Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies
The Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies was founded in 1994 with an initial endowment from Carl and Dorothy Bennett of Greenwich, Connecticut. Its goal is to enrich the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual life of Fairfield University through lectures, programs, and other special events; enhancement of the university library's Judaic collection; monthly Shabbat services and dinners (co-sponsored with the Campus Ministry), and ongoing support of the College of Arts and Sciences' undergraduate interdisciplinary program in Judaic Studies. Bennett Center events are open to the University and greater Bridgeport/Fairfield communities.
Since its inception, Dr. Ellen M. Umansky has served as both the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor of Judaic Studies (a faculty position within the university's Department of Religious Studies) and the Director of the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies. The Center has received support from numerous individuals and foundations, including the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Foundation, the Adoph and Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation, the Samuel and Bettie Roberts Endowment in Jewish Art, David and Edith Chaifetz, and the Frank Jacoby Foundation. Through these gifts, the Bennett Center has brought many world-renowned lecturers to the University, including former NBC News journalist and Tel Aviv Bureau Chief Martin Fletcher; author Elie Wiesel; Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service; rabbi and author Lawrence Kushner; American Jewish historian Jonathan Sarna; and painter, sculptor, and photorealist Audrey Flack.
Particularly successful has been Ellen Umansky’s Lunch and Learn series, an annual eight-week course that attracts up to 50 participants from the greater Fairfield/Bridgeport communities. The series tackles academically challenging themes, such as Movers and Shakers: Men and Women Who Made a Difference in American Jewish Life; Textually Speaking: Modern Jewish Perspectives on Judaism and Jewish Self-Identity; and Jewish Concepts of the Sacred.
The Fairfield University campus community met in a sukkah for lunch, classes and reflection during the Jewish fall festival. Students Rachel Sperry '14, left, and Catherine Hughes, right, with Dr. Ellen Umansky, director of Fairfield University's Bennett Center for Judaic Studies.
From the establishment and retention of the Chair in Judaic Studies to monthly Shabbat services and an annual service in remembrance of the Holocaust, Hebrew workshops open to the university community, and its comprehensive resources and outreach programs, the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies has established a permanent and growing reputation in the Fairfield County community - reaching out to its 70,000 Jewish residents and neighbors effectively and prolifically - as well as to many others. Through the Center, Fairfield University continues to be committed to building a bridge of understanding between the Jewish and Jesuit traditions.
KADIMA is Fairfield University's undergraduate Jewish cultural organization, headed by President Kelsey Wallace'15 and Vice President Paige Mahoney'15. Dr. Ellen Umansky serves as the group's faculty advisor.
Friday evening Kabbalat services and Shabbat dinners take place three times a semester for faculty, staff, students, and their guests.