Babi YarErasing Babi Yar, Again


Babi Yar is the single most symbolic site of the Holocaust in Ukraine and across the former Soviet Union; it captures the predominant way in which the Germans and their allies massacred Jews on Soviet and Ukrainian soil, what priest and author Patrick Desbois has called “the Holocaust by bullets”. In the fall of 1941, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Jews were rounded up in Kiev (now Kyiv) and marched to the Lukyanovka Jewish cemetery, which borders the enormous ravine on the outskirts of the city. On September 29 and 30, 1941, close to 34,000 Jews were massacred by bullets in the ravine of Babi Yar. The Germans continued to round-up Jews and execute them at Babi Yar. However, they also used the ravine to execute Roma, Russian and Ukrainian civilians, and Soviet POWs of all nationalities.  More than 100,000 victims are believed to have perished at Babi Yar between 1941 and 1943; approximately 50,000 of those victims were Jews.

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Just one out of 100 students knew what BDS stands for and agreed with it. And even they didn't believe it works. (iStock)

BDS? Never heard of it.


The massive international response to the crisis in Ukraine should have shocked BDS activists to the core. Twenty-plus years into its efforts to single-out Israel and sever its cultural, economic, and academic ties with the rest of the world, BDS has nothing to show for its efforts. Not a single company, bank, or university has joined the effort. Those who have attempted even a semblance of a boycott (like Ben & Jerry’s recent refusal to sell ice cream in the West Bank), faced immediate backlash, hurried to distance themselves from BDS, and eventually walked back their boycotts. Most US states now have anti-BDS laws on their books, as does Congress. As I show below, even on the most politically active campus in the U.S., students are unfamiliar with BDS, are skeptical about the effectiveness of sanctions, and vehemently reject academic boycotts.

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42 years on, Berkeley's provost is ready to leave the nest | Berkeley News

Opinion | Putin Is Prepared to Destroy Ukraine. Is the West Willing to Stop Him?


A tragic war has been inflicted on Ukraine by a leader in Moscow who appears willing to destroy that country and his alleged Slavic “brethren,” in order to get his way. Adding to the tragedy is that it was avoidable.

For more than a year, Russian President Vladimir Putin had been calling for a conference at which NATO and Russia would discuss the foundations for mutual security, as opposed to Ukraine and Georgia (and any other state of the FSU) joining NATO. He got silence in response. 

Why I’m in mourning for hope + democracy in Ukraine

Kontractova square, Kyiv, Ukraine July 13, 2019. (Photo/Maksym Kozlenko via Wikicommons)


This has been the worst month of my 50 years of life. My mom died suddenly and unexpectedly a few weeks ago, my cousin’s 26-year-old son took his own life last week, and now Russia has invaded Ukraine.

I know these may seem like unrelated events — personal, tangential, global — but they are inextricably interwoven in my brain and sit heavily in my heart. The loss of my mom is permanent, I can’t get her back. So too, for my cousin, her siblings, her children, nieces and nephews; the rupture is too great to repair, and the loss of hope reflected in a young person’s suicide is a crushing burden.

For Ukraine and Ukrainians, who have seen war, conflict and occupation in the last century, and whose land is pocked with burial grounds and mass graves from World War II and the Holocaust, the Russian invasion is a stunning development after 30 years of independence, democracy and relative peace.


Person holding textbooks


Diplomacy is, at least in a democracy, about representing the people. Across the U.S. foreign affairs workforce, there is a crisis of representation– as of 2020, the Senior Foreign Service was 80% white, with only 6.2% Black or African American officers, 7.6% Asian-American officers, and 7% Hispanic officers. Furthermore, the highest echelons of the Foreign Service continue to be dominated by graduates from a handful of elite universities ; a recent investigation found that Foreign Service Officers with Ivy League degrees were significantly more likely to be promoted at every stage of their careers than their counterparts from less-esteemed schools.

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Justice Khaled KabubFormer Student of the Tel Aviv – Berkeley Executive LL.M. Program Appointed as First Muslim Justice to Israeli Supreme Court


Last week, Khaled Kabub was appointed to the Israeli Supreme Court, making him the first Muslim to serve in this role. Justice Kabub is an alum of the Tel Aviv – Berkeley Executive LL.M. Program, a long-standing program of the Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies, in partnership with Tel Aviv University. Each year, the program brings dozens of Israeli lawyers, judges, and policymakers to study at Berkeley Law and complete their LL.M. (masters) degree. The Helen Diller Institute extends its congratulations to Justice Kabub for his historic appointment.


California Can Learn Much From Israel on How To Conserve Water, Manage Drought Better

California Drought


We can no longer pretend to be surprised by global warming. California experienced droughts in 11 of the last 15 years. The question is not whether another drought is looming.

The question is: Why aren’t we better prepared?


Nick ShaferAlumni Spotlight: Nick Shafer – John Gardner Public Service Fellow, Middle East Bureau, USAID

Nick Shafer, Class of ’19, an alumni of the Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies’ Undergraduate Fellowship, graduated from UC Berkeley with a double B.A. in Anthropology and Arabic Language and Minors in Public Policy and Global Studies. In 2019, he studied at the Qasid Arabic Institute in Amman, Jordan as a Boren Scholar. Shafer then founded Global Community College Transfers, a non-profit dedicated to
increasing transfer student representation in
scholarships and fellowships. 


A Long Conflict between Israel, Palestinians? No one wins, scholar says

Conflict Between Israel and Palestine

After years of relative calm, a sudden blitz of violence has raised worries of a new, protracted conflict in the Middle East. 

What happens next? Predicting the course of armed conflict is always difficult, says Ron Hassner, a Middle East expert at UC Berkeley, but neither side has much to gain by such a conflict, and both have much to lose.


Talia HarrisSpotlight: Talia Harris, Undergraduate Fellow, ’22

I have really loved the intimate conversations that fellows often have with professors during our fellowship. The Institute regularly sponsors visiting professors from Israel from a variety of academic fields. It is really interesting to hear about ideas I wouldn’t normally encounter in my political science classes


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

UC Berkeley (Photo/file)

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.


UC Berkeley Jewish Law and Israel Studies Institute Receives $10M Gift from Helen Diller Foundation

UC Berkeley Law School

To kick off the 10th anniversary of UC Berkeley’s Jewish Law and Israel Studies Institute, the university announced on Feb. 9 that a $10 million endowment gift has been given by the Helen Diller Foundation.

The institute, now recognized as the Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley, will ensure a lasting legacy for its Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies. Housed at Berkeley Law, the institute engages students, faculty and the broader community in Israel Studies, and Jewish law, thought and identity.



Berkeley Law Institute Receives $10 Million Gift and a New Name

Berkeley Law
BY KAREN SLOAN | Feb 9, 2021

The University of California, Berkeley School of Law has landed a $10 million donation that will bolster the work of its 10-year-old Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies.


$10 million gift from Helen Diller Foundation marks new name for Berkeley institute at 10 year

a woman dances on stage

The University of California, Berkeley announced a $10 million endowment gift from the Helen Diller Foundation that will ensure a lasting legacy for its Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies. In recognition of this gift, the institute will now be known as the Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley.


Daniella WengerAlumni Spotlight: Daniella Wenger – Fulbright Scholar, MPhil Candidate, University of Cambridge

The Alumni Spotlight highlights former Undergraduate Fellows of the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies who are agents of change in their communities and careers. 


New podcast looks at Israel and Jewish identity in ‘Age of Covid’

UC Berkeley students and faculty record an episode of the “Israel and Jewish Identity in the Age of Covid” podcast.
(Photo/Maya Shemtov)


Interested in how a plague of locusts impacted Jews and Arabs in Palestine under Ottoman rule in 1915? Or how Haredi communities in Israel today have chafed against government edicts during the Covid-19 pandemic? Or why massive, expensive fortified barriers, like the U.S.-Mexico border wall and the West Bank barrier in Israel, continue to proliferate all over the world?


Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies Releases Podcast Series on Israel and Jewish Identity in the Age of COVID

Microphone and radio

In reaction to UC Berkeley’s closure and shelter-in-place policies, the Berkeley Institute rapidly shifted online and launched a live podcast series. The public release of the full recorded Spring 2020 season comes right in time for summer!

Berkeley, CA – May 2020 – The Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies released its Podcast Series on Israel and Jewish Identity in the Age of COVID

The 14-episode series includes interviews with experts on topics related to Israel and the novel coronavirus through different lenses – political developments, economic impacts, technology and surveillance, trauma and resilience – as well as lessons from Jewish tradition and the virus’ impact on Jewish communal life. The full season is available online here.


UC Berkeley Establishes First Faculty Chair in Israel Studies

Ron Hassner
Ron Hassner

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.