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Jewish program at UC Berkeley gets $10m from Diller Foundation

The Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley announced Tuesday it has received a $10 million gift from the S.F.-based Helen Diller Foundation to coincide with the institute’s 10-year anniversary.

The largesse will be accompanied by a name change, as the institute will henceforth be known as the Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies.

The funding will allow the institute to reach even more students, UC Berkeley officials said, and includes plans for a new minor in Israel studies and more study and internship opportunities in Israel.

The academic center, housed within Berkeley Law, sponsors a wide range of programs, including classes on Israel studies and Jewish studies, student fellowships, lectures and other public events, research support for scholars and a visiting faculty program.

“The generosity of the Helen Diller Foundation allows us to institutionalize our focus on supporting and mentoring students, and expanding programs and initiatives that deepen scholarly inquiry and discourse across the UC Berkeley campus for the long term,” co-founder and director Kenneth Bamberger said in a statement.

The institute has two core programs, its Program on Israel Studies and its Program on Jewish Law, Thought and Identity.

The cross-disciplinary center draws its faculty from UC Berkeley departments as diverse as music, economics, journalism and business, and regularly hosts noted scholars from top Israeli universities. It got its start with seed funding from the L.A.-based Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, which has maintained its support throughout the years while other funding has come from the Koret Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation (both based in San Francisco) and the Israel Institute.

This is not the first time Israel and Jewish studies at UC Berkeley have been supported by the Diller family. In 2002, the family made a endowment gifts of $5 million to fund the campus’ Center for Jewish Studies, and in 2019 the Helen Diller Foundation made a gift of $5 million to establish and name the Helen Diller Family Chair in Israel Studies, the university’s first endowed faculty chair in the field.

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