Gilya G. Schmidt, Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, specializes in modern Jewish history and culture, particularly European Jewry, Zionism, modern Israel, and the Holocaust. In July, Fordham University Press published Schmidt’s eighth book, Süssen is Now Free of Jews: World War II, the Holocaust, and Rural Judaism. Based on archival sources, this historical study documents Jewish life in a southern German village before, during, and after the Holocaust. The book makes a major contribution to the scholarship of “Landjudentum,” or rural Jewry, a category of scholarship that has taken root primarily as a consequence of the Holocaust, in an effort to document some of the hundreds of rural Jewish communities that have been lost forever.
Schmidt, who is the director of The Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies, is currently working on a second, more broadly conceived book on rural Judaism in Germany and on a study of Jewish liturgy. She is a core faculty member of the German and Central European Research Seminar in the College of Arts and Sciences, which is in its seventh year, adjunct faculty with the German Section in MFLL, and a Fellow with the Center for the Study of War and Society. Since 2010 she has served as project director of a Department of Education grant to introduce Arabic language and Arab culture into the UT curriculum.
She is also a community leader, graduate of Leadership Knoxville (class of 2008) and Introduction Knoxville (class of 2006), and 2008 recipient of the YWCA Tribute to Women Phyllis Wheatley Memorial Award.