by Emily Bazelon

2 Jewish Women Shake Things Up—and Calm Things Down—on Bay Area Campuses

For years the Jews at San Francisco State University had wrangled with “rival” groups— sizeable, outspoken and often hostile Palestinian and African-American populations. So when Laurie Zoloth-Dorfman arrived this year as the second head of the school’s Jewish studies department, her predecessor virtually ousted by the Jewish establishment, she had more than just academic questions to juggle. Her task: to lead an uncomfortable Jewish population, to negotiate a truce, to satisfy the Jewish community that funds her post. So she taught about good and evil to an interreligious class. She urged her Jewish students to look into their sacred texts, and her non-Jewish students to turn Talmudic methods back on their own traditions. The assignment encompassed dual missions: to further Jewish scholarship while opening wide the door to outside scrutiny.

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