A small but growing English-language Jewish studies program here is attracting students, Jews and non-Jews alike, from around Europe and places as remote as Mongolia.
Although most are drawn to the graduate program at Central European University because of its international focus and emphasis on modern Jewish history, says faculty member Michael Miller, others are clearly attracted by the opportunity to explore their newly discovered Jewish roots in a new environment.
“We get a number of students from other parts of Eastern Europe, like Poland, who’ve suddenly found out they’re Jewish, but don’t feel comfortable outing themselves back in their home country,” said Miller, an American-born and educated professor who has been teaching in the program since 2001. “It’s easier for them to do it here.”
Central European University was established in 1991 after the fall of Communism by the Hungarian-born Jewish financier George Soros with the declared aim of facilitating the transition to democracy in Eastern Europe. The Jewish studies program, which is not a separate department but a specialization within the both the history and nationalism studies department, was created in 1996 and chiefly targets students studying for their master’s degree, although it has a handful studying toward their doctorates as well.
“Jewish studies programs elsewhere in Europe tend to focus on ancient Judaism and on the Jewish history in that particular country,” said Miller.
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