A History of the Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies at Youngstown State University
The first Jewish Student Fellowship at Youngstown State was created by professors and students in 1966. The Jewish Student Fellowship (JSF) was revived in 1970, the same year courses in Jewish History and the Holocaust were introduced on campus. By 1974, the JSF became defunct as a result of graduations. There were subsequent, short-lived efforts to create an Israel Students Organization and Masada. In 1980 representatives of the Schermer Charitable Trusts underwrote the creation of the Schermer Scholar-in-Residence program, designed to bring major figures to campus. Seventeen years later, an anonymous source donated $100,000 to the university to underwrite the creation of a Jewish Studies program. That program was to reflect the university’s commitment to teaching Holocaust and Jewish History, Judaism, and Hebrew. The program Director was to be vested in the Department of History and was responsible for budgeting interest from the original restricted account. Funding was increased through solicitations including a pledge from the Lipscher Trust of $108,000 to be delivered over six years – one year for each of the six million lives lost during the Holocaust and $18,000 per year reflecting the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word “chai” which means life. In the spring of 2003, a $500,000 endowment from the Clayman family of Youngstown established the William and Hilda Clayman Professorship in Jewish Studies.
The Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies at Youngstown State University is dedicated to teaching and promoting research on all facets of Jewish culture and history. The center places a special emphasis on the experience of the Jewish people during the Holocaust and to that end, promotes the lessons of tolerance and genocide prevention. The center offers academic courses at the introductory and advanced level in Jewish history, religion, culture, and languages. The center also offers community outreach educational program connected to the study of Judaism and the Jewish experience. Our aim is to foster knowledge and understanding of Jews and Judaism in students and community members, regardless of background, and to train future scholars of Judaic Studies.