It is a great honor to begin my first year as the Director of UCLA's Center for Jewish Studies. Founded in 1994, the Center has grown into one of the most vibrant centers of its kind in the world through the generosity of our supporters. Our 22 affiliated faculty members come from departments as diverse as history and law, theater and literature, archaeology and political science; last year, we taught close to 2,000 students through nearly 70 Jewish Studies courses. Entirely through private donations, the Center sponsored or co-sponsored more than 50 programs, including faculty and graduate student seminars, public lectures, international conferences, and exhibitions. And this coming year promises nothing less, with three major conferences, dozens of lectures by preeminent scholars of Jewish Studies, and two art exhibitions. I invite you to look over our calendar and participate in many of our events!
I am also excited to share with you three major new initiatives of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, broadly connected under the banner of "Jewish Studies 20/20" – a vision for the next decade:
- Mapping Jewish LA: In partnership with the UCLA Library and various community archives, the Center is embarking on an ambitious, five-year initiative to create a multimedia, digital archive of Jewish LA. The archive will be accessed by an innovative web portal that will allow users to "drill down" at particular places throughout the city—for example, Pico-Robertson in the 1950s, or Boyle Heights in the 1920s—to uncover the traces and history of Jewish LA and stimulate new research and teaching.
- Applied Jewish Studies: To date, the study of Jewish thought in the university has clarified the content and context of great thinkers from the past, but it has not applied this knowledge in a systematic fashion to important questions of the day. This initiative, building on the foundational work of David Myers, past Director of the Center, will make service learning, community engagement, and social justice defining elements of Jewish Studies. Affiliated Jewish Studies faculty will design new courses that address contemporary issues in social justice, global politics, public policy, and information technologies and provide students with transformative experiences to apply their knowledge in real-world settings.
- Digital Jewish Studies: The medium in which Humanities scholarship is generated and published is undergoing massive change with advances in digital technologies. Using geographic information technologies, for example, fields such as history, sociology, archaeology, and anthropology have become completely redefined, as computational methods have allowed scholars to ask and answer new research questions. The Center is eager to support innovative scholarship and publications in Jewish Studies by supporting students and faculty undertaking such research as well as developing a cutting-edge publication platform to present that research to the world.
We are actively seeking partners in these endeavors, as well. Please contact me at the Center office, 310-825-5387 if you would like more information. With your participation and support, we will be able to realize these ambitions and continue to blaze a path to excellence that has defined the Center for Jewish Studies over the past eighteen years.
Very sincerely yours,
Todd Samuel Presner
Professor of Germanic Languages and Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director