Mizpah Congregation, Chattanooga TN

2021: "The Bible With and Without Jesus." Christine Shepardson and Erin Darby. Book discussion, Union Ave Books and UT Humanities Center

2021: "Gendered Martyrdom: Orthodox Jewish Hagiographies of Holocaust Victims." Helene Sinnreich. Southeast German Studies Workshop; University of Kentucky

2019: "Who Shall Live & Who Shall Die? The High Holidays at Auschwitz in 1944." Helene Sinnreich. College of Charleston

5. Recent Conferences and Symposia

In addition to participation in a wide range of conferences in Judaic Studies, faculty recently hosted the following on the UT campus

2021: Hosted Lessons and Legacy Regional Conference

This Holocaust conference co-sponsored with the Holocaust Education Foundation at Northwestern University bring together scholars from around the world to present in person in Knoxville and online

6. Recent Educational Programs, Workshops, and Consultations

The following are examples of invited continuing education opportunities for the campus community that aim to improve understanding of Jewish lifeways and traditions and combat antisemitism 

2021: "Holidays, Scheduling, and Religious Diversity." Erin Darby. Center for Career Development and Academic Exploration, UT Division of Student Success

2020: "Campus Event Planning and Religious Diversity." Erin Darby. Learning and Organizational Development Lunch and Learn, UT Human Resources

2020: "Exploring Religious Diversity at UT." Erin Darby. Presentation and consultation with the UT Office of Enrollment Management

2020: Dialogue on Christianity and Anti-Semitism, August 2019-April 2020. Erin Darby, Tina Shepardson, Helene Sinnreich, David Kline. Monthly dialogue sessions with the UT Campus Ministers Council, curriculum design, cultural competency training, public presentation on February 27, 2020

2020: Cost of Hate Symposium, College of Arts and Sciences. Helene Sinnreich 

2020: WUOT Radio Show for Holocaust Remembrance Day, WUOT. Helene Sinnreich

2020-present: UT Religious Diversity Project, collaboration between the Department of Religious Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Division of Diversity and Engagement to develop professional development opportunities for the campus, design a campus religious holiday calendar, collaborate with the Chancellor's Office and Vice Chancellor's Office on university event planning (graduation, awards ceremonies, academic calendar, etc.), collaborate with OED to provide education related to religious discrimination claims and religious holiday absence policies

2019: Consultant for the UT Jones Center for Leadership and Service. Erin Darby Discussed scheduling accommodations for religious holidays, food restrictions, accommodations for religious observances during leadership retreats, training, and volunteers service weeks, and student leadership training in religious diversity

2019: Consultant for the UT Academic Success and Transition Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Erin Darby. Discussed issues related to religious diversity in the public workplace and in student engagement and helped plan and execute a roundtable conversation on this topic

2019: "Exploring Religious Diversity at UT," Erin Darby and Tina Shepardson. Professional development designed for UT event planners 

2019: "Exploring Religious Diversity at UT." Erin Darby, and Tina Shepardson. Professional Development designed for University communications, marketing, and academic calendar at the University of Tennessee Knoxville

2019: Host, Anti-Defamation League Workshop on Preventing and Responding to Hate on Campus. Helene Sinnreich. Judaic Studies and Diversity and Engagement

7. Select Service to the University

Judaic Studies faculty serve on a large number of university committees. The following are examples of committee service that is particularly relevant to preventing antisemitism and supporting the Jewish community on campus

2020-present: Program representation for Center for Global Engagement Campus Partners, University of Tennessee

2018-present: Program representation on the Chancellor's Council for Diversity and Inclusion, University of Tennessee

2018-2021: UT Hillel, Faculty Advisor, Helene Sinnreich, attend Hillel events, attend advising meetings with Hillel student board and director, serve as a resource for students. During the 2018-2019 school year this included handling multiple facets of addressing an anti-Semitic incident on campus

2016-present: Program representation on the Middle East Studies Interdisciplinary Program Advisory Board

8. Select Service to the Discipline

In addition to their other service to professional societies, the following are examples of faculty professional service assignments focused on countering antisemitism and improving education about Judaism and the Jewish community

2021: Directors of Jewish Studies special DEI meeting, Association of Jewish Studies Directors of Jewish Studies, Helene Sinnreich, co-organizer, Discussion of JS/DEI on campus efforts

2020-present: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, Chair. Erin Darby. American Society of Overseas Research

2020-present: Directors of Jewish Studies of the Association of Jewish Studies, Helene Sinnreich

2016-present: Professional organization for directors of Jewish Studies, Helene Sinnreich

9. Select Service to the Community

The following are examples of faculty service to the larger East Tennessee Jewish community and community partnerships

2021: Young Jewish Adults of Knoxville, Knoxville Jewish Alliance, Helene Sinnreich, Facilitator/Mentor

2020-2021: Presenter and planning committee, Tik-ZOOM Leil Shavuot. Erin Darby. Heska Amuna Synagogue, Knoxville TN, Congregation Beth El, Greenville, SC, Temple Emmanuel, Virginia Beach, VA, Congregation B'nai Israel, Danbury CT, Oregon Hillel Foundation, Eugene OR, Beit Rayim Synagogue and School, Vaughan, Ontario, Congregation Agudath Achim, Savannah, GA

2020-2021: Creation of "Socially Distanced Community Garden," Helene Sinnreich, Share the Dream/UT Hunger Initiative, Head

2019: Archaeology Day at the Knoxville Jewish Day School, Erin Darby 

2018-2022: Knoxville Jewish Alliance, Helene Sinnreich, Board Member, Hillel Representative, KJA Hillel/University student Committee, Vice President of Community Engagement, Programming Committee Chair, Communications Committee Chair, Long Range Planning Committee Member

2018-2020: Share the Dream Committee, Jewish Knoxville, Helene Sinnreich, Member, Adult Education Committee chair

Organization to create more interaction between Jewish organizations in Knoxville

2017: "Oldest, Biggest, Greatest: Sorting Archaeological Fact from Fiction." Erin Darby. Educational Conference, Heska Amuna Synagogue, Knoxville TN

2013-2019: Partnership for the Academic Study of Early Judaism. Erin Darby. Annual Seminar Series in Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East, Department of Religious Studies, Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies, Knoxville Jewish Allianc

10. Journals

While all faculty serve as editors and reviewers for journals in their field of study, the following are journals led exclusively by Program faculty

2021-2026: Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Helene Sinnreich and Daniel Magilow, co-editors in Chief of the academic journal of the

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

2008-2021: Journal of Jewish Identities

Helene Sinnreich, Editor in Chief and Founding Editor of the Journal of Jewish Identities which is a blind, peer reviewed journal published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.