University of California, Berkeley, establishes first Israel Studies chair


(JTA) — The University of California, Berkeley, has created an endowed faculty chair in Israel studies.

The chair is the university’s first in the field and will endow courses, research and programs of the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies, the university said in a statement.

The chair is endowed with a $5 million grant from the Helen Diller Family Foundation. It will be held by Ron Hassner, the Berkeley institute’s faculty co-director and an international relations expert on the relationship between religion and conflict.

Hassner, a recipient of the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award, is an associate professor of political science. In fall 2018, Hassner pioneered UC Berkeley’s first regular course on conflict in the Middle East.

Helen and Sanford Diller met in the early 1950s at Berkeley while they were undergraduates. In 2002, the Diller family made endowment gifts of $5 million to Berkeley, which currently provide funding for the campus’s Center for Jewish Studies and support its director, faculty research funds, and graduate student fellowship and research funds.

The grant “signals great faith in the work we have done to build Jewish and Israel Studies at Berkeley, and helps launch, in a very robust way, a campaign to ensure that our ‘startup’ efforts will be institutionalized for generations of students to come,” UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said in a statement.

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