The Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies has matched a $6 million grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, ensuring the continued growth of Jewish studies at The University of Texas at Austin.
Over the past five years, the center has emerged as a nexus for the study of Jewish thought, culture and history, with an emphasis on the often-understudied areas of Jewish life in the Americas. By successfully raising the money to match the grant, the center will be able to hire new faculty, expand course offerings and community programs, and reinvigorate an annual speaker series that brings luminaries of Jewish art, ideas and culture to Austin.
“The Schusterman Center continues to thrive on all fronts, making The University of Texas at Austin an important hub of Jewish scholarship and study,” says center Director Robert Abzug, the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History and American Studies. “We’ve developed a unique niche that leverages our location and expertise and allows our professors to tell the untold stories of Jewish communities throughout the Americas. The generosity of our many supporters — especially the Schusterman and Gale families — allows us to expand that role.”
The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation supports Jewish causes around the world. It made its $6 million challenge grant to the university in 2006.
“We are thrilled that the University of Texas is now one giant step closer to establishing a world-class center of Jewish studies from which thousands of students of all backgrounds and religions will be able to access a rich education in Jewish history, tradition and culture,” says foundation Chair Lynn Schusterman.
The Schusterman Center was able to match the grant through contributions from University of Texas at Austin alumni and the Beaumont-based Gale Foundation, which has committed more than $1 million. That money will be used to establish two new professorships and revive the Gale Lecture Series, which was a major campus event for more than 25 years.
Founded by Edwin and Becky Gale, the Gale Foundation has historically been the largest benefactor of Jewish studies at The University of Texas at Austin, establishing an endowment in the 1970s that funded a chaired professorship. That chair, and another endowed chair in the College of Liberal Arts, will now be brought into the Schusterman Center.
“These generous contributions ensure that Jewish studies will remain a vital part of life on campus and that all of our students can take challenging and dynamic courses from top professors,” says College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy L. Diehl.
“Our groundbreaking focus on Jewish life in the Americas will translate directly into a stronger education for University of Texas at Austin students,” says President William Powers. “The Schustermans, Gales and our network of generous alumni have made this all possible.”
More than 650 University of Texas at Austin students take Jewish studies courses each year.
“The Schusterman Center played a huge role in my life, connecting me to Jewish studies and fellow majors,” says Ellie Agnew, a 2010 graduate and seventh generation Texan who now works in Jewish studies research at Brandeis University. “It is a haven of courses, events and resources for anyone interested in the Jewish people, Jewish studies, Israel and the Middle East.”
The Schusterman Center receives virtually no funding from the college, university or state. It has already worked cooperatively with Texas Performing Arts; the Departments of Theatre and Dance, History, American Studies, Spanish and Portuguese, Anthropology, Middle Eastern Studies, Religious Studies; the Center for Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, the Center for European Studies, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, the School of Law, Texas Hillel, the Jewish Community Association of Austin, the Austin Jewish Film Festival and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.