Alanna Cooper, director of Jewish studies at Siegal Lifelong Learning program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, will become the Abba Hillel Silver chair in Jewish studies as part of the university starting in January 2020.
The chair, currently endowed by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, was established in 1964 and functions as part of the department of religious studies at CWRU in conjunction with the program in Judaic studies, according to the CWRU website. Professors holding the position are required to teach the introduction to Judaic studies and courses on Jewish religion and thought, and contribute to the programs of religious studies. The position spans three years.
“Over the course of my career, I’ve focused my creative energies in two areas: on scholarship and teaching in the university classroom, and community education and administration,” Cooper wrote in an email. “I love both these sorts of work, which overlap in some ways, but which also demand different skills and attention. I’ve been in my current position for six-and-a-half years and have derived immense enjoyment from it. I am very proud of the work I’ve done at Siegal and am ready now to start a new chapter. I am looking forward to getting back to teaching students who are at a formative juncture in their lives. I’m excited to be on campus and to contribute to the culture there.”
Applicants for the position started in late 2017, and those who applied had to have achieved an international reputation and boast a strong collection of written scholarly publications.
The Beachwood resident will join the list of past chairs, including Bernard Martin, Marc Lee Raphael, Susannah Heschel and most recently, Peter J. Haas.
Before moving to Cleveland with her family in 2013, Cooper earned her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology. She is the author of “Bukharan Jews and the Dynamics of Global Judaism” and is in the process of completing her second book, “Preserving and Disposing of the Sacred.” Her experience includes teaching and research positions at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Boston University in Boston, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., and University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Amherst, Mass.
She said she looks forward to starting her new position, excited for the opportunity to return to the classroom and teach more general Jewish and religious studies classes.
“I am thrilled,” she said.”Teaching, learning and discussing ideas are common threads in both, but my daily life and responsibilities will be very different. On a personal note, I’m excited to have a presence on campus but will certainly miss being a five-minute drive from home and from my daughters’ school. And parking. It’s hard to beat Beachwood parking.”