Skip to main content

About Us

History and About  

Religion has always been one of the world’s most powerful forces. It has served to bring communities together, and it has also served to divide them. It has been the reason why people have come together in the name of peace, and has been the reason why people have gone to war. It has been at the forefront of some of the world’s most triumphant moments, and it has also been responsible for some of its darkest ones. 

Education is at the core of the movement to use religion to foster positive change, interfaith understanding, and cultural diversity. As many Jewish communities around the United States are experiencing a revitalized interest in Judaism and creating new forms of cultural expression, they have observed the need to face up to the polarization of people along religious lines while still maintaining a pride and respect for their own traditions. 

Students of all kinds have expressed a desire to understand how ethnicity and religion function on both the local and world stages. Approximately 10 percent of Sonoma State University students are Jewish, and many of them want to learn more about their heritage. Non-Jewish students have also flocked to the program, and we have responded to their participation by opening up the curriculum. While it remains focused on Jewish Studies, it also explores religion at large in an effort to understand how faith has affected the lives of all people worldwide, not just Jews. As a result of our efforts, almost half of our students are non-Jews.

The Jewish Studies Program is intended to serve the entire community. It introduces Judaism, Jewish history, and Jewish culture to a wide range of people in order to provide a forum for discussion and activism in response to crucial contemporary issues. It promotes understanding of how faith has affected the lives of all people in an attempt to bring them together.

Please join us in supporting our efforts.


  • To provide a forum for people of all backgrounds to discuss the political, social, and economic impact of religion on the world
  • To provide Jewish students with the opportunity to learn about their heritage
  • To provide people with the tools necessary to promote interfaith understanding and cultural diversity through the study of religion
  • To provide Sonoma State University students with the opportunity to receive a minor degree in Jewish Studies
Samuel Cohen
Professor of History, Sonoma State University
Lynn Ganz
Co-founder, Jewish Studies Program, Sonoma State University
Elaine Leeder
Dean Emeritus of the School of Social Sciences and Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Sonoma State University
Barbara Sachs-Senn,
Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Founder of Women's Giving Circles
Morty Wiggins
President, Second Octave Talent