Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership has announced the appointment of Dr. Keren E. Fraiman as Dean and Chief Academic Officer. Fraiman, who has been teaching in Spertus Institute’s MA in Jewish Professional Studies program as an adjunct member of the Spertus Institute faculty, recently stepped into her new role. She comes to Spertus from the iCenter for Israel Education, where she served as Director of Research and Evaluation and will continue to teach on the faculty of their Master’s Concentration in Israel Education. At Spertus, she will oversee the Institute’s academic, professional, and public programs. These include master’s and doctoral programs in Jewish Studies, leadership programs for professionals and volunteers of Jewish organizations locally and globally, and programs for the public presented in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.
“Spertus Institute offers opportunities for serious scholarship, but it is not a traditional ivory tower,” she said. “I am drawn to its mission of providing thought leadership and real-world relevance, and I look forward to exploring new ways to provide a higher education experience that is rigorous, accessible, and relevant for today’s adults.”
Born in Haifa, Fraiman moved with her family to the United States when she was six and then returned to Israel after high School. Following her Israeli military service, she returned to Chicago for college, then relocated to Boston to continue her education, finally settling in Evanston where she lives with her husband, Eitan Stieber, and their three children.
Talking about her career to date, Fraiman credits several key historical moments as contributing to her joint interests in international relations and security. “I was a senior in high school when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated and a senior in college on 9/11,” she said, citing two destabilizing acts of violence, one in each of the countries she’d called home, both leaving profound geo-political changes in their wake. These events spurred Fraiman to study terrorist groups and focus her dissertation on exploring how nations that serve as terrorist bases can ultimately be coerced into uprooting these violent groups.
Despite an intimate working knowledge of terrorist activity across the globe, Fraiman remains optimistic that the next generation is capable of authoring a new chapter in history. Her current research focuses on Israel education and the critical need to embrace the complexities associated with teaching about conflict, whether in the Middle East or other parts of the world. Through her work with students and educators, she recognized the need not only for content expertise but also for new approaches to education that spark discussions with multiple narratives and perspectives. Her ongoing work explores the exigencies, possibilities, and challenges of integrating conflict education within a holistic Israel educational platform for today’s youth and young adults.
Fraiman joins the Spertus Institute staff at a key juncture. In June, Spertus President Dr. Hal M. Lewis steps down from his role as Spertus President and CEO, moving into the position of Chancellor. On July 1, 2018, longtime Spertus Provost and Vice President Dr. Dean P. Bell will become the Institute’s ninth President and CEO.