SF State News {University Communications}

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$3.75 million endows new chair in Israel Studies

February 29, 2008 -- SF State's Jewish Studies Program is to be transformed by a $3.75 million gift from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund. The gift will support an endowed chair in Israel Studies and is the largest endowed chair gift ever received in the California State University (CSU).

Photo of Fred Astren, professor and director of the Jewish Studies Program.

Fred Astren, professor and director of the Jewish Studies Program.

A portion of the endowment will also be used to elevate the Jewish Studies Program into a full academic department. The new department of Jewish studies will be the only such academic department in the CSU system and the only one in the Bay Area offering undergraduate study. "This reflects the maturity of the programs that we have offered since 1993, and we are honored to be granted this solid institutional standing," said Fred Astren, professor and director of the Jewish Studies Program.

The gift places SF State at the forefront of an emerging new academic field, Israel Studies, which focuses on a multidisciplinary approach to the society and culture of Israel.

"We are excited about introducing Israel Studies into Jewish Studies," Astren said. "This new position will enrich the curriculum and complement the current faculty's expertise in Jewish literature, pre-modern Jewish history and American Jewish history."

The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in Israel Studies will also contribute to scholarly conversations in such departments as political science, history, international relations and the emerging Middle East and Islamic Studies Program.

"As conflicts in the Middle East continue, it is vitally important to provide students with a deeper and more fully developed understanding of Israel. The purpose of this professorship is to accomplish that goal," said Richard N. Goldman, founder and president of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.

Bay Area philanthropist Richard N. Goldman has long been a friend of SF State. He serves on several University advisory boards. In 2001, he received the honorary degree doctor of humane letters from SF State.

Support from the Goldman Fund has allowed SF State to establish the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in Jewish Studies and Social Responsibility. This academic year, a grant from the Fund is supporting the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Visiting Professor in Israel Studies, an initiative which was the prototype for establishing the permanent endowed chair in Israel studies.

"I want to thank the Goldman Foundation for so generously expanding its visionary partnership with SF State," University President Robert A. Corrigan said. "The chair in Israel Studies will put us on the cutting edge of a new and exciting area of scholarship. It will strengthen our longstanding commitment to keeping SF State a place where all ideas and points of view can be frankly and openly explored and where discourse remains civil."

This landmark gift is the culmination of years of hard work to introduce Israel Studies on campus. "The dynamic, skilled and collaborative efforts of the Dean of Humanities Paul Sherwin, the faculty, and development staff in their work with the Goldman Fund have delivered an historic first, not only to SF State, but the biggest endowed chair gift in CSU history," said Donna Blakemore, associate vice president of advancement.

Recruitment of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor in Israel Studies will begin in fall 2008, with the appointee expected to join the faculty in August 2009.

-- Elaine Bible


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