02 November 2010

Texas: UT Jewish studies receives $12 million

Jewish education is important. This is the second recent Jewish studies grant to a major university.

The University of Texas (Austin) will become a hub for Texas Jewish history education and programming via a multimillion-dollar challenge grant, initiated by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

The university has already raised $5.8 million of the $6 million needed on their part, and will receive $6 million from the Schusterman Foundation when the final $200,000 is raised by the end of December 2010, according to the story in the Jewish Herald Voice (Houston).

The Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies was established three years ago, and offers a multidisciplinary curriculum, with nearly 30 cross-listed courses, that explores Jewish life, culture and religion. Teaching professors come from a wide variety of fields. The new matching grant will result in expanded academic and cultural offerings as well as five new professorships.

A new Jewish studies professor will be added each year for the next five years.. Three have already been named: North American Jewish Studies, Jewish Arts & Culture, Zionism Studies/Israel & the Diaspora.

The goal is also to make UT the center for scholars and students interested in the Texas Jewish experience.

According to UT Professor Robert H. Abzug:

“The Texas Jewish community has accomplished more than many others. It has this history of small-town roots, in which Jews really took a part in modernizing Texas through commerce: going from being peddlers to becoming department store owners, to bringing modern infrastructure and institutions to rural, small-town communities,” he said.

“It’s also the most intermarried community I’ve ever come across. It’s both part of the broader world of Texas and a very real and solid community of its own,” he added.

“We’re drawing this focus not simply because we’re here in Texas. Rather, it’s because the national significance of Texas Jewish history is, as of yet, unminded and unrecognized,” he said.
The center is also discussing a lecture series with the UT Business School to spotlight Texas Jewish entrepreneurs. [Tracing the Tribe hopes Bennett Greenspan of FamilyTreeDNA.com is on their list!)

The center plans to fund a Texas Jewish History professorship and raise money for a research/outreach fund to support study. Abzur wants to create a short course in Texas Jewish history that could travel to a synagogue, community or Christian church that would help answer questions.

UT and SCJS also focuses on Israel, as it hosts Israeli writers, speakers and visiting scholars, and develops programming with partner organizations and institutions, in Jewish arts and culture.

SCJS is working with Texas Performing Arts to host a four-day conference on the music, art and fate of the people of TerezĂ­n, along with photo exhibits.

Other events on the calendar:

-- April, 2011:SCJS and Rice University's new Jewish studies program will hold an event in Austin.

-- August 2011: there will be the Early Modern Workshop in Jewish History, with the participation of top Jewish scholars.

--Spring 2012: Western Hemisphere Jewish Studies conference will feature major Canadian, US and Latin American scholars.

Read the complete article at the link above. For more information on SCJS, click here.

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