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Special Chair for Central European studies and LJSA Member Prof. dr. Sarah Cramsey holds “teach-ins” on the most recent history of Israel/Palestine

Since the horrific events of October 7, 2023, Leiden students have grappled with difficult questions about Israel, Gaza and Israel/Palestine conflict more generally. Drawing on her expertise in the history of the Jewish experience in the diaspora and beyond, Prof. dr. Sarah Cramsey has held multiple teach-ins for students.

Drawing on her expertise in the history of the Jewish experience in the diaspora and beyond, Prof. dr. Sarah Cramsey has held multiple teach-ins for her students in her lecture class “Jews and Judaism: From Creation to Zelensky,” with her colleague Prof. dr. Maurits Berger (Islam and the West) for students of International Studies and with smaller groups of concerned students who want to understand recent events with a historical lens. The upcoming conference (Dec. 6 and 7, 2023) organized by Cramsey and her colleague Prof. dr. Jurgen Zangenberg will confront present questions as well in a keynote panel featuring Prof. Elisheva Baumgarten (Hebrew University) entitled “Home as Haven?: How October 7th Impacts the Narration of the Jewish Experience.”

Some of the students who took part in Prof. Cramsey’s teach-ins have offered some reflections on why this type of pedagogy is important.  

According to Dimitar Boruma, “having to learn about the events in Israel and Gaza, especially when one knows people that stand on both sides of the conflict, may happen to be very stressful. Very quickly I started seeing people expressing different opinions on the matter, some of which highly polarised and not suitable for an academic environment, for a reason or another. Attending the two teach-ins held respectively by Prof. Cramsey, and Prof. Cramsey and Prof. Berger, I could say that I gained a deeper understanding of a very complex – historical and increasingly political nowadays – issue. Trying to be neutral and take no other standpoint but an academic one has become difficult in times when emotions are at an interplay with analysis. For this reason, the academic perspective presented by Prof. Cramsey and Prof. Berger not only helped me start viewing the issue from a more suitable for academia perspective, but also provided me with tools for analysis that are useful when it comes to complex problems. These tools they adopted, in turn, are ones that every student has to try to use in order to move beyond their personal biases and try to approach a topic from both multidisciplinary and multisided perspectives."

Willie Planje echoed Boruma’s thoughts from her standpoint as a Religious Studies student. “I feel extra connected to the cause because I study Judaism in an academic way. As a Dutch and Christian student I have learnt to address the cause with great nuance and I think this is very important for spectators from a distance, outsiders as well in living abroad and also not living the Jewish way of life."

And finally, Religious Studies student Eugenie Kruijt noted that “events such as these teach-ins are prime examples of the indispensable role universities can play in times like these. In providing spaces that are open for compassionate and intellectual discussions outside of classes, as students we are invited to take our knowledge outside of the curriculum and apply it to real-life situations. As a Religious Studies student, these extracurricular activities have been some of my more important educational experiences of the past couple of weeks. Not only have these events been excellent oppurtunities to learn more about relevant topics for my classes, but foremost, they have emphasized the necessity of an academic understanding of religion to fully appreciate the intricacies of some of the biggest conflicts in our world.” 

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