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.
Can Jews talk to Muslims who reject the very existence of a Jewish state?
Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, hopes they can. Last week Schneier convened the first National Summit of Imams and Rabbis, a risky venture that he hopes will plant the seeds of future cooperation and communication.
The Union for Reform Judaism is also working with the Islamic Society of North America to promote joint education and dialogue projects.
An otherwise noncontentious national meeting of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs next week could see a fierce debate and politicking over a proposal to put the umbrella Jewish group in line behind efforts to impose divestment on Sudan because of the genocide in Darfur.
The Jewish community appears poised to join a growing movement of city and state legislatures, universities, religious organizations and other groups in calling for a targeted economic boycott of the Sudan.
The move, supporting divestment from companies with business ties to the Sudanese government, would come as the ethnic cleansing in Darfur, a region of the Sudan, enters its fourth year. The slaughter, considered a genocide by the U.S. government and much of the international community, has killed at least 400,000 civilians and displaced as many as 2.5 million.
Rabbi Andrew Davids, executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, makes no secret of the challenges his group faces as it tries to increase aliyah, or immigration to Israel, within the Reform movement.
One participant called it an “eye-opener” — a two-day conference aimed at introducing aliyah shlichim, or emissaries, to Reform Judaism and how the movement views immigration to Israel. But on that score — the priority that Reform Jews place on Israel and aliyah — the event presented a decidedly mixed picture.
As the military government in Myanmar continued its crackdown on pro-democracy activists, a Burmese Jew now living in the United States expressed his sorrow over the killing of civilians — a number that could be as low as the 10 acknowledged by the government or as high as the hundreds claimed by human-rights advocates.
Sammy Samuels, a New York-based employee of American Jewish Congress, also said he witnessed one of the largest demonstrations preceding the crackdown while visiting his family in Yangon, Myanmar’s capital, for the High Holy Days.
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