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Chaya Kessler Named Director of Kent State’s Jewish Studies Program

Posted Oct. 4, 2010

The Jewish Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences at Kent State University is under new leadership this fall. Chaya Kessler has assumed the position as director of the program in addition to teaching courses in elementary and intermediate Hebrew as well as introduction to Jewish Studies. Kessler takes over from Dr. Richard Steigmann-Gall, director of the program since 2004, who stepped down over the summer to return to his research and teaching full-time in the university’s Department of History.

Photo of Chaya Kessler“I am honored to be the next in a long line of devoted directors and am completely committed to making Kent State’s Jewish Studies Program the premier program of its kind in Northeast Ohio,” Kessler said.

Born in Russia and raised in Israel, Kessler served in the Israeli Army Intelligence Unit before teaching high school. Following her army service, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in English literature and education. While raising a family, she resumed her studies and completed her master’s in history with honors from Youngstown State University. Kessler was the 2004 recipient of the B'nai B'rith graduate award from the history department. She is a member of Phi Alpha Theta and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies. 

“I am delighted that Chaya Kessler will continue and grow the strong tradition of excellent leadership and programming for the Jewish Studies Program,” said Timothy Moerland, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Kent State. “Her credentials are impeccable, and she has a vast network within the Jewish community, both here and abroad, that will greatly enhance our program. Her relationships, both on campus and throughout the community, dovetail perfectly with the goals of the university.” Moerland also thanks Steigmann-Gall for his significant contributions to the Jewish Studies Program over the past five years.

The Jewish Studies Program at Kent State University offers courses and activities that promote understanding of all aspects of Jewish life. A minor or certificate in Jewish Studies enables students enrolled in any major to become acquainted with the culture, language, literature, history, philosophy, and religious customs of the Jewish people from antiquity to the present.

Kessler has three goals for the program this year: to increase enrollment in the Jewish Studies minor; to create collaborative partnerships with other departments and programs on campus in order to offer varied courses and activities; and to enrich student life by bringing exciting and relevant speakers, films, music and exhibits to campus.

Kessler said she believes in the Hebrew philosophy to learn and to act.

“Study alone is not enough,” she said. “We expect and will help our students to be engaged with the world around them.”

The Jewish Studies Program at Kent State University was introduced in the fall of 1975 and has served Kent State students, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, with quality academic and interesting programs. Kessler encourages all students and faculty who have any interest in the program to contact her with questions or to provide feedback on offerings.

For more information about the program, visit www.kent.edu/CAS/JewishStudiesProgram.

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Media Contacts:
Chaya Kessler, ckessle7@kent.edu, 330-672-8926
Emily Vincent, evincen2@kent.edu, 330-672-8595