Jonathan Sarna named director of Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University

Schusterman Center celebrates 10th anniversary, announces new leadership and unveils new academic chair.

University professor Jonathan SarnaPhoto/Mike Lovett

Brandeis University Professor Jonathan D. Sarna

Brandeis University has appointed two faculty members to new positions, created an endowed chair in Ottoman, Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish studies and named a new director in conjunction with the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies’ 10-year anniversary celebration.

University Professor Jonathan D. Sarna ’75, MA’75, will succeed Professor David Ellenson as director of the Schusterman Center on Aug. 1, 2018.

Rachel Fish, PhD’13, will be promoted to executive director of the center. Additionally, assistant professor Alexander Kaye has been appointed to the Stoll Family Chair in Israel Studies, succeeding founding Schusterman Center director Ilan Troen in that position.

The Schusterman Center, established at Brandeis in 2007 by gifts from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and other generous donors, has become one of the world’s leading academic institutions for Israel studies. Over the past decade, it has educated a host of undergraduate and graduate students, fostered postgraduate fellows and early-career academics and created a dynamic new generation of scholars whose research and teaching focuses on the modern State of Israel.

“The Schusterman Center is a hallmark of Brandeis and a key voice for scholarly research on Israel studies that is recognized and respected around the world,” said Brandeis University President Ron Liebowitz. “As we celebrate the Schusterman Center’s 10th anniversary, we look to its future and the unique role it will play in advancing fields of study, unlocking new frontiers and making Brandeis a premier academic global leader.”

The Schusterman Center’s renowned faculty have cumulatively written dozens of books and thousands of academic articles. They have led a rich, multidisciplinary array of Israel studies courses and provided dedicated mentorship to Brandeis students.

“We are grateful for David Ellenson’s stewardship of the Schusterman Center and congratulate Professors Sarna, Fish and Kaye on their new appointments,” said Stacy Schusterman, Co-Chair, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. “Our family has long envisioned Brandeis as a leading university where students and scholars can learn about modern Israel. We know the center’s new leadership will build on the accomplishments of its first decade to fully realize this vision and expand the reach and impact of Israel studies at Brandeis and beyond.”

Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History and a three-time chair of the Near Eastern and Judaic studies department at Brandeis, is a pre-eminent scholar on American Jewish history, modern Judaism and Israel studies.

Sarna is the chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, and his scholarship includes authoring or editing more than 30 books and hundreds of academic articles. He served twice as the Lady Davis Visiting Professor of the Humanities at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was also the senior scholar at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem.

Sarna was promoted to University Professor, Brandeis University’s highest academic title, in 2017.

Fish, a board member for the Association for Israel Studies and the Schusterman Center’s current associate director, is an assistant research professor who teaches the Myra Kraft Seminar in Israel as part of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. She has also served on the Harvard University faculty.

Kaye has written extensively on Israeli legal history, religion and democracy. He formerly taught at Princeton University and is currently the Saul and Sonia Schottenstein Chair in Israel Studies at The Ohio State University. He will join the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis this summer.

Ellenson is a scholar of modern Jewish thought and history. He served as president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion from 2001 to 2013 and is chancellor emeritus there. For two decades, Ellenson served as head of the Louchheim School for Judaic Studies, the undergraduate program in Jewish studies at the University of Southern California.

The newly endowed Marash and Ocuin Chair in Ottoman, Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish Studies will be awarded to a future tenure-track or tenured faculty member with expertise in the history and experience of Sephardic or Mizrahi Jews in Israel. A search to fill the chair will begin this year.

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