Four California Foundations Award $2.85m. to Expand Jewish and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley

Four leading supporters of Jewish life in California have joined together to make an unprecedented coordinated gift of $2.85m to UC Berkeley’s Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society.

The gift will support classes and programs in Israel Studies and Jewish Law and Thought, as well as broader programs to support undergraduate students on the UC Berkeley campus. It consists of three-to-five year support from the Jim Joseph Foundation ($1.2m), The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation ($750,000), the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund ($450,000), and the Koret Foundation ($450,000).

The Berkeley Institute was founded in 2011 with pioneering seed funds from The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, a major supporter of the University of California. The Institute’s two programs – one on Israel Studies, one on Jewish Law and Thought – are coordinated by a faculty committee drawn from over ten different departments and schools around campus. Since its inception, the Institute has supported twenty undergraduate course offerings, as well as conferences, major lectures and roundtables for faculty, graduate students and the broader East Bay community. It has brought seven visiting faculty to Cal, as well as post-doctoral fellows, visiting scholars and a Fulbright Scholar.

This year the Institute is organizing classes including “Contemporary Israeli Culture,” and “The Holocaust in Theater.” Its 2013-2014 program includes an international conference on Water and the Environment in Israel and a major address by renowned Princeton political scientist Michael Walzer on “What We Can Learn From the Jewish Political Tradition.” The Institute this year will also launch a slate of research collaborations between UC Berkeley scholars and Israeli academics, on areas ranging from environmental technologies to judicial behavior.

“This tremendous gift will support the Institute’s goals of reaching more students and faculty, offering more programming, and transitioning from a ‘startup’ to a permanent institution at U.C. Berkeley,” explained Berkeley Law Prof. Kenneth A. Bamberger, the Institute’s faculty director. “We are extremely grateful for the vision and support of the four foundations.”

Central to the Institute’s activities is an attempt to integrate its programs into undergraduate life, through its coordination of undergraduate faculty mentors; hosting of formal and informal undergraduate events and meetings with visiting scholars and speakers; and program collaborations with student groups on campus.