In 2010, Paula Daccarett joined the UC Santa Cruz Jewish Studies department as a visiting assistant professor, thanks to a grant from the Foundation for Jewish Culture/Jim Joseph Foundation.
Born and raised in Colombia and educated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Brandeis University, Professor Daccarett’s relationship with Jewish Studies began in graduate school.
“I’ve always been curious about narratives, particularly in the context of where people come from. Obviously that applied to myself and part of my interest in Jewish history initially began as an exploration of Jewish identity and personal family stories. But ultimately I never felt comfortable within certain narratives that were offered to me within both the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds.”
Daccarett adds that her fascination with the field is informed by Jewish Studies’ ability to “act as a litmus test” in societies across time and place. “I do think that Jewish Studies offers Jews a way to understand themselves and others to understand Jews in ways that are not those of identity-building,” she says. “It’s a way of critically understanding who you are and where you come from.”
While at UC Santa Cruz, Daccarett is presenting the first purely historical look at modern Jewry in Latin America in her course “Modern Jewish History in Latin America” (History 185I).
“It’s possibly the first attempt at creating a Jewish history in Latin America course,” she says. “There are other courses that tackle Jewish studies or cultures in Latin America, but they are much more interdisciplinary. I’m really trying to create a history course here.”
This academic year, Daccarett will be teaching her course on Latin American Jewish History in the Fall quarter 2011.
Also offered by Daccarett this upcoming school year will be “The Modern Jewish Experience” (History 185J) in Winter quarter 2012 and “Women, Gender and Jewish Modernity, 1800-Present” (History 185H) in Spring quarter 2012.