"Celebrating 50 Years of Jewish Studies at Cornell: Highlights of RMC's Judaica & Hebraica" is an exhibition currently installed in the Michael T. Sillerman 1968 Rotunda at the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (2B Kroch Library). Running until August 2023, the exhibition is open to visitors from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.
The Carl A. Kroch Library is located on the Cornell University campus (campus map).
Access is through Olin Library. Also see information for visitors.
The curators of exhibition are Rachel Cilia Werdmölder, PhD Student in Near Eastern Studies, and Jason Sion Mokhtarian, Herbert and Stephanie Neuman Chair in Hebrew and Jewish Literature, with assistance from Patrick J. Stevens, bibliographer for Jewish Studies and acting director, Rare and Manuscript Collections.
In 1969, during an effort to establish a program in Jewish Studies at Cornell University, Professor Milton Konvitz described the possibility as “an overdue recognition of a legitimate and highly significant subject of study that is bound to strengthen our humanities curriculum.” Exactly a century prior, there are indications that Hebrew was being taught at Cornell. Interest in Hebrew language and Semitic studies in general fluctuated for one hundred years, with 1957 marking the inauguration of Isaac Rabinowitz as a professor of Biblical and Hebrew Studies in the Classics Department.
Initially a major within the Department of Near Eastern Studies, momentum from the 1960s onward assured the evolution of the Jewish Studies Program into an interdisciplinary and independent entity that nonetheless “recognize[d] its special relationship to teaching and research in classical Judaica and Hebraica pursued by … the Department of Near Eastern Studies,” in the words of the Cornell course catalogue for 1977.
The present exhibition honors the program’s deep roots in Judaica and Hebraica through a display of antiquarian and distinctive works from the vault of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections as well as through documentation of the efforts to establish the Jewish Studies Program. This academic program, which in 2023 is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, is dedicated to study of the Jewish experience in history and culture from earliest origins to latest interactions with the world at large; from far-flung communities of the diaspora to renewal in the land of Israel and its capital, the ancient city of Jerusalem.
Jewish Life at Cornell, 1865-2005, by Elaine D. Engst (Cornell University Library, 2006), has served as a source for several quotes and facts in this description.