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VU appoints Jessica Roitman as professor of Jewish Studies

27 January 2021
The Executive Board of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) has appointed Jessica Roitman as professor of Jewish Studies at the Faculty of Religion and Theology (FRT) with effect of the 1st of February 2021.

The chair is associated with the Menasseh Ben Israël Institute, in which FRT, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Jewish Historical Museum work together. It is an old wish of the Faculty of Religion and Theology to realize a chair of Jewish Studies in its multi-religious context.

Jewish culture, history and religion
For an Amsterdam university such as the VU, the historical ties with Judaism are of great importance. The chair will be established at the department of Texts and Traditions. Head of the department and VU professor Matthias Smalbrugge is very happy with the new professor: “The Jewish religion, culture and history are golden in Dutch history. Even today, the Jewish voice remains important and we are therefore very pleased that this chair could be established now. ”

Roitman: “I look forward to contributing to the rich and vibrant tradition of interfaith conversations at the faculty. This chair helps to position Jewish Studies in the Netherlands as a vital and important discipline that can appeal to students and scientists from all backgrounds. I look forward to working closely with the Jewish community in and outside of Amsterdam. ”

Research and education
The chair has a significant contribution to social issues and studies themes from Jewish culture and religion, which are still overlooked. Against the reduction of Jews and Judaism to only some specific topics, a broader palette of Jewish creativity, internal debates and social contributions will be highlighted. Only in this way students and the society can obtain a balanced and relevant picture of Judaism.

Dean Ruard Ganzevoort is very pleased with the appointment: “Professor Roitman is an expert on the intersection of religious identity and colonialism, and will prove to be an important voice in the field of Judaism as well as well as broader current and urgent questions. Moreover, with this chair we strengthen our cooperation with the UvA and the Jewish Historical Museum. ”

Jessica Roitman
Jessica Roitman has conducted important research on the relationship between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews in Amsterdam between the 16th and 19h century. Her current research focuses on the intersection of colonialism and Judaism. She also studies themes like the self-fashioning of communities, identity, and the contacts between various communities in the Caribbean. Jessica Roitman studied in the US and worked at the University of Leiden, where she obtained her PhD in 2009 with a historical thesis.