Browse our headlines from 2011 to the present. Our most recent coverage highlights the Helen Diller Foundation gift award establishing UC Berkeley’s first faculty chair in Israel Studies.
UC Berkeley Establishes First Faculty Chair in Israel Studies
Joining a select group of universities in the world with an endowed faculty chair in Israel Studies, the University of California, Berkeley today (May 2, 2019) announced the creation of the Helen Diller Family 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 chair, made possible by a $5 million grant from the Helen Diller Foundation, 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.
Joining a select group of universities in the world with an endowed faculty chair in Israel Studies, the University of California, Berkeley today (May 2, 2018) announced the creation of the Helen Diller Family 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.
Early in her lecture last week in Berkeley, theologian and feminist icon Rachel Adler brought up the #MeToo movement, but she quickly narrowed the focus to the #GamAni movement (Hebrew for MeToo). Her target? The long-standing male supremacy embedded in Jewish texts.
“My task,” said the professor of modern Jewish thought and gender at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, “is to problematize certain halachic categories.”
The Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley has received a $1 million matching grant from The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation of Los Angeles, with the goal of meeting a $10 million endowment by 2024.
The Institute also received grants totaling nearly $2 million from the Koret Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation in partial support of the Institute’s operations as it raises this endowment.
AIS at Cal
UC Berkeley, which launched the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies in 2013, will host the 34th annual conference of the Association for Israel Studies later this month. “The fact that Berkeley is hosting the annual AIS conference is a testament to the leadership position this campus has achieved since the program on Israel studies was launched just six and a half years ago,” says the institute’s founding faculty director, Kenneth Bamberger, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Professor of Law at Berkeley Law.
UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies will host the 34th annual conference of the Association for Israel Studies June 25-27. More than 300 academics are expected to attend. This year’s conference title is “Israel at 70: Challenges and Opportunities.” It will include sessions on subjects such as “Revisionism and the ‘Eastern Jews,’” “The Impact of War on the Israeli Psyche” and “Zionism and the Question of Jewish Whiteness.” It is the first time this conference is being held in Berkeley, a town more often in the news for anti-Israel events.
The field of Israel studies emerged two decades ago as a reaction against the politicization (read: anti-Israel bias) of Mideast studies departments in U.S. universities. The new field, spearheaded by the creation of Israel studies centers at Emory and American University in 1998, was designed to give scholars a place for research, collaboration and teaching unencumbered by political litmus tests. Today the field of Israel studies is robust and on the upswing, according to those who spoke at the June 25 opening keynote of the 34th annual Association for Israel Studies conference, held this year for the first time at UC Berkeley. Forty universities worldwide have adopted an Israel studies center, program or chair, including San Francisco State University, UCLA and CSU Chico.
The 34th annual Association for Israel Studies, or AIS, conference was hosted by the UC Berkeley School of Law’s Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies from June 25–27 — the first time the conference has ever taken place at UC Berkeley and only the second time ever in California. With the theme “Israel at Seventy: Challenges and Opportunities,” the conference included a keynote address by campus alumnus and University of Haifa President Ron Robin, a concert by the Amos Hoffman & Noam Lemish Quartet — which is made up of Israeli musicians — and a conferencewide meeting on the relevance of Zionism, according to the AIS program.
Last month, the University of California at Berkeley hosted the annual conference of the Association of Israel Studies. The fact that the professional meeting of Israel scholars was held there is a testament to the Berkeley faculty, who have built one of the premier Israel Studies programs in the country. What they have done demonstrates that campuses can and do change with the proper motivation and funding, and that analyses of the campus climate toward Israel that ignore these positive developments are misleading the Jewish community.
(J. Weekly, 4/7/2017)
Yair Dalal plays blues-inspired Iraqi tunes on the oud. Ibrahim Miari whirls like a Sufi dervish while wearing a gas mask from the Gulf War. Raafat Hattab lip-syncs as his alter ego, the Bride of Palestine; Elad Schechter’s dancers throw bananas at their audiences in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market; and Iris Zaki films herself washing Arab and Jewish women’s hair in a Haifa salon. This is the face of Israeli culture today, as expressed by a group of Jewish and Muslim artists, musicians, dancers and filmmakers brought to the East Bay this week for a three-day conference hosted by the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies.
(J. Weekly, 3/28/2017)
The intersection of Israeli culture and politics represents a dichotomy — it shows off the best of the nation’s innovative dance, art, theater and music on a global scene, but is the source of great debate within Israel itself. Both of those strains will be on display at UC Berkeley next week during a three-day conference entitled “Israeli Artists in Conversation with Israel.” The event, which begins Wednesday, April 5 and is hosted by the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies, will bring Israeli and American scholars and artists together to look at Israeli society through the prism of art and culture. “It’s an area that is underserved” in the realm of Israel Studies, said conference organizer Rebecca Golbert, the institute’s executive director.
News from 2016
(J. Weekly Editorial)
After years of battling calls for the destruction of Zionism, Israel’s friends at U.C. Berkeley learned they cannot out-shout the BDS crowd. They can, however, out-educate them.
The Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies at Cal has pulled off a remarkable feat since its founding in 2011. Through its Israel Studies program, the institute has brought world-class scholarship to the study of Israel, and in so doing, mellowed the climate on what had been one of the most hostile of campuses vis-à-vis Israel.
(Dan Pine, J. Staff)
As a U.C. Berkeley freshman, Jackson Block looked in vain for a course about Israeli high-tech innovation. Rather than wait for one to turn up in the catalog, he went ahead and created the class himself.
That kind of enterprising spirit is built into the Israel Studies fellowship, where Block had free rein to design a syllabus, book guest lecturers and co-teach a class on his subject of interest. Now a senior majoring in business, Block has co-taught “Innovation & Entrepreneurship: The Case of Israel” every year since.
(Dan Pine, J.Weekly)
After moving to Israel’s blazing Arava Desert, Yosef Abramowitz felt the heat and wondered why Israel did not lead the world in solar energy.
He didn’t wait for an answer and launched Energiya, a solar power company that has built moneymaking solar fields in Israel and Africa. Today Abramowitz, who formerly enjoyed a career in the nonprofit sector, has a message for others aspiring to green up the planet: Profit is not a dirty word. (Read More)
Israeli Scholar Says Country Needs a Miracle – And Hope
(Arno Rosenfeld, J.Weekly Correspondent)
Avishay Braverman, an economist, scholar and former senior Israeli politician, brought a message of guarded optimism about Israel’s future to a packed lecture hall at Berkeley Law on Feb. 25.
Braverman highlighted pressing challenges facing the Jewish state, including economic inequality, a stalling technology sector, shifting demographics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Read More)
Mothers fear having babies at hospital once hailed for promoting Israeli, Palestinian coexistence
(Shaina Shealy, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, 2016)
News from 2015
Professor Shira Offer is visiting from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bar-Ilan University. Her article is titled “The Costs of Thinking About Work and Family: Mental Labor, Work–Family Spillover, and Gender Inequality Among Parents in Dual-Earner Families.” Read the full article here.
Ex-Israeli ambassador tackles Mideast chaos in Berkeley talk
(Maya Mirsky, J. Weekly, 11/5/2015)
There were questions on Syria, questions on Palestine, questions on Israel-U.S. relations. But one question posed to former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Itamar Rabinovich got a big laugh: How does one become an ambassador? (Read More)
Visiting Professor Ori Aronson wins the annual Shneur Zalman Cheshin Prize for Academic Excellence in Law
In this picture, Professor Aronson receives his prize from the Hebrew University Law Faculty dean, Yuval Shani, and Bar Ilan University Law Faculty dean, Shahar Lifshitz. (Read More)
(5/13/15 Andrew Cohen)
In the wake of the Holocaust, prosecutors at the 1945 Nuremberg Trials faced a daunting task—trying to seek justice for an unfathomable scale of criminal behavior. Commemorating Nuremberg’s 70th anniversary, a recent Berkeley Law conference shed light on its legacy and influence on subsequent human rights tribunals. (…)
A current law student at Boalt, Judah Marans, speaks about his grandfather and about his personal journey at UC Berkeley at the City of Berkeley’s 13th Annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. This story is titled “Grandchild’s Story.”
(Sue Fishkoff, 5/5/2015)
What might be the single most important film about Nazi crimes was commissioned in 1946 by the U.S. War Department — which then turned around and suppressed it, making sure it was never seen by American audiences (…)
(Dan Pine, J.Weekly Staff, 4/16/2015)
Inside a packed U.C. Berkeley lecture hall, Rabbi Daniel Dahan rattled off every obscene anti-Semitic act committed on French soil, from the famed Dreyfus affair in the 19th century to the massacre at a kosher supermarket in Paris three months ago (…)
News from 2014
(Dept. of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies)
Visiting Professors bring new perspectives and areas of expertise to TDPS, enriching both our curriculum and relationships with other universities. During 2013-2014, TDPS has welcomed the presence of Dr. Sharon Aronson-Lehavi, the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Visiting Israeli Professor in Comparative Literature/Theater, Dance and Performance Studies. A tenured senior lecturer of Theater and Performance Studies at the Department of Comparative Literature in Bar Ilan University in Israel, she is teaching courses for both TDPS and Comparative Literature that have been quite popular with students.(…)
(Carly Nairn , 9/11/2014)
Long before 1971, when Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse on Shattuck Avenue, or even 1966, when Alfred Peet opened his first coffee shop in the North Berkeley neighborhood, gourmet ghettos existed throughout the world. Just as Saul’s, the lone Jewish deli on Shattuck, gives more than lip service to the California palate, the gourmet ghettos of Europe, Asia and North Africa were influenced by the customs, cuisines and agriculture of their surroundings. The result is an incredible diversity — from the kreplach and cabbage soup of Eastern Europe to the couscous and chickpea mélanges of the Mediterranean (…)
(The Jewish News of Northern California, 4-16-2015)
Inside a packed U.C. Berkeley lecture hall, Rabbi Daniel Dahan rattled off every obscene anti-Semitic act committed on French soil, from the famed Dreyfus affair in the 19th century to the massacre at a kosher supermarket in Paris three months ago. Then he stated the obvious. “[French] Jews are afraid,” said the chief rabbi of the Aix-en-Provence region of France. “Seven thousand Jews made aliyah from France in the last year. But if you make aliyah because you’re afraid, that’s very bad.”
(Berkeley Law, 3-5-2014)
Research fellow Miri Lavi-Neeman understands first-hand the challenges in developing Berkeley Law’s Israeli and Palestinian Waterways conference. “There are so many critically important and complex issues,” she said of the March 11 event. “You could easily have a week-long conference on this topic.” Lavi-Neeman directs Israel studies research for the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies, which is hosting the one-day conference. Working with Executive Director Rebecca Golbert and Faculty Director Kenneth Bamberger, she assembled a diverse group of international and U.S. experts to tackle concerns relating to water and the environment in the Middle East.
(Theater, Dance, and Performance studies: University of California, Berkeley, 3-2014)
Visiting Professors bring new perspectives and areas of expertise to TDPS, enriching both our curriculum and relationships with other universities. During 2013-2014, TDPS has welcomed the presence of Dr. Sharon Aronson-Lehavi, the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Visiting Israeli Professor in Comparative Literature/Theater, Dance and Performance Studies. A tenured senior lecturer of Theater and Performance Studies at the Department of Comparative Literature in Bar Ilan University in Israel, she is teaching courses for both TDPS and Comparative Literature that have been quite popular with students.
(The Jewish News of Northern California, 10-17-2013)
Although the study of text and the injunction to remember are justly cited as key aspects of Jewish continuity, I have often wondered if these aren’t ancillary to the deepest vehicles of communal transmission — ritual and performance. Why, for instance, does the Passover seder continue to serve as the single most-celebrated activity in American Jewish life? In my mind it’s because the event is structured around an elaborate, communal re-creation of the Exodus from Egypt. Just as the ancient Greeks invoked a participatory catharsis with their tragedies, and medieval Christians rededicated themselves to Jesus through the passion plays, Jews have embodied their culture’s deepest journeys by holding seders, building sukkahs and dressing in white while fasting on Yom Kippur.
4/12/2013: Filling an ‘Appetite for Jewish Learning’
(The Jewish News of Northern America, 4-12-2013)
Doctoral candidate Yedidya Etzion arrived at U.C. Berkeley in 2009. His research topic: comparing the language of Western law with that of the Midrash. Etzion, 34, expected to find a robust interaction among scholars in his field. But, he said, “When I got here, there was no academic Jewish community.” U.C. Berkeley has a large Jewish student body, and no lack of Jewish faculty members. But the university offers no undergraduate major in Jewish studies, an indication of the limited opportunities for advanced study and research in the field. While other high-level ethnic studies programs have flourished at the school — students can major in Asian American studies, Native American studies or Chicano/Latino studies, for example — the field of Jewish studies has lagged behind.
(The Jewish News of Northern California, 12-7-2012)
Judaism and the Jewish people are credited with myriad achievements: bringing monotheism to the world, codifying moral behavior, outlasting those who would destroy us — to name but a few. Here’s another, which I heard articulated last week by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Kingdom: Judaism as the voice of hope in history.
(Berkeley Law, 12-3-2012)
World-renowned scholar Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of England’s United Hebrew Congregations, delivered the Robbins Collection Annual Lecture on Jewish Law and Thought Nov. 26 at UC Berkeley School of Law. An estimated 500 people—a capacity crowd inside Booth Auditorium and an overflow gathering watching on video in a nearby room—attended Sacks’ compelling presentation on “The Future of Judaism.”
(Path-breaking Conference Compares Jewish and Islamic Law, 4-23-2012)
Unfazed by the scope of its challenge,the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society spanned 1,700 years of legal analysis in two spring semester conferences. In February, “Israel Through the High-Tech Lens” tackled modern-day topics such as challenges for Israeli entrepreneurs, cross-border collaboration in the Middle East, and clean-tech growth. In April, “Legal Heterodoxy in Islamic and Jewish History” started with the 4th century to explore how religious communities have tolerated—or not tolerated—dissimilar legal opinions.
(Berkeley Law, 2-15-2012)
Israel’s high-tech industry, a strong player in the global marketplace, took center stage Feb. 1–2 at a conference organized by the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society. “Israel Through the High-Tech Lens” drew more than 350 participants, including faculty and students, as well as business leaders, entrepreneurs, scholars, and policymakers from Israel and the U.S. Co-hosted by the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, the event tackled topics such as challenges for Israeli entrepreneurs, cross-border collaboration in the Middle East, and clean-tech growth.
(The Jewish News of Northern California, 1-27-2012)
Ronni Zehavi got quite a Chanukah present last month. On Dec. 11, he sold Contendo, a Web services company he co-founded in Israel four years ago, to Akamai, a major global high-tech player. Sale price: $268 million. Score one for the startup nation. Contendo provides Internet acceleration services for customers; that is, it helps make websites run faster.
(The Jerusalem Post, 9-7-2011)
At an increasing number of North American and international universities, it’s possible for students to focus on Israel studies. And students from all over the world, are signing up. This isn’t the image fashioned in the minds of most American Jews when the words “Israel” and “college campuses” are combined in the same sentence. For years, the Middle East conflict has pitted groups of opposing students with strident opinions against each other, often leaving Jewish youth caught in the middle with little background or knowledge to sort out the facts for themselves.
6/17/2011: Keeping it academic: Berkeley has a reputation as a hotbed of anti-Israel sentiment. A new multidisciplinary center of Israel studies aims to remove the subject from the realm of campus politics
Keeping It Academic: Berkeley has a reputation as a hotbed of anti-Israel sentiment. A new multidisciplinary center of Israel studies aims to remove the subject from the realm of campus politics, and reflects a growing trend at American universities.
BERKELEY, CA – About six years ago, Martin H. Blank, the chief operating office of the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, approached the University of California, Berkeley, where three generations of his family had studied, with an offer to establish a center for Israel studies. He was politely informed that, politically, it wasn’t the “right time” for it. What was then deemed politically problematic became possible this past January with the opening of the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society – an initiative of faculty at Berkeley’s law school, and funded by the Gilbert Foundation.
3/1/2011: Berkeley to get Israel studies institute
(The Jerusalem Post, 3-1-2011)
An interdisciplinary initiative aimed at expanding and diversifying Jewish and Israel studies at the University of California, Berkeley, will soon open. Prof. Kenneth Bamberger, the director of the new Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the program reflects “a flourishing of Jewish and legal studies in US law schools and a national surge in the academic study of Israel.