Jewish Studies Program, a brief history

Bob Levinson photo, circa 1975

Historian Dr. Robert Levinson founded the SJSU Jewish Studies program as an assistant professor here in 1974-75. From the beginning, he assembled an interdisciplinary program, bringing together the departments of History, Religion, and Hebrew. Early on, he added Geography, Philosophy and English to the mix. As a lay cantor for a local synagogue, Congregation Beth David, Professor Levinson also always understood Jewish education as life-long learning. Thus, community members were welcome in all classes. Interested in further history? You might enjoy this 1975 Spartan Daily piece on Bob Levinson and the JS Program. Or this annual report from 1976 (notice how much work they did to publicize the program, before the days of the internet!) 

Professor Levinson's 1978 doctoral dissertation and then book, "The Jews in the California Gold Rush" and his work to preserve pioneer Jewish cemeteries remains some of the major work on Jews of the era. His archives are held at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library.