Schnurmacher Foundations continue support of Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University with a $50,000 grant


The Adolph & Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation and the Charles & Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation have awarded $50,000 to Fairfield University's Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies for the center's 2004 program year. The grant will provide ongoing operational support for the center's activities and brings to $285,000 the amount of funding provided by the Schnurmacher Foundations to the center since 1997.

"We strongly support Fairfield University's leadership role in providing education and promoting understanding among Jews, Catholics, and people of other religious and ethnic backgrounds," said Fred Plotkin, a director and corporate secretary of the Schnurmacher Foundations.

"The high quality and of the programs offered by the Bennett Center, as well as the Center's ongoing vitality and growth is due in no small measure to the invaluable support that we continue to receive from the Schnurmacher Foundations," said Ellen Umansky, Ph.D., director of the Judaic Studies Program and the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor of Judaic Studies.

The crucial funding provided by the Schnurmacher Foundations and a host of other supporters have helped to make a variety of Judaic Studies programs possible to Fairfield University students and the community at large, such as the Annual Holocaust Remembrance Service. Held this year on April 28, the service featured Rabbi Michael Cahana, Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel in New Rochelle, N.Y. After a brief memorial service, Rabbi Cahana presented a talk entitled "Second Generation: The Problems and Responsibilities of Being a Child of a Survivor," which was based upon his own personal experience.

Schnurmacher funding has also helped bring several lecturers to the University each year, such as Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, of Indiana University, who spoke on "Primo Levi and the Germans"; Dr. Elliot Dorff from the Jewish Theological Seminary, who spoke on "Jewish Medical Ethics"; and Dr. Paula Hyman from Yale University, who spoke on "Jewish Women in Pre-Nazi Poland."

On Oct. 7, 2003, Dr. David Ellenson, president of Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, will deliver the first Schnurmacher Lecture in Judaic Studies.

Other distinguished speakers who visited Fairfield through Judaic Studies last year included Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, whose sold-out appearance at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts was made possible by the Jacoby-Lunin Foundation, through its annual Humanitarian Lecture. Additionally, Dr. Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Judaic Studies at Dartmouth College, delivered last year's Christopher F. Mooney Lecture in Theology, Religion, and Society and Chancellor Ismar Schorsch of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, presented the Carl & Dorothy Bennett Lecture in Judaic Studies.

The Judaic Studies program also hosted Dr. Kenneth Stein, the William E. Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History and Israeli Studies at Emory University, for a two-day scholar-in-residence. Dr. Stein's visit was the second such residency hosted by Judaic Studies, and made possible by David and Edith Chaifetz of Fairfield, Conn. Finally, Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, delivered The Fleet Bank Lecture in Judaic Studies on "The Urgency of Optimism," on April 8, to a sold-out audience of more than 750 people. Earlier in the day, Mr. Wiesel met informally with a small group of students to discuss his works and timely issues.

In addition to bringing speakers to the University campus, the Judaic Studies program hosts an array of special programs each year. Particularly successful has been the Lunch and Learn series, an annual 10-week course that attracts more than 75 participants from the surrounding community - Jews and non-Jews alike, just weeks after the registration materials hit mailboxes. The series tackles academically challenging themes, such as Jewish Concepts of the Messiah, Jews and Judaism in America, and Turning Points in Jewish History. This year's course, Jewish Identity in a Changing World, concluded on Friday, April 11. Lunch and Learn is co-sponsored by the Bennett Center for Judaic Studies and the Jewish Center for Community Services of Eastern Fairfield County.

On Wednesday, April 9, the center hosted a Passover Seder experience led by Rabbi James Prosnit at the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola. The experience, enjoyed by members of the Fairfield University and surrounding communities, featured the story of the Exodus and a sampling of traditional Passover foods.

At the helm of this comprehensive program is Dr. Umansky, who has expertly achieved her task of developing an undergraduate Judaic Studies program and simultaneously crafting a vehicle for outreach to the local Jewish community. Elaine Bowman, the Bennett Center's program manager, has worked with Dr. Umansky in program development and outreach.

Money from The Schnurmacher Foundations was also used this year to purchase books and videos to enhance Fairfield University's holdings in Judaic Studies and related areas, purchase an 18-volume set of the Encyclopedia Judaica for the Judaic Studies Resource Room, and bring speakers to the classes "Introduction to Judaism," and "Faith After the Holocaust."

"Undergraduate interest in our interdisciplinary Judaic Studies program remains strong as does University and general community interest in the special events and opportunities for adult learning regularly offered by the Bennett Center," Dr. Umansky said.

The Adolph & Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation, Inc. and the Charles & Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation, Inc., both based in New York City, were founded in 1977. Focusing on California, Connecticut and New York, the foundations give donations to a wide array of organizations in the arts, social services, human services and health care, as well as to Jewish religious organizations and temples.

The Bennett Center was founded in 1994 with an initial endowment of $1.5 million from Carl and Dorothy Bennett of Greenwich that went to the Judaic Studies program and to create the center. The progressive mission of the program, as articulated in the original endowment proposal, was to create "a multifaceted program that studies Judaism as an entity unto itself, not one which studies it solely in its relationship to Christianity. We believe it is highly important that Catholic students have exposure to and contact with Jewish ideas, culture, and thinking." Throughout its nearly 10 years of service, the Center has received support from numerous individuals and foundations, including the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Foundation, the Schnurmacher Foundations and the Frank Jacoby Foundation. The Judaic Studies Program and the Bennett Center have also received tremendous financial support from numerous individuals through personal contributions and gifts and by joining "Friends of Judaic Studies."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 21, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 269