The Russell Berrie Foundation of Teaneck, N.J., a private foundation with an interest in Jewish studies, issued a challenge grant to Lehigh last fall that would enable the Berman Center in Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences to bring an expert from Israel to campus to serve as a visiting professor for the 2007-2008 academic year—something that has not been done at the center since 1997.
The Berrie Foundation promised to provide half of the necessary funds for a visiting faculty member, if Lehigh was able to raise the other half by June 30. Thanks to the generosity of alumni, parents and friends in the local community, the Berrie Foundation’s challenge has been met.
“The College of Arts and Sciences actively supports the Jewish cultural, historical, and religious scholarship pursued through the Berman Center,” says Anne Meltzer, the Herbert and Ann Siegel Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This gift enhances teaching opportunities and will help provide students and the community with firsthand exposure to issues of international importance.”
“The Berrie Challenge Grant reinforces the vital role that the Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Jewish Studies plays in the academic life of Lehigh,” adds Nancy Berman, a trustee of the university. “My parents, who founded the center 22 years ago, would have been thrilled—the visiting professor will broaden the impact of the Berman Center in stimulating and substantive ways.”
Laurence J. Silberstein, the Philip and Muriel Berman Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Religion Studies and director of the Berman Center, expressed his own pleasure that the opportunity presented by the Berrie Foundation has been met.
“This important initiative will help us to once again bring an outstanding international scholar to contribute to Lehigh’s rich intellectual culture,” Silberstein says. “Amidst today’s global unrest and shifting borders, the need for cross-cultural dialogue with scholars from other countries grows more urgent every day.”
Leading universities regularly facilitate such dialogue by hosting professors from around the world who are experts in their fields. Visiting faculty, who often teach one or more courses, rely on the host institution to compensate them as well as provide housing, meals and stipends. To fund the visiting professor, Lehigh and the Berman Center raised $40,000 from alumni, parents and community friends and will receive the Berrie Foundation’s dollar-for-dollar Challenge Grant.
Now that necessary funds have been raised, an extensive search will be performed to identify the ideal person to serve as the visiting professor. It is hoped that this will be the first in a series of visiting professors from Israel at Lehigh in the years to come.
The Russell Berrie Foundation carries on the values and passions of the late Russell Berrie through promoting the continuity of Jewish communal life, fostering religious understanding and pluralism, supporting advances in diabetes and humanistic medical care, recognizing unsung heroes and elevating the profession of sales.
The Berman Center administers and coordinates Lehigh’s Jewish Studies program. The center regularly opens its programs on Jewish culture and history to the Lehigh Valley community.
For more information about the Berman Center and the visiting professor, please contact Silberstein at (610) 758-4870.