Jewish Studies in Iran

jewish studies, qom

More from Larry Cohler-Esses’ trip to Iran: this article, which you can find here in the Forward, is about Jewish Studies at the University of Religions and Denominations in Qom. The approach to Jewish Studies at Qom is textual, focused as it is on rabbinic law, medieval philosophy, and mysticism.

I’m of two minds on this one.

On the one hand, I’m reading this story in relation to ongoing claims and concerns by colleagues here in the United States that Jewish Studies as an academic discipline is “too Jewish.” One could imagine that Jewish Studies in Iran will look like something else entirely, something out of the blue, like a geometric glazed brick Persian tile-work. It would be interesting to imagine and interesting to see what they “figure” out there.

On the other hand, it’s too early to get excited. The program appears middling at best. With a largely apologetic and religious approach, the research foci look a little like the ones pursued at the AJS circa 1975. Is it the case here that the more things change, the more they stay the same? I liked especially the nod to Martin Buber and H.A. Wolfson.

Either way, this is an interesting story and a welcome alternative to the Iran Deal drumbeat. I can’t think of a single colleague who would not have given an arm and a leg to sit at the table in the photograph above.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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One Response to Jewish Studies in Iran

  1. efmooney says:

    Imagine my surprise when the major Tehran Daily newspaper that serves an urban population of about 8 million asked to interview me 2 years ago about Soren Kierkegaard. There is an English Languish edition as well as the expected Farsi edition. When my rather extensive interview was published, out of curiosity I leafed through the paper, and apart from the tilt of the headlines toward Iran’s interests, there was little to distinguish it from a state-side urban paper in its coverage of a variety of topics — sports, fashion, culture, etc. I also was surprised to get an email from a prospective Iranian grad student a few years ago interested in Syracuse because of my interests. I read her dossier and found she had written papers in English not only on Moby Dick and The Red Badge of Courage but also was the captain of her girl’s basketball team. We tend to get extreme and polarized images of places like Israel and Iran. We should be happy that the university you report on is running a Jewish Studies Program at all; just as we should be happy that the Hebrew University has well-attended classes in Medieval Muslim culture.

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