A peek into Martin Shichtman’s lifelong career as the director and founder of Jewish Studies

Director of Jewish Studies and English Language and Literature professor, Martin Shichtman, is retiring from Eastern Michigan University after nearly four decades of inspiring students to learn more about Judaism and its history. To celebrate him and all his work, there will be a celebration at the Student Center Ballroom at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24. 

After 38 years serving at Eastern Michigan University, Shichtman is going to miss the university very much and knows that it’s not going to be easy to walk away from doing what he loves, inspiring “bright young people,” and passionately talking about literature.

Shichtman believes that the work he started at EMU will never be finished and that there is always more to do when it comes to his passion and doing what he loves. He will keep writing books, working on scholarships, and staying involved on the board of the Center for Jewish Studies.

With all of the Jewish Studies classes EMU offers such as “Culture and the Holocaust,” “Introduction to the History of Judaism,” and “Early Judaism,“ Shichtman believes he has made a significant impact on students and faculty alike with the creation and development of this field.

The program and the center itself will be the lasting impact of Shichtman’s marvelous work he started over 20 years ago.

“I think I’ve had some impact, and the [Jewish Studies program] will be there, and it will go on in my absence…” Shichtman said. 

Shichtman truly enjoys his profession and started the Jewish Studies program after noticing a lack of Jewish-based classes at EMU and decided to make a change to create a more diverse space at the university.

“What initially brought me [Shichtman] to Jewish Studies, was that Eastern spends a great deal of time celebrating diversity, and I guess it was about 20 years ago, it struck me, that a school that celebrates diversity, it [Jewish Studies] was a huge absence on our curriculum that we didn’t have a class on the Holocaust,” said Shichtman. 

The Jewish Studies program started with the “Culture and the Holocaust” class along with the creation of a Jewish studies minor. The minor started many years ago and the Center for Jewish Studies shortly followed it.

The Center for Jewish Studies has been successful in two areas: improving the intellectual life of the campus and making more opportunities for students to learn about the joy that comes with learning about a new culture and relating to the community of Jews in Southeast Michigan. 

“We’ve had a real impact on the intellectual life on our campus,” Shichtman said. “We also have wanted to have a real impact upon our students’ lives and offer our students new and exciting opportunities”. 

The Jewish Studies program serves mainly to non-Jewish students who are interested in Judaism. There are some Jewish people who are part of the program, but the program is mainly to serve as exposure for people who are curious. The program offers study abroad, research opportunities, and even internships with Holocaust museums. 

Shichtman believes that the program will continue to grow and strengthen after he leaves and he expects and hopes for it to get better. He’s content that he got to start something new within EMU to let others know about his culture and the culture of many others, who live around us in Southeast Michigan.

If Shichtman could work for another 20 years, he happily would, but sadly, it’s time to say goodbye.

To RSVP, visit the event website.

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