The Harris Center for Judaic Studies wants to thank Jean Cahan for more than two decades of service as director and chair. She is now stepping away from that role in order to focus on her writing and teaching. We welcome Ari Kohen as he takes on the position of director.
Jean Cahan—Director, 1998-2020
Cahan is proud of the accomplishments that the Harris Center has made over these past two decades and describes how “we started from nothing and built a program that is well-balanced.”
The program focuses on Jewish history and culture from ancient to modern times. The faculty have international research standing, and the center has a great network both within the College of Arts and Sciences and beyond the university, having brought many distinguished scholars to lecture at Nebraska. There have been measures to encourage and increase student interest, including the revival of the UNL chapter of the student organization, Hillel, in 2002 and establishment of a chapter of the fraternity, Sigma Alpha Mu, at Nebraska. Last year, the Jewish studies program established a successful study-abroad program for undergraduate students to travel to Israel.
Cahan will continue to be a fellow at the Harris Center as well as a senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy. This fall, Cahan will be continuing to teach European philosophy while she also focuses on writing two books that she says have been on the back burner for too long. This academic year Cahan will also be giving two public lectures on the philosophy of Spinoza and contemporary issues.
“I would like to thank the university, the many senior administrators, students, and of course the faculty colleagues I have worked with, for their strong support and interest over the years,” Cahan said, “and I hope that the Jewish studies program on campus will always remain a vibrant and integral part of the university.”
“Jean Cahan has done so much to pave the way,” Kohen said, “ensuring the success of the Harris Center for Judaic Studies by helping to recruit faculty members to our campus, by encouraging donors to support the mission of the center and the university, by working with students, and by planning engaging programs each and every year.
“With her example to guide me, I am confident about all that I hope to accomplish in the coming years as the director of the Harris Center.”
Kohen is excited to continue the Harris Center’s history of lectures, symposia, and strong relationships with the departments at UNL and to work closely with the students in the Jewish studies minor and the university’s Hillel organization. He would like to see the Jewish studies minor grow in the coming years by ensuring that undergraduates are aware of the courses it offers and by gaining recognition for the research of the faculty.
“We have some world-class scholars who are affiliated with our program,” he said, “and I want to celebrate the attention they bring to Nebraska with every publication.”
Kohen also thinks that it is very important for the Harris Center to become “a hub of Jewish life and Jewish culture in Nebraska”, and he will be working with Jewish communities in Omaha and Lincoln to build networks and partner with them for events. He added that it is also important to find ways to make Judaism more visible on the UNL campus.
The Harris Center and Jewish studies minor
The Harris Center for Judaic Studies was founded in 1991 as a way to educate the Lincoln and larger Nebraska community about Jewish history and culture and the effects of antisemitism. The Harris Center is an interdisciplinary center for exploration into areas including Jewish philosophy and diversity, politics of the Middle East, and the Holocaust.
The Harris Center offers a minor in Jewish studies. The minor is interdisciplinary and offers courses through departments such as philosophy, history, political science, modern languages and literatures, and classics and religious studies. The minor is for anyone interested in the Jewish people, past or present. Learn more about the Harris Center.