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Jewish Studies research symposium offers variety, welcomes alumna as keynote

May 2, 2023 - Claire Smith, SRP '25

On Friday, April 14, the Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel hosted The Michael and Elaine Serling Undergraduate Research Conference in the James Madison College Library. The event was also livestreamed on YouTube.

The event featured keynote speaker, Josh Kanter (PTCD ‘09), who works for Reboot, an arts and culture nonprofit organization inspired by Jewish thought and traditions. Kanter’s lecture titled “Inspiring the Jewish future by looking into the past?,” discussed his undergraduate experience at MSU and professional experience in relation to the Jewish community. Kanter earned his minor in Jewish Studies.

Jewish Studies Symposium

The Serling Undergraduate Research Conference was held on April 14 in the JMC Library.  

The event also featured two panels of Jewish Studies students who presented their research. The first panel included JMC Assistant Professor Amy Simon’s students Ellie Baden (PTCD & SRP ‘23), Eleanor Nagel-Bennett (SRP ‘23) and Alex Walters (SRP ‘26).

Baden’s presentation titled, “‘The Best Villains’: An Examination of Marvel’s Depiction and Distortion of Nazism,” discussed how the fictionalization of Nazis, specifically in Marvel comics and movies, has distorted the horrific history of the Holocaust.

Following Baden, Nagel-Bennett presented her research titled “I Love You Suey, No Matter What: The Intersection of Holocaust Survival and Parenthood of Queer Children.” Her presentation discussed how Holocaust survivors and their descendants parent queer children.

Student receives award from Prof. Aronoff

Ellie Baden (PTCD & SRP '23) receives the student achievement award from Professor Yael Aronoff.  

The final research presentation, by Alex Walters, titled “The Michigan Daily’s Coverage of the Holocaust,”  discussed the depiction of the Holocaust in the University of Michigan’s Michigan Daily newspaper.

The second panel of researchers included students of Yael Aronoff, JMC professor of international relations and director of the Serling Institute. Yael Aronoff’s student, Jacob Banas (IR ‘25) gave a presentation titled “Israeli perspectives on Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations and a Peace Proposal.” Also featured in the second panel was RCAH student, Lela Weintraub; broadcasting journalism major, Danny Zivian; and neuroscience major, Pelli Mechnikov, who are all graduating this spring.

Preceding the  research portion of the event, attendees enjoyed lunch where Baden was awarded the Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel student achievement award for excellence in coursework completed and research presented for three consecutive years.

"It was Baden who initiated the idea for Serling faculty, staff and students to write a guide to combat antisemitism in the MSU community. She participated in a committee that contributed to the writing of the guide, and in multiple workshops on antisemitism and Islamophobia, including the training of residential advisers and the inaugural eight-hour “Conversations on Antisemitism and Islamophobia” for MSU faculty, staff and students," Aronoff said.