U.C. Berkeley has announced the opening of a new Center for Jewish Studies, JWeekly has reported. The literary scholar Robert Alter is set as the Center's founding director, and the University has allocated $1 million to jumpstart the program.
The college has previously had a Jewish Studies minor, as well as ample resources for students, but the complex bureacracy made it a logistically difficult program for selection in the past.
“It’s the missing piece,” professor Ken Bamberger, founder of the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society told JWeekly. “In a sense, [the center] clicks everything into place. It will bring together students from a wide array of departments, who will now have Jewish studies as part of their degree.”
Jewish students have attempted to take legal action against the University twice since 2011, most recently on the grounds that during Israel Apartheid Week, Jews on campus were the victims of anit-Semitic harrassment. Both complaints were dismissed. The college has also confronted the complexities of the the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel and the academic freedom issues it raises, as anti-Israel groups have increased their protests.
“This is meant to be a serious expression of support,” said the college's new Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to J. Weekly of the $1 million grant. “It doesn’t happen every day. It’s a real commitment on our part."
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