The University of Michigan has received a $20 million gift to establish a research institute for Jewish studies.
The money, donated by Samuel and Jean Frankel, will be used to bring together 14 scholars from every field of Jewish studies to spend two semesters together, in one building, with no teaching obligations.
The Frankels created the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus nearly two decades ago. The new initiative will be known as the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies.
The gift, according to university representatives, is the largest ever given to the university’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. It is also, they say, the largest ever given for Jewish studies at any university.
The director of the Frankel Institute, Todd Endelman, said the new research institute will look for scholars in a range of fields. Historians, scholars of literature and linguistics, theologians, philosophers, as well as specialists in Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino, Aramaic and other languages will all be welcome.
The institute will look mainly for established academics, but will welcome “a small number of postdoctoral students, as well,” said Endelman, who is also the university’s William Haber Professor of Modern Jewish History. “We want a mix of bright, promising young scholars and senior people in the field.”
There will be a new theme each year, drawn from among such potential topics as Jewish political behavior in periods of crisis, Jewish responses to catastrophe and Jewish-Christian relations throughout the centuries.
“Those are the kinds of topics that are broad enough to bring people in from all disciplines and time periods,” Endelman said.
Plans call for the institute to open in the fall of 2007.
The Frankels, who live in suburban Detroit, both graduated from the University of Michigan, as did many of their family members. Their son Stuart and his wife, Maxine, donated $10 million to the school in May to expand its art museum.