Submitted by The Evergreen State College
Once again, The Evergreen State College (Evergreen) faculty are pushing the envelope and encouraging discourse through hands-on experiential learning. This past fall, Evergreen professor Dr. Nancy Koppelman and her class started talking about antisemitism in the wake of a recent rise in antisemitic sentiment, particularly in the United States. Dr. Koppelman’s course, Antisemitism Revisited, is funded by a recent grant to the College that is working to fill gaps in students’ education and knowledge through hands-on courses.
Dr. Koppelman recently received another grant for the college from The Antisemitism Education Initiative, funded by the Academic Education Network. The initiative was created to address rising antisemitism across the U.S. In a statement, AEN announced that the grant, “aims to go to the heart of the problem by educating our nation’s next generation of leaders about the multifaceted nature of contemporary antisemitism, while also fostering a more positive campus climate for the current Jewish community.” The grant was also awarded to City University of New York, University of Minnesota, and Yale University in Connecticut.
The class met four times over the Fall Quarter, between September and December, and discussed different topics in each class. Topics ranged from the history of antisemitism and Judaism to current events and the rise of antisemitism around the world.
Dr. Koppelman encouraged students to examine their biases and their own interactions with antisemitism. Students were asked to reflect on their own experiences and think critically about the ways in which antisemitism has intersected with their own lives.
In November, with support from the AEN grant, the class took a trip to Seattle, visiting the Holocaust Center for Humanity and the Anne Frank Tree in Seattle Center. Students were able to engage and interact with Holocaust memorials and witness the consequences of antisemitism.
According to the AEN statement, the grant was “designed to be tailored to the specific culture and needs of each of the campuses, programmatic components of the initiative’s include the establishment of campus-wide symposia on antisemitism, the advancement of professional development opportunities for administrators, the creation of academic coursework on antisemitism and Israel and the development of faculty-administrator alliances.”
One standout moment from the course was that all students in the class, half of whom were Jewish, had experienced or witnessed some form of antisemitism prior to taking the course, most of them in a school setting. Students expressed immense gratitude for the course offering, and were respectful and curious during discussions, as they worked with each other to understand and learn together.
When asked, Dr. Koppelman said that she very much hoped to teach the course in the future; the College plans to offer the course again for the Spring 2023 quarter. This Summer, Dr. Koppelman will be offering a course on understanding the complex history and events of Israel.
AEN quoted Dr. Koppelman in their release, expressing her gratitude for the grant and the impact it will have on the campus climate at Evergreen as well as colleges across the nation. “Thanks to AEN, Evergreen can integrate education about the history of the Jewish people and about antisemitism into its social justice commitments. There are so many misperceptions about what it means to be Jewish. Jews are often excluded from minoritized identities that college campuses explicitly recognize. Education about the facts can change that, and so improve campus life for Jewish students and so for all students.”
Evergreen has been awarded the grant for the next three years and will use it to support a variety of activities in line with the grant’s approach. Dr. Koppelman’s efforts to create space for these conversations will be the first of hopefully many where students can learn and engage with this content in an immersive way. Activities related to the grant, such as courses and events like film screenings or speakers, will be open to all students. Students are invited to register for courses and attend events regardless of their current knowledge or education on the topics. Dr. Koppelman shared, “Everyone who gets involved is invited to speak up, no matter their background on these topics. All questions and the curiosity behind them are always welcome.”