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Top scholar first to hold Jewish Studies chair

Renowned scholar Lori Lefkovitz has been named the inaugural holder of the Ruderman Professorship of Jewish Studies at Northeastern University and the director of Northeastern’s Jewish Studies program.

Alumnus Morton Ruderman, COE, ’59, and his wife, Marcia, made the chair possible through a generous donation.

“The Ruderman’s commitment to the Jewish community and the study of its history and culture will be enriched by the appointment of Lori Lefkovitz. She is an outstanding scholar whose love of teaching and engagement with the Jewish community will elevate the impact of Jewish studies at Northeastern,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University.

Before coming to Northeastern in August 2010, Lefkovitz was the Sadie Gottesman and Arlene Gottesman Reff Professor of Gender and Judaism at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the founding director of the College’s Kolot: Center for Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies.

“Our family welcomes Professor Lefkovitz as the new Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies at Northeastern,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

“We believe that her passion for Jewish life and scholarship coupled with Northeastern’s unique co-op program will have a profound positive impact on the Jewish community of Greater Boston and beyond.”

To Northeastern, Lefkovitz brings a diverse background that includes interdisciplinary training in Jewish Studies and program development, specifically training in literature and critical theory and experience teaching both Bible and modern and contemporary Jewish literature.

“Professor Lefkovitz is the right leader at the right time to lead Northeastern’s Jewish Studies program. She is a gifted and talented scholar whose expertise and knowledge undoubtedly will enhance the program’s mission to develop future leaders, to nourish Jewish identity in the modern world, and to represent Judaism in the public sphere,” said Georges Van Den Abbeele, Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Lefkovitz hopes to establish strong relationships with the Jewish community through co-op and student life, work with Northeastern’s talented faculty to expand the program’s curriculum and coordinate events and conferences. The goal of these efforts, she says, is to further increase student interest in the program.

“I am honored to have been selected for this position,” said Lefkovitz, “and excited and challenged by this opportunity. A full-time chaired position is an expression of commitment to Jewish Studies and opens the possibility of developing a first-rate program that emerges from Northeastern’s unique strengths.”

Lefkovitz expressed gratitude to the Ruderman family for their generosity, vision, and commitment to Northeastern. She is enthusiastic about the University’s urban setting and Boston’s impressive Jewish community, which promises to provide fertile ground to help build the Jewish Studies program.

Lefkovitz’s career combines traditional disciplinary scholarship in literary and cultural studies and work as a public intellectual involved in modern Jewish life, with an emphasis on women’s concerns and gender identities in Jewish tradition. She recently authored a book, In Scripture: The First Stories of Jewish Sexual Identities (2010), and in addition to her other books, she has contributed essays to many collections and journals in the field.

Lefkovitz has been honored with a Fulbright Professorship at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has held an associate fellowship at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and a post-doctoral fellowship at the Philadelphia Institute for Psychoanalysis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature from Brandeis University, and received her masters and Ph.D. in English from Brown University.

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