Fontbonne honors JCRC director

BY MIKE SHERWIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR

Fontbonne University has honored Jewish Community Relations Council Executive Director Batya Abramson-Goldstein for her work in supporting the campus’ “Dedicated Semester” on Jewish studies last fall.

Abramson-Goldstein received the inaugural “Jason Sommer Dedicated Semester Award” during a convocation ceremony last week for students at Fontbonne, a Catholic university.

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Fontbonne unveiled the concept of a “Dedicated Semester,” focusing in-depth on a particular topic, last fall. The inaugural topic was “Judaism and its Cultures,” offering a variety of courses, and campus seminars and events, according to Dr. Nancy Blattner, vice president and dean for academic affairs at the university.

“By all standards, the fall 2007 Dedicated Semester was an unqualified success,” Blattner told the audience. “Eleven courses, and dozens of co-curricular events both on and off campus were organized and offered to more than 3500 students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.”

The award, which Fontbonne President Dennis Golden named after Dr. Jason Sommer, a professor of English at Fontbonne, who played a crucial role in bringing the dedicated semester concept to fruition, according to Blattner.

Blattner introduced Abramson-Goldstein, and thanked her for her work with the university.

“Batya played a significant role in many of the dedicated semester events last fall and continues as a valuable friend to Fontbonne as we work to develop a minor in Jewish Studies.”

Abramson-Goldstein, who has worked with the JCRC since 1988, said she was “moved and greatly honored” to receive the award.

“It was a unique privilege to take part in this unique academic endeavor, the dedicated semester,” she said. “What a brilliant and glorious concept.”

Abramson-Goldstein helped coordinate with Fontbonne administration to organize a lecture series held in the Jewish community, featuring Fontbonne faculty members teaching courses in the dedicated semester, Blattner said. She also invited Golden and Blattner to speak to a JCRC council meeting. And, she gave a presentation on Jewish holidays to Fontbonne students and faculty. The JCRC also honored Golden with its Norman A. Stack Community Service Award, given its annual meeting in the spring.

Abramson-Goldstein said the dedicated semester was an example of working toward broader goals.

“I believe deeply in the importance of building bridges between communities,” she said. “Fontbonne University’s dedicated semester was a wonderfully created and effective way to enhance understanding of Judaism on this campus. It was also a creative and effective way to build connections between the campus and the Jewish community in St. Louis.”

“It is efforts such as Fontbonne University’s Dedicated Semester to Judaism and its Cultures and the planned minor in Judaic Studies, that provide the understanding and mutual respect that builds community. It is such activity that brings about tikkun olam — repair of the world.”