UConn professor brings insight to contemporary Jewish life


Professor Jeffrey Shoulson, Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at UConn, talked over lunch Wednesday afternoon with an attentive handful of honors students about several aspects of contemporary Jewish life, both in general and at UConn. Shoulson, a professor in the department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages as well as the department of English, came to UConn two-and-a-half years ago from the University of Miami, and saw an “opportunity to do something new and build on some new momentum” with the Judaic Studies program.

With an endowment from developer Simon Konover and an investment from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Judaic Studies program began to grow as new faculty were hired. The program currently offers a minor in Judaic Studies and is in the process of having a major approved, as faculty members with different specialties continue to devise courses.

Shoulson praised the strength among his colleagues’ expertise with different time periods, pointing out his own specialty in the influence of Judaism and rabbinic literature on 17th-century English culture. He emphasized the fascination that different religions have long had with each other, stating that it is impossible to consider any religion in isolation.

“Judaism is what it is because…it developed within a large array of religious and cultural traditions,” Shoulson said. “They don’t exist in vacuums.” In response to students’ questions, Shoulson spent several minutes connecting contemporary issues faced by the American Jewish community to issues facing the State of Israel. “Nothing is simple when it comes to Israel,” Shoulson said.