My name is Hayim Lapin, and I became the Director of the Jewish Studies Program in May of 2017.  As a professor of Jewish Studies, I study the history and literature of the Jews in late antiquity. I am interested in traditional subjects—where the Rabbis come from, the origins of the synagogue and the prayers, how Jews coped with Roman rule—but I like to think that I go about it in some un-traditional ways. This includes thinking about material culture (the objects and lived environment that Jews inhabited), economics (how did people make a living; how embedded was the Jewish world of the Land of Israel in a larger Roman economy?), and power (who makes decisions for Jews, and how are they enforced?) Easily the most non-traditional work I have done is with digital approaches that use modern technologies to read, sort, and analyze texts and other data to answer questions that take humans lifetimes to do.

Why did I go into this field? I don’t have a good answer other that I’ve been interested in these topics since I was a kid, and was lucky enough to be able to get training and then a job, in this field. When I was in college, I thought seriously about a biology-related field but when I made the decision to take Greek and Latin classes over the summer rather than Chemistry, my path was pretty much set.

None of this prepares a person to be an academic administrator. Although it is changing, in the humanities, we still get trained to sit in a closed room with a stack of books and a computer. (In fact, I went to college with a typewriter, and eventually made the transition from typewriter to the newfangled personal computer.) So why did I decide--for a second time!--to leave my seclusion to sit in an office daily, manage a staff, and attend meetings?

The main reason is that I want to help shape and improve the program. I know that our majors do not all want to be academics like me, and that many are concerned about careers after college.  How then can we shape the major and minor to serve all of those needs? I also know that programs tend to attract Jewish students. How can we make Jewish Studies accessible to more students, and more diverse majors and minors at that?   We want to make sure that we stay true to our roots in classical texts and history, language and literature, thought and practice. But we also want to meet our students where they are: increasing internship opportunities, addressing new and interesting subjects, and making Jewish Studies more relevant to students with a wide range of professional interests, such as education, journalism, public health, and non-profit management (just to name a few).  That, in a nutshell is why I wanted to become the chair of the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhofff Center for Jewish Studies.

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 3:30pm
McKeldin Special Events Room 6137
Special film screening of Complicit Speakers: Fomer Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat Jeffrey Herf, UMD Department of History Diane Afoumado, US Holocaust Museum...

Sunday, October 22, 2017 - 1:00pm to 8:00pm
1100 Tawes Hall
Day 2 of the event will take place Monday, October 23rd in Room 4116 of Susquehanna Hall from 8:15am-5:30pm....


The Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies offers a variety of scholarships specifically for students involved or looking to get involved with these programs:

The Meyerhoff Program and Center for Jewish Studies and the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Shay... Read more