Campus: San Francisco State University -- June 02, 2003

Mazel Tov To SFSU's First-Ever Graduates In Modern Jewish Studies

Residents of Walnut Creek, San Francisco to earn bachelor’s degrees this month

Mazel tov! Two Bay Area residents are the first-ever San Francisco State University students to earn bachelor’s degrees in modern Jewish studies.

Elaine Hesselroth, 23, of Walnut Creek, and Daniel Brown, 25 of San Francisco’s Sunset District, are among the 7,238 students who will receive degrees from SFSU this month.

The modern Jewish studies degree program, first discussed in 1996 and established in fall 2002, is a consortium among SFSU, San Diego State University and California State University, Chico. It is the first such degree in the 23-campus CSU system.

Although the degree program began only last fall, Hesselroth and Brown were able to earn their degrees quickly because they were already enrolled in the required courses. Hesselroth, who changed majors several times and attended several colleges before transferring to SFSU last spring, plans to run programs for Jewish youth in the future. She believes her modern Jewish studies degree will open doors for her in Jewish community organizations in the Bay Area and beyond.

“I came to SFSU with the expectation that it was a commuter college and I wouldn’t make any friends. I’ve been pleasantly surprised and wished I could have come sooner,” said Hesselroth, who is considering a 10-month fellowship in Israel with Project Otzma, in which she would improve her Hebrew skills and volunteer at schools and community organizations. “There is something about the school that is exciting and fun.”

In mid-June, Brown will begin a one-year stay in Israel, which will include five months of living on a kibbutz. After that, he will pursue a master’s degree in Jewish studies from the Bernard Revel Graduate School at Yeshiva University in New York. His long-term goal is to be a Jewish studies professor.

“Elaine and Daniel have distinguished themselves in my Jewish Studies courses,” said Jewish Studies Acting Director Marc Dollinger, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in Jewish Studies and Social Responsibility. “Elaine has enrolled in every course I offered this year, challenging her classmates and instructor to rethink many common assumptions about Jewish life and identity. Daniel brings a wealth of information to our class on the Jewish family and has become an informal tutor on all matters Jewish.”

The degree program consists of about 43 required units of courses in modern Hebrew, Jewish culture and society, history, religion and thought, and a senior seminar. As a consortium degree with SDSU and CSU Chico, students may take courses not offered at their home campus via distance learning classes through the partner universities.

Founded in 1993, the SFSU Jewish Studies Program attracts a diverse group of students from many racial and ethnic backgrounds, including participants in SFSU’s elders programs and other community members. Students learn a variety of Jewish history, thought and culture from a renowned faculty that includes Director and Associate Professor Fred Astren, who has enjoyed visiting fellowships at UC Berkeley and Oxford University’s Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and Dollinger. The Marvin L. Silverman Jewish Studies Reading Room, named after one of the program’s founding faculty, contains a special collection of more than 2,000 academic, reference and historical books on Jewish subjects. Most recently, the program received a donation of full original transcripts from the post-World War II Nuremberg Trials.

For more information about the Jewish Studies Program, call (415) 338-6075, send e-mail to, or visit:

One of the largest campuses in the CSU system, SFSU was founded in 1899 and today is a highly diverse, comprehensive, public and urban university.

Contact: Matt Itelson (415) 338-1743; (415) 338-1665;

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