News Archive

Institute on Jewish Law Receives $2.85M to Expand Programs

Professor Ken Bamberger

by Susan Gluss

The Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society has received a combined gift of $2.85 million from four leading California foundations. This unprecedented donation will allow the institute to expand its classes and programs in Israel Studies and Jewish law and thought, as well as support broader programs in law and undergraduate studies.

The financial gift, to be allocated over the next three to five years, consists of monies from Bay Area-based Koret Foundation ($450,000), the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund ($450,000), and the Jim Joseph Foundation ($1.2M), as well as Los Angeles-based The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation ($750,000).

Law Professor Ken Bamberger, the institute’s founder and faculty director, said the donation secures its position as “the leading Jewish law program in the Western United States.”

“I think it helps cement the law school as a leader in multiple areas,” Bamberger said. “It expands our powerful role in international and comparative law and helps build on our historic strengths in religious law.” The Law School’s Robbins Collection is one of the leading international research centers in the field of religious and civil law.

“The institute widens the educational opportunities for students interested in comparative and international law,” said Professor Andrew Guzman, associate dean of the international and graduate law programs. “It expands Berkeley Law's core strengths in both disciplines—as well as its foundation in religious law.”

Institute initiatives

The institutes' two main initiatives—one focused on Jewish law and thought, the other on the multidisciplinary study of Israel—serve undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. Since its inception two years ago, it has supported 20 course offerings, as well as conferences, major lectures, monthly colloquia, and roundtables. It has brought seven visiting faculty to campus, as well as post-doctoral fellows, and scholars—including a Fulbright.

Two law classes will be offered in the spring: Jewish Law for law students and Comparative Constitutional Law: The Case of Israel for undergraduates. Courses this term include Contemporary Israeli Culture, and Modern Jewish Thought.

Upcoming institute programs include the Robbins Collection Lecture in Jewish Law and Thought; a major address by renowned Princeton political scientist Michael Walzer on “What We Can Learn From the Jewish Political Tradition”; and a faculty colloquium by Haifa University Law School professor Fania Oz-Salzberger on the use of social media during recent protests in Israel. The institute just confirmed a talk this fall by Ambassador Dennis Ross, former U.S. Middle East envoy on the ongoing peace negotiations.

To add to the mix, the institute will host an international conference on “Water and the Environment in Israel” next spring. It’s also launching a slew of research collaborations between Berkeley Law scholars and Israeli academics on areas ranging from environmental technologies and privatization to judicial behavior. Visiting Israeli Professor Amnon Lehavi, a leading international property law scholar, will teach and conduct research at Berkeley this year.

“We’ve received funding year-by-year for various programs, much like a start-up, to try different things and test them out,” Bamberger said. “This gift allows us to really become an ongoing institution on the Berkeley campus, so law and undergraduate students can rely on our courses, and our programming can build on itself.”

This major gift “speaks volumes for the quality of the institute,” said Richard Greene ’63, director of the Koret Foundation, in a statement. “It will have a profound impact on the students interested in these studies and the campus as a whole.”