Building Jewish Community, Supporting Queer Students

Although I have not interacted with her personally, I have heard of a class she taught last semester called Modern American Jewish History from one of my close friends. He told me it was an incredible class, with lots of great readings and discussions. As such, I was hoping to take it (or at the very least, a class with Professor Povitz) in future semesters. Otherwise, as a Jewish and Queer-curious/questioning student, it is important to me that the faculty at Middlebury reflect and legitimize my identity. I believe that Professor Povitz greatly enriches Middlebury’s academics, and that she would thus be a great loss if she were to leave. 

Sydney Alexander 2025

Building Jewish Community

Professor Povitz has been a welcoming and enriching part of my time at Middlebury.
Last semester she facilitated a text study where we examined and discussed weekly portions of Hebrew scripture. I had very little knowledge of biblical texts and Jewish tradition beforehand. I am grateful Professor Povitz created an inclusive interfaith space to engage with the material. Every weekend, she took time to meet with us and help us learn and connect outside the classroom.

Charlotte Zehnder 2022.5

Building Jewish Community, Professor Povitz's Courses

I had Prof. Povitz for one semester last spring for her History of U.S. Sexuality course. During this course, I realized that Prof. Povitz is one of the best professors that I have had at Middlebury. One of her greatest strengths is leading lectures and discussions. Our course was divided into a lecture/discussion format and this format worked incredibly well at engaging a very large class on some very difficult subjects. Prof. Povitz created lectures that were highly informative, organized, easy to follow, and engaging. Our discussions were led masterfully. Oftentimes, discussions, especially in similar courses, tend to be taken over by those who are most outspoken. Prof. Povitz had a unique approach to ensuring that all voices were heard in class, even though it was a class of almost 30 people. Due to her ability to engage us in discussion and lead them efficiently and efficaciously, this was one of the more useful discussion sections I have experienced during my four years here. 
Furthermore, Prof. Povitz is clearly a master of her subject area. She handled questions both in and out of class with such depth and clarity that I rarely had any confusion with any questions I brought forward. Not only was Prof. Povitz incredibly approachable and available outside of class, she went above and beyond to ensure that we had ample opportunity for clarification and further engagement around the topics we discussed in class. I can honestly say that she is one of the best professors I have interacted with in terms of ability to answer questions thoroughly. Even more importantly to me, no question was ever too silly to ask and she always spent the time necessary to provide further materials and to then circle back and engage with those materials. 
My final point that I would like to bring up for Prof. Povitz is her engagement with students outside of class to further our personal and academic development. Prof. Povitz organized a weekly Torah study class last spring that allowed for an exploration of Judaism. I know that Prof. Povitz teaches courses in Jewish history, and although this was not one of those classes, her organization and facilitation of this group was a truly unique opportunity. I have yet to encounter another professor who actively sought to engage with students outside of the scope of a course in such a meaningful way. One of the things that drew me to Middlebury in the first place was the ability to engage with professors in unique ways both inside and outside of class. While this has not always been my experience, it is clear with Prof. Povitz that she cares deeply about her students. I think her organization of this group concretely demonstrates this commitment. Experiences such as these make Middlebury such a special place and without professors like Prof. Povitz, this will not continue to be the case. Through our course as well as through this Torah study, Prof. Povitz pushes her students to really engage with what we are learning. She furthermore allows us to have space to explore important aspects of life such as spirituality and use teachings from such important texts as the Torah to look critically at our world and the space we hold in it. Not only did her course push me to advance my understanding of power and oppression, but our Torah study group also pushed me to critique and explore my spiritual background and future journey. 
I cannot emphasize enough how great of an asset Prof. Povitz is to Middlebury. She is a masterful teacher and a rare professor who truly goes above and beyond to advance our lives. As a teacher, she is incredibly effective and presents us with difficult topics in a way that is digestible and engaging. As a mentor, she brings a breadth of life experience and wisdom that is incredibly informative and helpful in our personal and academic development. I sincerely hope that future classes of Middlebury students will have the opportunity to learn from Prof. Povitz as she is one of the greatest professors I have had at this school. I feel it is also important to say that I am a Psychology student and was genuinely not excited about her class going into it (I took it as a requirement for my minor) but after taking her course, I wish I had time in my schedule to take further courses with her as I learned more in her course and had my worldview challenged to a greater degree than in most of my other courses at Middlebury. 


Liam Hahn
Class of 2021.5

Liam Hahn, 2021.5

Building Jewish Community, Professor Povitz's Courses, Supporting Queer Students

Professor Povitz has made a tremendous impact on me during my time at Middlebury, as a professor and as a person. Her class “History of Urban Food Activism” provided me with context surrounding the history of fighting for equitable food systems and pushed me to think critically about whose voices were, and are, represented and heard in different spaces and at different times. Likewise, it taught me how, over the course of U.S. history, food activism has been utilized to foster community resilience. Through this course I was able to delve into a topic I am deeply passionate. Although I am a neuroscience major, Professor Povitz has brought me into the history department and I am looking forward to taking more of her classes in the future. 

Outside of class, Professor Povitz has made an impact on me through the essential roles she plays in the Jewish and queer communities on campus. During the height of the pandemic, Professor Povitz created a Torah study group for Jewish and non-Jewish students to gather in community and learn together (safely outside). In a time when antisemitism is pervasive on college campuses and in the U.S., it is imperative that Jewish students have spaces where they feel affirmed and have the opportunity to explore their identity and engage in Jewish traditions. In the queer community, Professor Povitz is a mentor and source of support for queer students. It is so essential that queer students have classes that center queerness and professors who share their identity. 

Overall, Professor Povitz has served as a mentor and a source of inspiration in my life and has touched the lives of many of my peers and friends. She plays a crucial role in teaching classes that serve student interests and teach critical thinking skills, as well as in the communities she is a part of. It would be a devastating loss to the Middlebury community if she were to leave. 

Remi Welbel, 2022.5

Building Jewish Community, general, Supporting Queer Students

To whom it may concern,
While I never had the chance to take a course with Professor Povitz, she played a formative role in my personal growth as a queer Jew while at Middlebury. She is thoughtful in ways most other professors are not. She has pushed me to think critically about the world and my place in it. For that I am grateful. It would be a grave mistake for Middlebury to not offer her a tenure track position.
Matt Martignoni

Matt Martignoni ‘21.5

Building Jewish Community, History Department and Advising, Supporting Queer Students

Professor Povitz was my first advisor and a vital piece to the beginning of my Middlebury experience. She is an engaging, powerful professor, both because of her humor and personality and the identities she holds. She is an essential asset to Middlebury and especially to the Jewish and queer communities, and it would be a real loss to the community at large if we lost her expertise and her energy.

Building Jewish Community, History Department and Advising

I write in support of the hire of Professor Lana Povitz. I had the pleasure of taking her courses on the History of US Radicalism and on Gender Sexuality and Psychiatry. Both of these classes had some of the best syllabi I have encountered at Middlebury, in terms of their thoughtfulness, their course content, and her judicious appraisal of the right amount of coursework. She possess a refined grasp of the narrative arc of the semester and how each week contributes a distinctive element with coherent and connected content and readings. She also hands out a guide to reading strategically for students who are new to history courses. It helps them learn how to prioritize the main concepts in the reading, understand that they do not need to read every last word, and guides them in taking effective notes. Professor Povitz is incredibly intentional in her history classes in providing foundational readings that ground us in the time periods we study such as The God that Failed by Richard Wright, and leading secondary sources that place it in a wider context from a contemporary perspective, such as the work of Robin DG Kelly. Through a combination of lectures, discussion, and weekly student presentations and discussion posts, Professor Povitz ensured that her entire class was actively participating and had a firm grounding in the important historical markers of the time period. She emphasizes discussions that confront the past while grappling with how it impacts our moment today. Professor Povitz is known for her intellectual capacity and her thorough knowledge of the source materials for all of the diverse classes she teaches. Her ability to lead in the classroom is self-evident. Her thoughtfulness and care for her students both inside and outside of the classroom distinguishes her at Middlebury. I have spent countless hours in her office hours while taking her classes and outside of her classes seeking her advice while working on other projects. I have witnessed how she has helped other students refine their ideas, and their work and watched her help them articulate their interests and passions. She helps students recognize that their ideas are valid. When they see connections between the historical examples they encounter through her courses and an imperative for action in the present, she assists them in clarifying their ideas and translating them into action. She has enriched the Middlebury community by helping students launch projects supporting social justice in the world. In addition to her excellent teaching, availability during office hours, and her support for students whose activism draws inspiration from her classroom, she also shows up and helps with many other student efforts. For example, last spring I sought a faculty partner who could join me in launching an informal program of Jewish text study. Professor Povitz worked with me to create a weekly text study that engaged students across all faith backgrounds. These students were often emotionally and spiritually burnt-out from the pandemic, and through text study we reinvigorated each other and provided a restorative space for the community. I am so grateful to have Professor Povitz at Middlebury and everything she does. It is my honor to recommend her hire at Middlebury.

Building Jewish Community, Professor Povitz's Courses

I took Professor Povitz’s History of U.S. Radicalism course in the spring of 2021. It was one of a handful of classes I’d taken at Middlebury that truly changed how I viewed the world. The class was incredibly well organized, each day’s materials building on the last and leading into the next. Professor Povitz’s introduced me to a variety of scholars, writers, and resources that are often left out of typical academics. We discussed radical movements on the far left and on the far right, thinking about which had worked, which had not, and why. Professor Povitz structured the class in a way that pushed me to think deeply about the issues at hand. She expected a lot from each of her students but also understood that we were in the midst of a pandemic that was challenging us all in various ways. Professor Povitz was both rigorous and compassionate. Preferring that students learn and come to class excited than that we get lost in dense readings, she changed up the syllabus at times to ensure that students were able to do the work. She also taught us important skills such as how to skim readings in a productive way that enables learning. Even though I was a senior when I took this class, hers was the first that truly taught me how to ask critical questions that tie together multiple readings and topics. These skills are ones that can be used in graduate school and even in other classes at Middlebury. Additionally, as a young Jewish woman at a college surrounded by mostly Christian peers, having a professor who shared those identities with me is inspiring and incredibly important. I was floored when I heard that Professor Povitz was not being offered tenure. She is an invaluable member of this community who has contributed so much and will continue to do so. If I were administrators at the college, I would offer her tenure in a heartbeat.

Building Jewish Community, Professor Povitz's Courses

Last semester, I took “Modern American Jewish History” with Professor Povitz, and it was my favorite class of the semester. I took the course hoping to learn more about my own place in American society, and the history of my ancestors, and I certainly got way more out of the class than I expected to. Professor Povitz’s course reshaped my thinking of Judaism and my relation to it, and connected me more with my own family and relatives. That one class with Professor Povitz has sparked deep discussions about religion among friends at college who haven’t even taken the course, which has been one of my favorite examples of learning and critical discussions taking place outside of the classroom. Outside of class, I greatly enjoyed talking with Professor Povitz about topics related to class and topics not at all related to class. It is very important to have such professors on campus, people that students can feel comfortable talking with and who happily make time to listen to the every day thoughts and musings of students. I hope that next year, I will be able to continue seeing and talking with Professor Povitz on the Middlebury campus, and be able to take more interesting and unique classes with her that cover topics and groups underrepresented in the Middlebury curricula and otherwise wouldn’t be taught here.

Building Jewish Community, Professor Povitz's Courses

Professor Povitz is a kind, genuine, and thoughtful person who also happens to be an incredible teacher. She teaches with grace and is able to create a learning environment where students are comfortable and open to engaging in conversation and getting deep into the topics at hand. Professor Povitz allows students to be creative in their learning, and empowers them to take everything they can from the class. My brief time at Middlebury would not be the same without Professor Povitz’s class, and it would be a truly devastating loss to the History department if the diversity of underrepresented topics she teaches is removed from the course offerings. Jewish studies is already a small department, and losing a professor of her kind will cause serious detriment. Middlebury needs a professor like professor Povitz to encourage acceptance of Jewish people of all intersections. I implore you to offer Professor Povitz a tenure track or partner hire for the sake of hundreds of students who her teachings have touched, and the hundreds more to come.

Building Jewish Community, Professor Povitz's Courses

Dear Middlebury College, Professor Povitz is one of the best professors I have ever had at Middlebury. She perfectly walks the line between demanding growth and effort from her students and being kind and supportive. She is incredibly knowledgeable of a variety of different topics and brings energy, interactive activities, honesty, passion and intelligence to the classroom every day to make every class a valuable, unique, and engaging experience. She and her partner are essential and irreplaceable parts of the Middlebury faculty because of their unique backgrounds and knowledges in the queer, arabic, jewish, history, and gender studies community. I have participated in a Torah Study group with Professor Povitz that was one of my favorite Jewish experiences I have ever had on campus. I have also taken her History of Sexuality class. As a gender studies major, by the end of this semester with the leave of Profesor Gupta, as a department we will have a total of two full time professors. This is honestly a disgrace to such a robust and generative area of study. Because of this gender studies majors are often forced to to classes with professors unqualified to teach gender studied but who are allowed to cross list their courses so we have enough options to graduate on time. Professor Povitz’s class on sexuality was an incredible Gender studies and History class, and she has the perfect set of knowledge and pedagogy to teach this types of fascinating classes at Middlebury. She is irreplaceable. It would be a horrible and impactful mistake and a disregard for our education to not offer her a tenure track here. Please do.

Building Jewish Community, Professor Povitz's Courses

My Professor Povitz has been one of my most impactful professors at Middlebury. I first took her course History of Sexuality in the US last spring. I found the course material absolutely fascinating. I was so excited to be learning about a different type of history than I had in the past. Professor Povitz was such an encouraging and engaging professor. This course inspired me to take two more classes with her. i then took Practicing Oral History, which was so amazing and I think so helpful to learn about for academia and then Feminism in Jewish and Black Perspectives. I think it is really valuable to have a professor at Middlebury so passionate about Judaism, especially in ways that are different from typical ways in which we learn about Judaism at Middlebury. As a Jewish student, this is really important to me and I would be really disappointed to see Professor Povitz leave as I think her courses are really valuable and important for the Middlebury community.

Building Jewish Community, Professor Povitz's Courses

I have only just begun my first class with Professor Povitz and already I know that she is an amazing professor who is essential to our community. I am taking her class Black and Jewish Feminist Perspectives (HIST 0448) and after one class I have learned so much on topics that should be more widespread. Professor Povitz is sharing super valuable knowledge and in doing so making our campus a more kind and welcoming place. As a Black Jewish woman there aren’t many, really zero places, where my various identities converge and in this class I was able to find that space.

Building Jewish Community, Professor Povitz's Courses

Professor Povitz’s History of US Food Politics class exposed me to some of the most interesting readings I have done during my time at Middlebury. I found myself sharing readings about the 1902 Kosher Meat Boycott, Black Panther breakfast program, and even the Park Slope Food Co-op with friends, many of whom went on to take classes with Professor Povitz. Professor Povitz holds a high standard for her students, and though her assignments were sometimes challenging, I felt that my writing improved significantly. Professor Povitz is unlike any other professor I have had at Middlebury, it is impactful to see a queer professor teach marginalized histories in such a dynamic way while still making time for things like Torah study. If Middlebury intends on being a progressive institution, keeping beloved professors like this is vital.

Building Jewish Community, History Department and Advising, Professor Povitz's Courses

To Whom it May Concern: Professor Lana Povitz embodies the promises that Middlebury makes to it’s students in her contributions to academic content that emphasizes diverse perspectives, her commitment to soliciting feedback from students to ensure that her teaching methods meet their needs and her engagement with the Middlebury community. To this first point, Prof. Povitz teaches courses on radical social movements, Jewish life, mental health, food studies, and queerness as well as historical methods. Middlebury has made numerous promises over the years to improve curricula to better represent scholarship and experiences from minoritized groups, a task that has often fallen to the labor of professors of color. Prof. Povitz does this work already. She also teaches cross-listed courses in two departments on campus that are increasingly popular, but sorely lacking in faculty: Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies and Food Studies. Losing Professor Povitz would not just be to the detriment of the History department, but to these departments as well. Finally, Prof. Povitz teaches history courses that are exciting and engaging to students who are not history majors, often will long waitlists for her classes. Study across disciplines is one of the tenets of a liberal arts education and losing a professor who builds bridges for students would be deeply counterproductive. Secondly, Professor Povitz takes not just the subject of her work seriously, but her teaching style is of great importance to her too. In all of the classes I have taken with Professor Povitz, she has genuinely wanted to know how students responded to her pedagogical choices and would make adjustments based on feedback. In my experience at Midd, this is a rarity, with most professors waiting for feedback until course response forms, at which point it is too late to change the learning experience of the current class. She has an uncanny ability to facilitate a unified classroom culture, with students connecting with each other across class years and personal backgrounds to learn together. Even when I was not Prof. Povitz’s student but would spend time with her as a mentor, she would talk to me about the classes that she was planning and ask for my opinion about what my peers would be most likely to respond to. In this way, Lana Povitz is not just a brilliant historian, but a dedicated professor. Finally, it is likely that if Middlebury does not keep Professor Povitz, they will also lose her partner, Professor Dima Ayoub. In addition to the knowledge that Middlebury will forfeiting if these two beloved professors leave, it will also miss the ways that they contribute to culture and student life outside of the classroom. Unlike some of their colleagues, these are two professors who deeply want to be at Middlebury and show their commitment through engagement: hosting events for students, attending events with Middlebury Hillel and hosting a Torah study, engaging in academic projects with students, and truly getting to know us as people by making time to have meaningful conversations during office hours and over coffee. Personally, I feel like knowing and learning from Professor Povitz has significantly shaped my experience at Middlebury. It saddens me deeply to think that future Middlebury students will not have the chance to grow as scholars and people from her support. Losing both Professor Ayoub and Professor Povitz would leave a consequential hole in the Middlebury community. Sincerely, Grace Weissman

Building Jewish Community, Professor Povitz's Courses, Supporting Queer Students

Dear Middlebury College, I am a first year student and I was in Professor P’s FYS. Her class was something I always looked forward to and I feel like I gained valuable technical skills applicable to my future college courses. Her engaging personality and classroom fostered a place where my classmates and I could have intimate discussions and feel safe sharing. What I’m trying to say is that Povitz helped me feel more confident in sharing my own thoughts and ideas in a classroom setting. Over the semester our class became really close all thanks to Povitz. Some of my best friends I’ve made here at Middlebury were from that class. Letting Professor Povitz go would be a huge loss. She is not only an incredible lecturer and extremely kind and caring person but she has done so much for the LGBTQ+ and Jewish population here at Midd. Representation is the key to creating a comfortable space for all. Being from the LGBTQ+ community herself, Povitz can empathize easily with other LGBTQ+ students. Basically she brings a ‘different’ perspective to the classroom that is an important aspect of students gaining a democratic education. Having her as a professor and being able to talk to and learn from her unique perspectives is invaluable. Please reconsider. We love Professor P.