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Community Engagement Incentive Grant: Erin Darby and Gilya Schmidt

Partnership for the Academic Study of Early Judaism: A Multi-Generational Approach to Community Engagement in the Humanities

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Erin Darby and her colleagues Gilya Schmidt, director of the Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies collaborated with Raphe Panitz, adult education coordinator at the Heska Amuna Synagogue of Knoxville and the Knoxville Jewish Alliance to create a multi-cultural and multi-generational community education program.

Erin Darby

Erin Darby

“The community interaction is an excellent way to teach and model civility in religious discourse,” said Darby.

The cooperative venture  fostered discussions between adult community members, UT students and local high school students. The seminars promoted  cultural, social, intellectual and general welfare topics concerning the Jewish community that continue to grow in importance, in Knoxville and across the globe.

“Partnerships that include cooperative leadership representing both the University and the community seem to function most effectively,” Darby said. “The breadth and scale of this project involves many disciplines and can appeal to a variety of students and professionals.”

Gilya Schmidt

Gilya Schmidt

The purpose of the partnership was to expose the Knoxville community to religious diversity and education using Judaic Studies as the background. The mutually beneficial program also met goals of the Knoxville Jewish Alliance to serve the greater Knoxville community and facilitate cross-cultural interactions. The Alliance works to increase representation of minority religious perspectives and overall positive learning environments.

After collecting feedback from participants, Darby and the Alliance plan to host four more events during the subsequent year, consisting of lectures from community members and UT faculty. Focus areas may range from religious studies, Judaic studies, and the study of marriage and family in the Bible and the Near East.

The seminars will provide community with access to experts in the field, trained to teach topics in the study of ancient Judaism.

“A community group devoted to academic study of the Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism would provide a cohort that is currently lacking at the University and may foster the development of future UT initiatives in the study of the Hebrew Bible, Early Judaism and the ancient Near East,” said Darby.



Project Report:Partnership for the Academic Study of Early Judaism: A Multi-Generational Approach to Community Engagement in the Humanities