Jewish studies programs at American universities are increasingly appealing to gentiles, including active Christians, reports the New York Times (Nov. 3). The more than 100 colleges and universities offering Jewish studies include such Catholic institutions as Fordham and Scranton, the Quaker-based Earlham College in Indiana, and public ones like the University of Kentucky and Portland State in Oregon that are far from any sizable Jewish community.
At City College in New York, some 95 percent of the 250 students majoring and minoring in Jewish studies are not Jewish. Jewish studies was originally started to make Jewish students conscious of their own heritage and to demonstrate that it was a legitimate field of inquiry in the secular academy.
The “third wave” increasingly flocking to these courses are non-Jewish students interested in Jewry and Judaism for a host of reasons. “The kids see Jews as a successful immigrant group and are interested in what happened,” says a professor at City College. Ardent Christians come to these classes seeking the Jewish roots to their faith. Others are curious because of the stereotypes and anti-Jewish sentiment they have witnessed.