Annual grant brings Jewish traditions to campus
The Jewish Chautauqua Society believes that courses about Jewish religion and culture are an important part of helping students achieve and promote a better understanding between Jews and nonJews. This will help diminish discrimination of Jews.
So, for the past 20 years, Ripon College has received a financial contribution from the society to help pay a stipend for a rabbi to teach a course on the Hebrew Scriptures every fall, says Brian Smith, professor of religion; Charles and Joan Van Zoeren Chair in Religion, Ethics and Values; and chair of the department. The Jewish Chautauqua Society is dedicated to sponsoring courses taught about the Jewish religion and culture on campuses where there is not a significant offering of courses on the subject.
Rabbi David Brusin, adjunct professor of religion, is the third and current rabbi to teach the sponsored “Introduction to Hebrew Scriptures” course at Ripon College each fall. He has been doing so for the last 10 years.
“Very few people have real acquaintance with biblical texts,” Brusin says. “They hear a lot about it and they’re told the stories and parables, but it’s surprising how few people actually try to read it and try to understand it outside of any context where they’re told to, like church.”
Brusin says “Introduction to Hebrew Scriptures” benefits students who wish to study religion while attending Ripon and those who simply wish to gain a better understanding of the Bible. He says the goal is that students in his class will realize that the biblical texts still have a lot to offer them.
“Things they thought they knew well, that they’ve heard many times, have not been looked at critically with the kinds of questions that I ask in this course,” Brusin says. “I hope they will learn more from the Bible than what has been taught to them previously.”
He says that after students have been guided through the basics of the Bible in courses such as “Introduction to Hebrew Scriptures,” they will be able to move forward with their own research and interpretations of it with little help from others.
Brusin’s other courses at Ripon over the past 12 years include “The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Moral and Political Dimensions,” which is cross-listed under politics and government. He plans to offer this course again next semester to facilitate outgoing seniors.
Brusin has taught and still teaches at other institutions in the state, such as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Cardinal Stritch University. He holds degrees in religion and philosophy, as well as his Rabbinical degree. He remains a rabbi, but he recently retired from congregational work and now enjoys having more time to spend with his wife, Sandra, in Whitefish Bay, and his two sons, and devoting more time to teaching — one of his greatest passions.
Emily Mengert ’15