Israel Studies on U.S. Campuses Grow

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation announces the release of Searching for the Study of Israel: A Report on the Teaching of Israel on U.S. College Campuses 2008-09, prepared by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

An update of a 2006 report, Searching for the Study of Israel examines the scope of academic courses being taught about Israel on more than 300 leading American college and university campuses and finds that the state of education about Israel has improved since the original study. A comparison of the 246 institutions included in both studies shows a 69% growth in courses that focus specifically on Israel over the three-year period.

“Our Foundation has been deeply invested in expanding opportunities to learn about Israel in academic environments that invite thoughtful discussion free from bias and intimidation,” said Lynn Schusterman, chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. “I am gratified to see a growing commitment to the study of Israel, in all its richness and complexity, taking root in classrooms across the U.S.”

Other key findings from Searching for the Study of Israel include:

  • Of the top 20 national universities in U.S. News and World Report rankings in 2008-09, all but one offered courses focused on Israel, while 12 – more than half – offered four courses or more. This compares favorably to 2006 when five offered no courses focused on Israel and only three offered four courses or more.
  • Of the 316 schools in the 2008-09 directory, 90% offered at least one course that dealt in part with Israel, and almost half offered four or more courses.
  • A total of almost 1,400 courses with Israel content were offered by the 316 schools with 572 of those courses specifically focused on Israel.

The study also found that courses about Israel were offered by a variety of departments, with the majority coming from history and political science departments, not from Jewish or Middle East studies. Moreover, most courses went well beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict, suggesting a normalization of Israel as a subject within established disciplines.

“What I find most exciting about the study is the dramatic growth in courses specifically focused on Israel and the broad scope of so many courses,” says Dr. Annette Koren, the study’s lead researcher and a research scientist at Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. “Education is the core mission of the university, and in that arena, we see an impressive increase in the study of Israel – as a culture, as a society, as a government, as something more than a party to a conflict.”