The University of Haifa is well known for its academic excellence in a wide variety of fields, including the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies, Holocaust Research, Peace and Conflict Management Studies and researching the mysteries of the deep sea. All of these are Masters degree programs that integrate knowledge from many fields according to the interdisciplinary outlook that characterizes the University.
The University of Haifa is also renowned for its multicultural and pluralistic student body: Israelis alongside Americans, Europeans, and students from Africa and Asia. Among the Israeli students one can find Jews, Moslems, Christians and Druze, religious and secular students, sabras and both new and veteran immigrants. The programs also reflect the Universitys deep social commitment to Israeli society and the understanding that academia does not necessarily have to be an ivory tower, but rather a lighthouse guiding us towards principles of morality and justice.
Our primary and central goal is to create excellent research for the benefit of all of humanity and our childrens future. But I believe academia has two roles: how to live right – that is, increasing human knowledge in and of itself – but also why to live – creating meaning and interest in life. We here at the University of Haifa are accomplishing this in a number of unique and fascinating programs, says University President Amos Shapira.
MA in Holocaust Studies
At the beautiful student dorms, we meet Simon Goldberg, a student in the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies, the only masters degree level program in Israel in the study of the Holocaust that, like all the international programs at the University of Haifa, is taught in English. Simon was born in London, grew up in Jerusalem and afterwards moved to New York. Now he is in Israel again, for good, he says. While studying at Yeshiva University he founded the Student Holocaust Education Movement (SHEM), a student group that aims at strengthening the memory of the Holocaust. As part of this activity he assisted schools in Hong Kong to develop programs of study about the Holocaust. The minute I spotted the ads about the new program at the University of Haifa about the study of the Holocaust it was clear that I would be signing up. I was of course impressed by its academic uniqueness – this is the only program in the world that cooperates with Yad Vashem and the Ghetto Fighters Museum, but I was also impressed by its international outlook and that they were trying to build an international student base. Exchanging knowledge and ideas with people from completely different cultures – thats something that grabbed me immediately, he said.
The Holocaust studies program excels both in its academic uniqueness and in its student make-up. In addition to the cooperative activities with Yad Vashem and the Ghetto Fighters Museum, the program has cooperative agreements with various international academic institutions, especially in Eastern Europe. The program is of great importance, both for Israeli society and on the international level. It is important to continue to research and teach and all the time create new knowledge tied to the Holocaust and World War Two. The opening of the archives in Eastern European countries gives us an extraordinary opportunity to be at the frontlines of the worlds research in this area and I am proud that our program continues to train a new and young generation of Holocaust researchers – in Israel and all over the world, explains Prof. Arieh Kochavi, head of the program.
15 programs in English
We continue to walk through the dorms. The place is teeming with students of every sector of the population and there are also quite a few soldiers in uniform. The University of Haifa has the largest number of students in Israel who are in the security forces, and the University sees itself as a home to the security forces, where the students of the Israel National Defense College have been studying for their Masters degrees for over 25 years. The younger soldiers, still in compulsory service, live in the dorms. In addition to Hebrew and Arabic, one can hear many foreign languages – English, of course, but also Chinese and Japanese and even Indonesian, alongside German, Dutch and others.
Four years ago we decided to fortify our international studies, as part of the outlook wherein an excellent research university must also attract excellent students from abroad. In the past few years, we opened over 15 international programs in English and we signed dozens of cooperative agreements with universities from around the world, says University Rector David Faraggi. Beyond the high academic level, we have something that nobody else has anywhere in the world. The population make-up and the fact that the students come from different countries and integrate with the students from Israel create a unique atmosphere, he says.
American Jewish Studies
Over the last couple of years, the University of Haifa has built a bridge between Israel and American Jewry via two one-of-a-kind programs in Israel: one is the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies, a program supported by philanthropist Jay Ruderman, and the second – Israel Studies and the Jewish Diaspora. In the first program, Israeli students learn about the Jews of the U.S., and the second program is the opposite – students from abroad, mainly from the U.S., learn about Israel. Given the fact that these are basically twin programs, some of the courses are taught jointly.
Over the last few years, the gap has been widening between Israel and large parts of U.S. Jewry, mainly among the younger generations, since we here in Israel have a stereotype about U.S. Jewry that no longer exists in reality. Todays generation of American Jews no longer stands to attention every time someone says kibbutz or existential danger, but since Israelis never really tried to get to know the Jews of the U.S., we still think in terms of previous generations, says Prof. Gur Alroey, Head of the University of Haifas School of History, who initiated and heads both programs.
The American Jewish Studies programs was successful in its first year and now, even before the registration for the second class has been publicized, there are already dozens of applications from interested students. The students in the program study general courses about U.S. history and the history of Jews immigrating to the U.S., as well as courses about the forming of the identity of U.S. Jews, courses about Jewish religious streams in the U.S., etc.
An Israel Studies program intended for those who want to get to know life in Israel, in all its complexities, difficulties and opportunities, also opened this year. There is a growing interest throughout the world, mainly in North America, in programs of study about Israel, and the University of Haifa has joined this trend. The Masters degree program offers deep research on Israel, starting with the roots of Zionism, through the immigrations at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century and up to the present day. Emphasis is placed on the complexity of Israeli society, including its multiculturalism and ties with the Diaspora.
You might be able to study Israel in many places around the world, but nothing compares to studying about Israel while actually in Israel and observing first-hand its complexities and uniqueness. We are the only institution in Israel that lives and breathes the complexities of life in Israel on a daily basis, with all of its challenges and, most importantly, its enormous advantages. This is the place where one can observe and take part in creating academic excellence in a multicultural environment while accepting the other, summarizes President Shapira.
For more information about the University of Haifa, go to www.haifa.ac.il.
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