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Larissa Remennick, Ph.D., Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at HUC-JIR/New York

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Larissa Remennick, Ph.D. is the 2009-2010 Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at HUC-JIR/New York, a joint appointment with the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.  This faculty position has been made possible by a grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation in conjunction with the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprises’ Scholar Development Fund.  HUC-JIR’s matching grant for this project has been generously funded by Lief Rosenblatt and Elliott and Robin Broidy. 

“Israel Studies lies at the heart of our mission, as we seek to train Jewish leaders who are steeped in the concept of Jewish peoplehood and nurtured by the enduring ties linking the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewry,” says Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President.  “As a leading Israeli scholar, Dr. Remennick will further reinforce our students’ relationships with Israel, building upon their required first year of study at our Jerusalem campus.”  

Larissa Remennick, Ph.D. examplifies the emerging transnational academic/professional. She was born and educated in Moscow, Russia, where she received her doctorate in social demography at the Institute of Sociology of the USSR's Academy of Sciences in 1988. In 1989 she completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Oxford University, UK studying the social factors behind sky-high abortion rates in Russia, and in 1991 she and her family left the deteriorating Soviet Union for Israel. Since 1994 she has served on the faculty of Bar-Ilan University, climbing the academic ladder from Lecturer to Full Professor and publishing three books and over 40 articles  and chapters on the way. Since 2002 she has been elected as Chair of Bar-Ilan's Sociology and Anthropology Department.

Larissa's research interests fall into three overlapping topical domains: gender/sexuality/family processes, women's health, and immigration/integration. For the last 18 years, she has drawn on her own immigrant experience, as well as sociological/anthropological insight, to zoom into the issues of immigrant family change, health practices, inter-generational relations, occupational accommodations, relations with the mainstream Israeli society, and more. Her most recent book "Russian Jews on Three Continents: Identity, Integration, and Conflict" (Rutgers University, NJ: Transaction, 2007) explores the patterns of adjustment of former Soviet Jewish immigrants in the main countries of their post-Communist migrations: Israel, US, Canada, and Germany. Besides Bar-Ilan, Dr. Remennick held teaching positions at the University of Toronto, Brandeis University, and UC Davis. She is an Associate at the Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. She lives in Tel-Aviv.

Fall semester 2009/10: Gender and Family in Israel

For a sociologist, Israeli society is a fascinating social laboratory that "thrives on conflict" between modernity and Jewish legacies, secular and religious lifestyles, as well as multiple ethnic traditions of its immigrant tribes. In no other domain do these clashes come to the fore as forcefully as in family processes and gender relations - the domain which is morally charged and crucially important for most societies, but even more so for a small country still striving to survive in a hostile milieu of the Middle East. This seminar will help the students understand the complex dilemmas surrounding marriage and divorce (halachic vs. civil definitions), alternative family forms, childbearing, parenting, and new reproductive technologies, the so-called demographic contest betweem the Jewish and Palestinian population, and the evolution of gender relations in the light of all these complexities. The course will merge lecturing and interactive forms of class work, such as reading-based student presentations. The mid-term assessment will draw on class presentations and annotated bibliography, and the final grade will be based on the 8-10 pp. paper to be submitted at the last class meeting. Our interactions and readings will be largely in English, with optional literature items in Hebrew and a possibility of Hebrew usage at all times.

Spring semester 2009/10: Immigration and Ethnic Relation in Israel

Israel is a classic example of an immigrant society: 95% of its Jewish population are 1st, 2nd or 3rd  generation immigrants. Yet, the relations between Jewish immigrant groups of different ethnic origin and lenght of stay in Israel are far from simple and harmonious. The national myths of "kibbutz galuyot" and the infamous "melting pot," effectively re-shaping all new Olim into standard-issue Israelis, have proved to be far from reality.

Every new wave of immigrants (Olim) faces multiple barriers to integration and often unfriendly attitude of the Israeli mainstream, despite the almost-universal approval of Aliyah on political level. As the popular saying goes, Israelis love Aliyah but detest concrete Olim. The course will examine the existing ethno-cultural  patterns in Jewish Israel from both historic and current standpoints. Most of my research materials and examples reflect the experiences of the recent immigration waves from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia (from the late 1980s on). We will discuss the challenges of their labor market accommodations, languistic and cultural adjustment, gender, family and age-related problems (immigrant adolescents, adults, and elders; men and women). The course will merge lecturing and interactive forms of class work, such as student reading-based presentations. The mid-term assessment will draw on class participation and annotated bibliography, and the final grade will be based on the 8-10 pp. paper to be submitted at the last class meeting. Our interactions and readings will be largely in English, with optional literature items in Hebrew and a possibility of Hebrew usage at all times.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.