March 3, 2005

by Reb Yudel
Can the seminaries play in the big leagues?

While the Jewish Week headline writer lifts the "a sign of maturation of Judaic studies" quote, the significance of this story is mentioned in a Higher Ed piece Steven I linked to last week: It's the decntralization of Jewish studies.

Or, perhaps, a vote of no-confidence in the Jewish studies institutions in New York? Did the JTS Development department know that these folks had millions burning a hole in their pocket? Oops, too late now!


The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor last week announced the creation of an institute for advanced Judaic studies, made possible by a $20 million gift from Samuel and Jean Frankel, two UM alumni. It is believed to be the largest gift ever earmarked for Jewish studies at any university, and the most sizeable donation ever given to UM’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

When it opens in the fall of 2007, the institute, to be housed in the existing Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, will bring together 14 international Jewish studies scholars. They will spend a year at the university collaboratively researching a single pre-selected topic. The area of study will be expansive enough to be relevant to academics focused on a wide range of eras and regions, UM officials said.

“Our goal is to become the place that sets the national agenda for Jewish studies … by giving [scholars] a place to figure out where the frontier is,” said Terrence J. McDonald, the LSA dean.

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