The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts received its largest gift ever yesterday when real estate developer Samuel Frankel donated $20 million to the center that already bears his name.
The $20 million, given to the Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, will go toward creating the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies — a program within the Frankel Center where visiting professors will conduct research on the “history, culture, literature, and religion of the Jews from antiquity to the present,” according to a University press release.
Because the purpose of the donation was to create an endowment for the hiring of faculty, all of the money will be used to bring 14 scholars from around the country and the world to conduct research at the new center, said Nancy Connell, a University spokeswoman.
The hiring process will not begin until next year, and Connell said it is too early to know which professors the University plans to pursue.
Although the donation will not affect many students directly, as visiting professors will primarily be concerned with conducting research, Connell said students will benefit from the money by learning about the professors’ research and having access to them as resources.
The University hopes to benefit from the donation on a larger scale by making the center the largest and best of its kind in the country.
“While almost every other program in the country has the resources to bring one or possibly two visiting Jewish studies professors to campus for a semester or even a year, we will soon have the ability to host 14 scholars for an entire academic year — every year — to share, debate and test ideas in ways that will advance knowledge in the many fields making up Jewish studies,” said Todd Endelman, director of the center.
According to the University, more than 1,000 students take courses offered through the Judaic Studies center every semester. LSA junior Jessica Evans, who just switched her major to Judaic Studies, said many people do not understand the purpose of studying Judaism or Jewish culture because they are not aware of the rich traditions and historical importance of the religion.
“People always think of the Holocaust, but there’s so much more in (Jewish) history that needs to be learned,” she said. The Frankels have maintained a relationship with the University for many years, beginning with an initial $2 million donation in 1988 to fund the Judaic Studies center that is named after them.
The Frankels’ son Stanley and his wife Maxine are vice and co-chair respectively of Michigan Difference, University President Mary Sue Coleman’s campaign to raise $2.5 billion for the University in private donations.