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UC Berkeley receives $5 million gift to enhance Jewish studies, support visiting scholar
28 October 2002

By José Rodríguez, Development Communications

Berkeley - The University of California, Berkeley, has received a $5 million gift that will support a multi-disciplinary visiting Israeli scholars program and fund fellowships and research grants in Jewish studies.

The gift, from UC Berkeley alumna Helen Diller, of Woodside, Calif., will endow the Helen Diller Family Program in Jewish Studies at UC Berkeley. It is the largest single gift to date supporting Jewish studies on the UC Berkeley campus.

"UC Berkeley is pleased to receive this generous and important gift from the Diller family. This significant endowment will allow us to expand and strengthen our scholarly program in Jewish studies," said Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl.

The new Helen Diller Family Program in Jewish Studies includes three components.

One element, the visiting Israeli Scholars Program, will bring to campus a highly distinguished scholar from a broad range of disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and the professions. The scholar will teach courses during a two-semester visit in any of a variety of fields at UC Berkeley .

The Diller Scholar, as the position will be known, will be selected each year by a committee comprised of the chair of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and including the dean of International and Area Studies and the chair of the Jewish Studies Faculty Committee.

A second component will fund fellowships to support graduate students focusing on Jewish studies in the College of Letters & Science. Finally, Diller Grants will support research by undergraduates, graduates, postdoctoral students and faculty in Jewish studies. In addition, two recently renovated classrooms in Barrows Hall at UC Berkeley will be named The Helen Diller Family Classroom East and The Helen Diller Family Classroom West.

"The Berkeley campus has long had one of the leading programs in Jewish studies in the country, and in the training of students in modern Hebrew literature it is without peer," said Robert Alter, UC Berkeley professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature.

The campus does not currently have an undergraduate major or minor in Jewish studies, but it does offer a substantial number of relevant courses in departments such as Near Eastern studies, history, and comparative literature. It has a joint doctoral program in Jewish studies in cooperation with the Graduate Theological Union, and there are nearly 30 students doing doctoral work in Jewish studies in the various campus departments and in the joint program, thus making UC Berkeley one of the major centers in the United States for training graduate students in this field.

The gift came to the campus through the Helen and Sanford Diller Supporting Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma counties.