The University of Oklahoma has received a grant from the Schusterman Family Foundation to enhance and enrich its current Judaic and Israel studies programs and offerings. The grant will enable OU to elevate its existing Schusterman Program in Judaic and Israel Studies into a full-fledged center to be housed in the Department of History. The new center will promote exemplary teaching and scholarship about Jewish history, thought and culture as well as modern Israel.
OU currently offers a wide variety of courses in Jewish history in all periods and places, Hebrew language and literature at all levels, Yiddish, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), Bible, and Jewish literature in translation, as well as anthropological, sociological, and political perspectives on the Jewish and Israeli experience. The new center will expand undergraduate, graduate and doctoral study and help to train a new cadre of students and academics specializing in the research and teaching of Judaic and Israel studies. Through public programming and outreach, the new center will deepen awareness of Jewish studies and modern Israel on campus and become an important resource in the region for those looking to learn more about these rich and varied fields.
“The University greatly appreciates this generous and strategically important grant from the Schusterman Family,” said OU President David L. Boren. “In recognition of the grant, I will recommend to the OU Board of Regents that the program be named the Schusterman Center for Judaic and Israeli Studies. The grant continues a long partnership with the Schusterman family, including their gift for our Tulsa campus.”
Three fully endowed positions, the Schusterman Chair of Israel Studies, the Schusterman/Josey Chair in Judaic Studies and the Schusterman/Josey Professorship of Jewish Intellectual History, will allow the Center to attract and retain outstanding teachers. Also adding to the strength of the Center is the establishment of a tenure-track assistant professor position in American Jewish History and a permanent position for a visiting Israeli professor, who will alternate teaching in History and in International and Area Studies.
The University will also establish two graduate fellowships and scholarships for study in Israel, enhance the Hebrew Language Instructional Program and increase library acquisitions to support undergraduate and graduate research and study.
“We have long been committed to ensuring that OU can offer its students exceptional instruction in Jewish and Israel studies,” said Lynn Schusterman, Founder and Co-Chair of the Schusterman Family Foundation. “We are thrilled to help expand this program into a leading Center in our home state and hope it continues to attract students eager to learn more about the Jewish tradition and modern Israel.”
In September, OU will launch searches to fill the new Schusterman Chair in Israel Studies, which was established by a grant from the Schusterman Family Foundation in 2007 and became fully funded with the recent State Bond issue, and the Schusterman/Josey Chair in Judaic Studies, which is being vacated by the retirement of Norman (Noam) Stillman, director of the Judaic Studies Program at OU and an internationally noted authority on the history and culture of the Islamic world and Sephardi and Oriental Jewry.
“The establishment of the Schusterman Center of Judaic and Israel Studies at OU will guarantee and enhance the strength, creativity and dynamism of this program – which already enjoys an international reputation – well into the future,” Stillman said.
The Schusterman Family Foundation has long supported the expansion of Jewish and Israel Studies as part of its broader philanthropic investments at OU and elsewhere. The Foundation established the Schusterman/Josey Chair in Judaic Studies at OU in 1993, and this single endowed position has since grown into a robust program with approximately two dozen course offerings, attracting an enrollment of more than 650 students annually, as well as a well-attended brown-bag lunch series, an annual keynote lecture and a Jewish film festival. The Schusterman family has also established the Israel Institute in Washington, D.C., as well as centers of Jewish and Israel Studies at Brandeis University and the University of Texas.