History

Jewish Studies received formal recognition as part of the Emory curriculum in 1976, with the inauguration of the Jay and Leslie Cohen Chair in Judaic Studies, established by the university with the assistance of the Atlanta Jewish Welfare Federation (now the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta). Since its inception, the chair has been occupied by Prof. David R. Blumenthal, a specialist in Jewish thought and theology. Around the same time, the growth of the program was augmented by the arrival of Prof. Kenneth W. Stein, an expert on the history of Israel and the Middle East, and Prof. Oded Borowski, a Biblical archaeologist who helped lay the basis for Emory’s Hebrew language program.

Paralleling the impressive growth of Emory and its research profile during the last quarter of the twentieth century, Jewish Studies at Emory also grew with the addition of faculty members in history, literature, anthropology, and Holocaust studies, including the appointment of Prof. Deborah E. Lipstadt as the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies in 1992. In 1999 the Institute for Jewish Studies was created as an interdisciplinary program bringing together faculty from these various disciplines to explore Jewish life and culture. The following year, a generous endowment from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation allowed for the naming of the Institute after Rabbi Donald A. Tam, rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell, Georgia.  Today, TIJS is a leading center for research and teaching in Jewish Studies in the Southeastern US.

In 2011, the family of Judith London Evans (C’69) honored her and her affection for Emory by endowing the Judith London Evans Directorship in Jewish Studies. Under the direction of the TIJS director, income from the fund provides for faculty research and travel; student research, travel, and language study; support for publishing efforts of faculty; and funding for special events and projects.

In fall 2016, the Institute celebrated 40 years of Jewish Studies at Emory with the “Community of Scholars Showcase,” an afternoon of learning from TIJS faculty followed by a festive dinner (link to report with photos). The anniversary year culminated with the scholarly conference “Looking Outward: Reframing Jewish Studies,” designed to both assess the current state of Jewish Studies and propose some bold new directions for future work (link to conference website).