The Jewish Studies program offered its first course in 2008 and since then its courses continually fill to capacity with a growing number of students selecting to pursue it as an academic minor. Through the Jewish Studies program, the LMU Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts engages the global community in commemorative and educational annual events. Most recently, LMU solidified a partnership with the Academy for Jewish Religion California, distinguishing the university as a unique location for experiential interfaith collaboration. Affirming that LMU is at the forefront of interfaith engagement and experience, the university just received a pledge of a minimum of $100,000 from a local, anonymous donor to combat antisemitism.
The donation, which will be released over the course of the next few years, is indicative of LMU’s longstanding commitment to teaching tolerance and to prioritizing interfaith collaboration. The first round of grant funding will support two types of internal summer grants for 2022: smaller “Addressing Antisemitism Faculty Course Modification” grants, and larger “Faculty Research Fellowships to Combat Antisemitism.” The latter can include a student researcher who gets additional funding and they both can get funding to present their work at a conference or workshop.
According to Professor of English and Director of Jewish Studies Holli Levitsky, the anonymous donor, a Holocaust survivor, told her he “needed to contribute to the fight against antisemitism and he felt confident that LMU would be a valuable partner.” The donor’s generous donation will directly impact students, giving them the tools they need to become advocates for inclusiveness. Levitsky met the donor in 2007, thanks to The 1939 Society, a community of Holocaust survivors and their descendants. Through their mutual interest in Poland (Levitsky held the 2001-2002 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Poland) their first project together was in support of a new study abroad course in Poland; a course Levitsky developed so students could investigate the long history of Jewish life in Poland. Their shared goal was to complicate the perception of Poland by learning about Jewish life in Catholic Poland, and to demonstrate that Jewish life was being renewed and rebuilt.
The same donor also gifted the university an early 19th century French Impressionist painting titled, Head of Christ, in Levitsky’s name in December of 2020. The painting, by noted impressionist Odilon Redon, now hangs in the President’s office. The image suggests a historical bond between Catholics and Jews, and holds great significance to the donor, whose family was saved by Catholics during the Holocaust.