By: Sruli Fruchter | News  | 

Stern’s Jewish Studies Anticipating Major Changes

After over 30 years of running SCW’s Jewish Studies Department, Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel has stepped down. Dr. Deena Rabinovich, professor of Jewish Education at SCW, was appointed to fill his position. 

Rabbi Kanarfogel is the founding director of the Rebecca Ivry Department of Jewish Studies at Stern College and currently serves as the department’s chair. In a statement to The Commentator about his departure, Rabbi Kanarfogel explained, “Dean Bacon and I had begun a while back to discuss the possibility of my stepping away from the administrative side of things in order to allow me to expend my fullest efforts on the other weighty and demanding aspects of what I am privileged to do.”

According to the SCW website, “The Jewish Studies requirement on campus consists of six semesters of Core studies and fourteen additional credits in a medley of Bible, Hebrew, Jewish History, Jewish Philosophy and Judaic Studies courses.” Students take three Jewish Studies courses per semester which are then averaged as one grade on the transcript. 

While Dr. Rabinovich formally assumed the role of Chair of the Rebecca Ivry Department of Jewish Studies at the beginning of the semester, she has been working on other elements of the program throughout the summer. As the new chair, Dr. Rabinovich said, “At some point soon, there will be a change to ‘core’ — the system which organizes most of the Jewish studies requirements at Stern — and that will necessitate some major changes. What changes will be made will be something I will be working on this year together with the administration and faculty.” Dr. Rabinovich confirmed that Hebrew courses will no longer fulfill Core requirements.

According to Dr. Rabinovich, Stern students can expect a smooth transition that accommodates their varying skill and learning levels. She remarked that she is “looking to develop a scope and sequence for the classes,” explaining that she is “working with the faculty to help articulate the different levels so that it will help streamline the movement from one level to the other. The levels have existed, but by defining what content and skills are necessary components for each level it will help students as they transition from one to the next.”

Additionally, SCW has created a new position of Associate Dean of Torah & Spiritual Life in order to unify the various departments that attend to the Jewish element of Stern; a more detailed description can be found on the career page of Yeshiva University. According to Dr. Rabinovich, the dean would make programming “more cohesive” between the Jewish Studies department, Graduate Programming in Advanced Talmudic Studies, Director of Spiritual Guidance and the campus’ Rabbinic Couple. The search committee for filling this position is still in the process of interviewing candidates, but Dr. Rabinovich said she is looking forward to “collaborating with the new dean to help strengthen the Beren campus in terms of its Torah study.”