Following the recent announcement that Eastern Michigan University will now offer a Jewish Studies minor, the school held a kick-off event yesterday featuring U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D–Mich.) who shared his experiences as a member of the Jewish faith and advocated for the newly developed program.

Levin gave the keynote address at the event, where he discussed the various elements of the faith he hopes the Jewish Studies minor will emphasize and teach to its students. He began by discussing the Jewish immigrant experience in the United States, and the ability of the Jewish community to flourish through increased support and tolerance in the country.

“For the most part, Jewish immigrants were able to overcome (anti-Semitism) and move past the hatred,” he said. “For the most part this has been a country of opportunity for immigrants.”

Levin explained how family and community are essential to members of the Jewish faith, and praised their “keen sense of treating people in a just way.”

He also emphasized the importance of education within the Jewish community, as well as for immigrants coming to learn and thrive in America, particularly in creating a stronger, more diverse nation.

“Diversity is a source of strength in this country,” he said. “Celebrate it (and) use it to the advantage of the world.”

Martin Shichtman, director of the Jewish Studies Program at EMU, said he was deeply honored that Levin came to speak at the event.

“At the heart of Jewish tradition is the value of ‘Tikkun Olam,’ the admonition to repair the world, make it more perfect, and build a model society,” Shichtman said. “I can think of no greater practitioner of ‘Tikkun Olam’ than Michigan Senator Carl Levin.”

EMU provost Kim Schatzel introduced Levin at the event and said EMU takes great pride in creating a welcoming and diverse campus, lauding the Jewish Studies minor for adding another dimension to EMU’s diversity.

Max Rashes, a member of EMU Hillel, said he came to the event to listen to Levin, who he considers to be an important Jewish politician.

“Carl Levin is just a cool guy,” Rashes said. “It’s nice to have senators come to Eastern to talk to students.”

Beni Henig, a Washtenaw Community College student, said he attended the event because of his ties with EMU Hillel.

“I’m very active in the Hillel,” he said. “I felt it would be my place to go there and check it out.”

EMU junior William McDonald said he attended due to his interest in government and politics, and wanted to hear from a prominent official.

“As a political science major, I’m just interested in what a (senator) has to say,” he said.

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