Genesis Philanthropy Group makes $10.8 million grant to Brandeis University

Here’s the release from Brandeis:

WALTHAM, Massachusetts – The Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), a foundation dedicated to strengthening Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide, has committed up to $10.8 million to Brandeis University to establish the Brandeis Genesis Institute for Russian-speaking Jewry and to provide scholarships at Brandeis for undergraduate and graduate students.

The Genesis grant will fund scholarships for between 36 and 60 undergraduates, 14 master’s degree candidates, six Ph.D. candidates and 132 participants in Brandeis summer programs for high school youth over the next five years, starting in 2009. The Brandeis Genesis Institute will undertake a variety of activities to support Russian- speaking students, including recruitment, extra-curricular and community activities, outreach and organizing conferences, and exchanges with other institutions and groups.

“Genesis Philanthropy Group is committed to ensuring that Jewish culture, heritage and values are preserved among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide,” said Stan Polovets, chief executive officer and board member of GPG. “Our grant-making strategy is to find institutions that share our values and invest in their capacity to have maximum impact on our target population. We are delighted to partner with Brandeis University in launching this major initiative.”

Dr. Misha Galperin, chief executive officer of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and GPG’s Senior Advisor on the Brandeis project, said that “Russian Jews have a lot to learn about, but also have a lot to contribute to Jewish communities where they live.  The Brandeis Genesis Institute will be a major milestone in developing leadership from among this population and helping integrate Russian speaking Jews into the larger Jewish communities.”

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“It is extremely gratifying to have these generous new scholarships,” Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz said. “It allows us to expand our commitments to diversity, to an ever-widening global perspective, and to serving the Jewish community.”

Faculty and administrators said that the scholarships would increase cultural and linguistic diversity to the benefit of the entire campus community.

The undergraduate scholarships commit the students to participate in group activities involving community service, cultural programs and projects, mentoring and discussions to develop and enhance Jewish identity.

The graduate scholarships will be awarded to master’s degree candidates in the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, whose graduates hold leadership positions in major Jewish organizations in the United States and around the world.

“The Hornstein Program is excited to be able to train a cadre of communal leaders who can bring Russian culture and expertise to the Jewish community,” said Leonard Saxe, professor of Jewish community research and social policy.

Daniel Terris, Brandeis associate vice president for global affairs, said the gift would bolster on-going efforts “to build strong connections for Brandeis around the world. This new endeavor combines two important Brandeis commitments – to nurture our ties to the worldwide Jewish community and to develop our strengths as a global institution.”

Bradley Solmsen, who will assist in the administration of the new scholarships, said the new program would build on models of mentorship and extra-curricular enrichment that already have been employed successfully at Brandeis.

Solmsen is director of Brandeis University’s two summer programs for high school students: Genesis, and the BIMA program in music and the arts. Each of these programs will receive 16 scholarships through the new grant. Genesis Philanthropy Group funded 10 scholarships in those programs last year.

“The 10 participants from Moscow and from Russian-speaking homes here in the U.S. added tremendous richness to the Genesis summer program at Brandeis last year,” Solmsen said.  “This initiative has already contributed a great deal to BIMA and Genesis, and now it will do the same for the entire Brandeis community.”

For more information, visit www.brandeis.edu/bgi.                                

About the Genesis Philanthropy Group
The mission of Genesis Philanthropy Group is to develop and enhance Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide, with a particular emphasis on the former Soviet Union, North America, and Israel. GPG is committed to supporting and launching projects, programming, and institutions that are focused on ensuring that Jewish culture, heritage, and values are preserved in Russian-speaking Jewish communities across the globe. The foundation was established in the summer of 2007 by Mikhail Fridman, German Khan, Pyotr Aven, Alex Knaster, and Stan Polovets. In the past 18 months, GPG has made over 30 grants, which included gifts to organizations such as Birthright Israel, Moscow State University, the IDF Education Department, Limmud, Maccabi, and the New York Jewish Museum. Its most recent grants include $ 4.4 million to the Foundation for Jewish Camps, $2.8 million to Wexner Foundation , and $4.4 million to Yad Vashem museum in Israel.  For more information, visit www.gpg.org.

About the Hornstein Program
The Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program trains students to meet the challenges of a fast-changing Jewish community. It prepares the next generation of Jewish leaders for service in North American and international Jewish organizations by offering students top-quality scholarship, intensive professional training and carefully selected field experiences in three graduate-level, dual-degree programs: the dual MBA-MA in Jewish Professional Leadership, the dual MPP-MA in Jewish Professional Leadership and the dual MA in Jewish Professional Leadership and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. For more information, visit www.brandeis.edu/hornstein.

About Genesis and BIMA
Genesis is a summer program that allows high school students to get a taste of college through courses, social action projects, community life and workshops that integrate Jewish exploration with intellectual challenge. For more information, visit www.brandeis.edu/genesis.
BIMA is a summer arts program for teenagers offering five core areas of artistic study: music (instrumental or vocal), visual arts, writing, film-making and theater. Participants have the opportunity to develop techniques, hone skills, enhance their ability to express themselves in their chosen medium, and collaborate artistically with other participants. For more information, visit www.brandeis.edu/bima.

About Brandeis University
Founded in 1948, Brandeis University is named for the late Louis Dembitz Brandeis, a distinguished associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, and reflects the ideals of academic excellence and social justice he personified. Brandeis is the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college or university in the United States. Located just west of Boston, Brandeis is a member of the Association of American Universities, and is consistently ranked among the world’s top liberal arts, research institutions. For more information on Brandeis University and its global presence, visit www.brandeis.edu/globalbrandeis.

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