Fordham’s Bronx Artifacts Collection Builds on Jewish-Catholic Partnership

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Faith, Queens, NY, World News

By Jessica Easthope

During the first half of the 20th century Judaism was the dominant religion in the Bronx. A yearbook filled with mostly Jewish last names is one of more than 100 pieces in Fordham University’s Bronx Judaica collection and part of a culture that’s fading.

“The idea was to show how Jews lived, not just the formal institution but where they went to a restaurant, what florist they used for a wedding, what meat they bought from a Kosher company,” said Magda Teter, a history and Jewish Studies professor at Fordham.

Teter’s been building the collection for three years and using it in her classes.

“I love for students to touch history, you can do all you want on PDFs, you can do all you want on PowerPoints but there’s nothing like touching the real thing,” she said.

Though the Jewish studies program is fairly new to Fordham, Jewish history isn’t. As the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in New York state, it was among the first to accept Jews.

Fordham’s president Tania Tetlow says the collection is an interfaith effort that reflects Fordham’s commitment to inclusivity during a new wave of antisemitism in the country.

“To understand the history of the Jewish people is to stop the demonization and stereotyping that has caused so much brutal evil in the world and our history,” she said.

Today, Jews represent a small percentage of undergraduate students at Fordham but Jewish studies students Maya Bentovim and Hannorah Ragusa say the program has broadened their perspectives in ways they never imagined.

“I’d grown up Jewish but was never really in touch with my Judaism until I got to Catholic school and to share that learning experience with both students from similar and totally different backgrounds has been incredible,” said Maya.

“I think it’s really important to see the intersection because it’s something I’ve never been exposed to but to have this open perspective to new things it provides one of the best opportunities you can get,” Hannorah said.

Members of the public can view the collection and interact with history at an open house or by appointment. The exhibit will be open through March.