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Center for Judaic Studies

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Center for Judaic Studies

Advancing knowledge of Jewish history, thought and culture through learning, intercultural dialogue, and social action.

The Center for Judaic Studies (CJS) is a vibrant source of in-depth Jewish learning on campus and across Colorado.

Our faculty are research and teaching experts in a wide range of interdisciplinary areas of Judaic Studies. Their work is internationally recognized, and they offer an impressive annual lineup of undergraduate and graduate courses in fields of Jewish history, religion, language, literature, philosophy, film, and culture.

In addition to being home to our own faculty experts, CJS hosts annual visiting scholars, performing artists, authors, poets and filmmakers from around the world.

We offer a minor in Judaic studies, and a number of joint MA and PhD degrees with programs across campus. We are home to the Holocaust Awareness Institute, the Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site and The Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society. We also serve the broader community through many annual events and co-sponsored activities across Colorado. 


Click on the text to read more about CJS events and happenings!

NYU Press publishes CJS faculty Adam Rovner's In the Shadow of Zion: Promised Lands before Israel.

IN THE SHADOW OF ZION brings to life the amazing true stories of six exotic visions of a Jewish national home outside the biblical land of Israel. Israel’s successful establishment has long obscured the fact that eminent Jewish figures, including Zionism’s prophet, Theodor Herzl, seriously considered settling enclaves beyond the Middle East. Christians and Jews, authors and adventurers, politicians and playwrights, and rabbis and revolutionaries all worked to carve out autonomous Jewish territories across the globe in remote and often hostile locations, including Angola, Kenya, Madagascar, Suriname and Tasmania. The would-be founding fathers of these imaginary Zions dispatched scientific expeditions to these far-flung regions and filed reports on the dream states they planned to create. But only Israel emerged from dream to reality.
IN THE SHADOW OF ZION explores this remarkable shadow history of Jewish nationalism, making this an important book for understanding the trajectory of Zionism and the contemporary Middle East. A gripping narrative drawn from the author's own travels and from his meticulous research in archives the world over, IN THE SHADOW OF ZION recovers the mostly forgotten stories of these promised lands and of the fascinating figures who championed them. These individuals included the man credited with reviving Hebrew as a spoken language, a lovelorn Christian adventurer, two famed African explorers, a Yiddish-speaking member of Lenin's first Soviet cabinet, and a cast of author-activists hailing from America, England, and Germany.
Provocative, thoroughly researched, and written to appeal to a broad audience, IN THE SHADOW OF ZION offers a timely perspective on Jewish power and powerlessness.

Purchase a copy

Early Reviews of IN THE SHADOW OF ZION

“In this path-breaking study Adam Rovner takes us on a riveting journey through a boundless fantasy. Masterfully written, this little known chapter in modern Jewish history is also painfully thought provoking, for had there been a viable Jewish homeland anywhere on earth prior to the Second World War, the Holocaust may not have happened.” —Tom Segev, author of One Palestine, Complete

“Equipped with verve and an eye for the absurd detail, Adam Rovner set out across continents and into archives to recover the story of a time when desperation, imagination, and a sheer unwillingness to surrender to reality led some Jews to consider alternate Zions in unlikely corners of the globe. The result is a colorful and offbeat contribution to our understanding of modern Jewish history and of the fevered milieu out of which the state of Israel was born.” —Matti Friedman, author of The Aleppo Codex, Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature

“Through his travel and his scholarship, Adam Rovner recovers the search for a Jewish homeland in upstate New York, in Great Britain’s East African Protectorate (now Kenya), in Angola, on the island of Madagascar and on portions of Australia, and in Dutch Guiana (now Suriname). A fascinating physical and intellectual geography before the establishment of Israel.” —Susan Gubar, author of Poetry After Auschwitz, Indiana University

“From an island in the Niagara River to the depths of Africa, In the Shadow of Zion shows that the contemporary state of Israel was just one of many modern attempts to solve the ‘Jewish problem’ through land. This compelling and beautifully written book reveals a history of alternative Zions rendered invisible today by national and imperial ambitions that conspired against them. A masterpiece about the true origins of Zionism and the ‘paths not taken,’ this volume is a must read for anyone interested in global Jewish history or in the history of Israel." —David Shneer, author of Through Soviet Jewish Eyes, University of Colorado-Boulder

Dr. Adam Rovner is Associate Professor of English and Jewish Literature at the University of Denver. His articles, essays, translations and interviews have appeared in numerous scholarly journals and general interest publications. Rovner's short documentary on Jewish territorialism, No Land Without Heaven, has been screened at exhibitions in New York, Paris, and Tel Aviv.

Ben Franklin's World
Jeanne Abrams, CJS Faculty & Director of the Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society and Beck Archives, interviewed on Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History

Jeanne Abrams joined Ben Franklin’s World host Liz Covart to discuss the world of 18th-century medicine and her recent book, Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health.

What you’ll discover in this podcast:

  • What Americans living in the 18th century understood about disease and how to prevent it
  • What the most common diseases in 18th-century America were and information about them
  • What inoculation is and the controversy that surrounded it
  • How 18th-century doctors treated disease
  • Information about the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia
  • Details about the death of George Washington
  • Why 18th-century doctors like Benjamin Rush believed bleeding was an effective treatment for illness

Download & listen to the episode
Learn about the Ben Franklin’s World podcast
Purchase Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health Here

Paula Berger 2014 Menorah painting
Support the Holocaust Awareness Institute at the University of Denver’s Center for Judaic Studies.

Show your commitment to Holocaust education and programming with a special Chanukah gift to HAI . Keep an eye out for this year’s annual Chanukah card mailer, featuring a beautiful new card designed by local artist and Holocaust survivor, Paula Burger.

Not sure you are on our current Chanukah card list and interested in being part of this project next year? Click Here

National Association for Professors of Hebrew logo
CJS Joins Stanford, NYU, and others in National Association for Professors of Hebrew

The National Association for Professors of Hebrew (NAPH) is the professional organization of professors and instructors in colleges, universities and seminaries who specialize in Hebrew language and literature of the ancient, medieval, and modern periods. CJS recently joined the NAPH and is honored to be part of the organization and benefit from the networking and resources the NAPH has to offer.

CJS Professor and Director of the Hebrew Program at DU, Sari Havis, will be representing CJS at the Annual conference this year. Professor Havis notes, "By joining the organization, the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Denver has not only joined a long list of top-ranked academic institutes supporting Jewish and Hebrew studies world-wide, but it has also created a new platform for the kind of intellectual exchanges and events that are so central to CJS." Learn more about the NAPH.

Tommy Tyson Headshot

CJS Minor, Tommy Tyson, Participates in World Languages Poetry Event

"The Hebrew poetry project was part of a cultural event put on by the Center for World Languages. The event has been a tradition for three years now, and it is meant to promote intercultural appreciation through reading various works by poets of different nationalities. I attended the event last quarter and was very impressed. I was inspired to reach out to Professor Havis so that Hebrew could be represented. We decided to share a short poem written by Israel Eliraz about appreciation for nature called "I Went Out to a Field, I Found a Field." I love this poem's clean, concise framework, along with its simple message that reflects the sensible and coherent structure of the language itself. It was a wonderful experience to be able to share a fragment of Israeli culture at the event.

I first came to the University with the intent to learn a third language, and as a student of history I was interested in learning one of the world's oldest spoken languages. I decided to give Hebrew a try, and after my first quarter with Professor Havis I was inspired to pursue a Judaic Studies minor and master the Hebrew language.

Pursuing a Judaic Studies minor has affected my educational and personal goals because it has motivated me to study more languages and expand my abilities to communicate. I have also learned an incredible amount about Israel and its culture. I now have a strong desire to travel to Israel and would highly recommend this course of study to other students."

-Tommy Tyson, History major and Judaic Studies minor

Shannon Reimers headshot
History Major, Shannon Reimers, describes her experience studying US-Israeli relations with CJS and History Faculty member, Professor Jonathan Sciarcon

My work on US-Israeli relations and media perception is an extension of my history thesis, and has focused on understanding how the George HW Bush Administration was able to organize the Madrid Conference during 1991. In my original research I had concluded that the conditions created by the Persian Gulf War, mainly the increased international legitimacy for the US, allowed the administration to pressure Arab and Israeli leaders to come together for the conference. Now my research has focused on examining opinion articles to understand how the American public perceived the Bush Administration's efforts to organize the conference. Because of the special US-Israeli relationship, I believed it was important to understand how the public felt about the administration's efforts to organize the Madrid Conference. The articles I have examined suggest the American public was very supportive of the Madrid Conference and wanted the Arab states and Israel to participate in regional talks. I was drawn to this topic because the Madrid Conference was the first time where Israel and its Arab neighbors had a peace conference and I wanted to better understand the conditions that allowed for it to happen. After studying the region and living in Jordan I would say that I already had a strong grasp on the complexities of the Middle East. This project has certainly reinforced that there are no guarantees in the Middle East. Even with a very committed presidential administration and a supportive American public, Middle East peace needs to come from the Middle Eastern leaders themselves.
Studying US-Israeli relations has been a highlight of my experience at DU. I've taken many classes focusing on the Middle Eastern history and relations, and last year I was able to study abroad in Jordan, and travel to Israel and Palestine. I was lucky to find such a strong interest in a region so early in my undergraduate experience. I have been able to expand my knowledge of the Middle East, culminating with my thesis. I have loved this research topic, and it has spurred a greater interest in diplomatic history, which I hope to study more in the future. At this point I am not sure where my feet will land after graduation, but I don't think I could stay away from Middle East for long.
-Shannon Reimers, History Major, 2014


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Philosophy Abrahamic Traditions

Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions Conference, July 10-12, 2013