From the Director


Welcome to the 2016-17 academic year! I would like to highlight our upcoming multimedia exhibition, From Brooklyn Avenue to Cesar Chavez: Jewish Histories in Multiethnic Boyle Heights. It is my great pleasure to invite you to view this exhibition during the week of November 6-9th and to join in the formal naming and dedication of the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies.

The celebration will begin on Sunday, November 6th, with the opening of the exhibition and the screening of a new documentary film, East LA Interchange. Moving through space and time, the exhibition focuses on a single street in Boyle Heights and the surrounding urban, social, cultural, and demographic changes inscribed in its many layered histories and vividly recounted in the film.

As part of the Center’s broader Mapping Jewish LA digital project (, the exhibition also marks the formal launch of the Hinda and Jacob Schonfeld Collection, a research and teaching archive dedicated to the history of Jewish Boyle Heights. The exhibition and selections from the collection will be on view in 306 Royce through Wednesday, November 9, and will coincide with the Center’s Open House on Monday, November 7. At that time, the Center’s new offices in 310 Royce Hall—the West tower—will be open for public viewing. And over the year, the Center will co-sponsor several cultural events in Boyle Heights, including a Yiddish poetry reading, an event on the history of labor activism, and a folk festival. I very much hope you can join us for these celebratory activities and that you have the chance to join me in thanking Mr. Alan D. Leve for his vision and generosity in investing in the future of Jewish Studies at UCLA.

I am also pleased to announce a $100k gift from the Sady Kahn Foundation to launch a major initiative spearheaded by affiliated faculty member Sarah Abrevaya Stein (Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies and Professor of History) to develop a Sephardic Archive at UCLA. This initiative represents one of the first North American efforts to gather the documentary materials of the Sephardic community. UCLA is not only among the premier academic centers for Sephardic Studies nation-wide but by virtue of its location in Los Angeles (home to one of the largest Sephardic communities in the country), UCLA is the ideal institution to pioneer a physical and digital archive of Sephardic culture.

I would also like to recognize and thank the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for its ongoing support of our undergraduate service learning courses, which have enabled the Leve Center to expand its suite of offerings immersing students in community organizations and civic engagement opportunities throughout Los Angeles. This coming year, we will support courses in which students interview Holocaust survivors, work with Israeli artists, interact with seniors at a History Fair, and do research on the Iranian-Jewish community.

We have nearly fifty public programs this year, including a book launch and symposium celebrating the work of Holocaust historian Saul Friedländer, as well as a major conference dedicated to Jewish music and social activism. We are also delighted to recognize English graduate student Deb Donig, our first Fritz, Jenny and Gustav Berger Holocaust Fellow, and welcome Daniel Stein Kokin to UCLA, our Viterbi visiting assistant professor of Mediterranean Jewish Studies. I look forward to seeing you at the Leve Center’s Grand Opening events in November and our many programs over the year.


Very sincerely yours,


Todd Samuel Presner
Professor of Germanic Languages and Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director

About CJS

UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, directed by Professor Todd Presner, is dedicated to advancing scholarship in all areas of Jewish culture and history; educating the next generation about the role of Judaism in world civilization; and serving as an exceptional public resource for Jewish life and learning.

The Center has 30 affiliated faculty from twelve disciplines, offering nearly 70 undergraduate and graduate courses in Jewish studies annually, enrolling more than 2,000 students. The Center sponsors more than 50 lectures, workshops and conferences each year, as well as supporting civic engagement and service learning programs that address wide-ranging policy, community, and social justice issues. In this way, the Center is actively preparing the next generation of leaders and encouraging real-world advances by marshalling the riches of Jewish thought, ethics, intellectual history, and culture.

In 1994 Provost Brian Copenhaver of the UCLA College of Letters and Science established the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies in the Humanities Division, under the administration and support of Dean Pauline Yu. Through the leadership of its founding director, Professor Arnold J. Band, its two subsequent Directors, Kenneth Reinhard and David N. Myers, Acting Director Carol Bakhos, and current Director Todd Presner, the Center has developed into an exceptionally productive scholarly resource  with an impressive roster of affiliated faculty, a steady stream of distinguished visitors, and a world famous library collection.

$5 million gift will ensure UCLA Center for Jewish Studies remains among the best in U.S.

Donation from alumnus Alan Leve honors the legacy of his family

Leve_RoyceHallA $5 million gift from Alan Leve, a UCLA alumnus and the founder and president of Culver City, California-based Ohmega Technologies, will establish several endowments at the UCLA College’s Center for Jewish Studies. Leve said he hopes the gift, which will benefit students, faculty and the community, will honor his family’s legacy of giving — one that started with his late grandmother, Hinda Schonfeld.

Leve still vividly remembers the cold and rainy day in 1941 when he left the Breed Street Shul in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood for his grandmother’s funeral. He was amazed at the sight outside the car window: rows of mourners standing shoulder to shoulder for three city blocks on each side of the street, umbrellas over their heads, to pay their last respects.
“It’s a memory indelibly etched in my mind,” said Leve, now 87. “It was a revelation to me. My grandmother had no fame, no material assets of any value; but everyone gravitated to her because of her warmth and generosity of spirit. I realized then that who you are is more important than what you have.”

His grandmother’s legacy of generosity has lived on through her grandson. In recognition of his gift, the center, which is among the world’s most prestigious Jewish studies centers, will be renamed the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies.

“The Jewish presence in academic, social and cultural life on the UCLA campus is strong, and Alan Leve’s generosity helps to ensure its continued vitality,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “We are proud of the role that the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and UCLA — through many other research centers, faculty members, students and public programing — play in the international, national and local dialogue about Judaism.”

Todd Presner, the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the center, said, “Alan Leve’s gift will enable us to launch a vibrant public history initiative, support undergraduate and graduate students working in all fields of Jewish studies, initiate programs supporting Jewish life on campus, attract international scholars to UCLA and provide vital research and teaching support to our faculty. This gift will secure UCLA’s standing as a preeminent center for the study of Jewish history, culture and civilization.”
The gift will be divided into several endowments.

  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Student Excellence will be used to fund graduate and undergraduate students engaged in fields related to Jewish studies at UCLA, including graduate fellowships, undergraduate awards and stipends for student travel and summer research projects.
  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Teaching Innovation will support teaching and curricular innovation in Jewish studies. It also will establish the Etta and Milton Leve Scholar-in-Residence program, which will bring academics from across the world to UCLA and foster international collaborations.
  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Research Innovation will support faculty and graduate student research and provide travel and research grants and conference support.
  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Public History and Community Outreach will support the Leve Center’s public programs, courses and community collaborations in Los Angeles.  This endowment will also establish the biennial Leve Award, which will recognize an outstanding leader working within or impacting the Jewish community. 

Leve, who was born in Boyle Heights at a time when the neighborhood was the focal point of Jewish culture in Los Angeles, has also made sure that scholars won’t forget that history, nor his grandmother’s sense of community. A portion of the gift will establish the Hinda and Jacob Schonfeld Boyle Heights Collection, which, in collaboration with the UCLA Library, will include archival materials and artifacts related to the history of Boyle Heights.

Through the Schonfeld Boyle Heights Collection, the center also will establish a public history program that will include lectures, exhibitions, tours and courses addressing the history of Jewish Los Angeles.

“My parents lived in Boyle Heights from the late 1920s to the mid 1930s and my grandparents from the late 1920s to their passing in the early 1940s, and they were members of the Breed Street Shul,” said Leve, who has 13 family members from three generations of his family who have graduated from UCLA: his daughter, Laura Leve Cohen, two nieces and their husbands, and eight cousins.

“We lived two blocks away on St. Louis Street, just south of Brooklyn Avenue, at a place and time when the majority of the Jewish population of Los Angeles lived there,” he said. “That period of Jewish presence in Boyle Heights is history now. I’m proud that the center plans to keep it alive through its commitment to programming around public history.”
David Schaberg, dean of humanities, said that Leve’s gift will allow the center to expand its research and outreach into a community that helped shape Los Angeles.

“The mission of the humanities is to explore the rich legacy of human creativity and thought,” he said. “Alan’s philanthropic leadership will allow us to study and teach Jewish history and culture in innovative ways so that our students graduate with the ability to thrive as global citizens.”

Founded in 1994, the center is the leading research hub for the study of Jewish culture and civilization on the West Coast and one of the largest and most active centers in the world. It is dedicated to advancing scholarship in Jewish culture and history, educating the next generation about the role of Judaism in world civilization and serving as an exceptional public resource for Jewish life and learning.

Leve, who still occasionally visits Boyle Heights to show relatives where the family roots began, can only imagine what his grandmother — whose dying words to her daughter were “give $2 to the poor” — would have said about his generosity.

“We came from very modest means,” he said. “I don’t think my grandparents or my parents could’ve conceived of such a gift. For me, this gift fulfills a number of personal aspirations on many levels — supporting my alma mater, investing in education, honoring my Jewish heritage by investing in its future, honoring the memory of my parents and grandparents, and establishing an enduring family legacy.”



UCLA Gateway
UCLA Library
UCLA Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies
UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies
UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies 
UCLA Center for the Study of Religion 
UCLA Department of History 
UCLA Department of Germanic Languages


The 1939 Society  
The California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language  
Chabad House at UCLA
Hillel at UCLA 
Jewish Journal of Los Angeles
The Maurice Amado Foundation
Skirball Cultural Center
Western States Jewish History
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
The Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
The Maurice Amado Foundation
Ha’Am, UCLA’s Jewish Newsmagazine


UCLA Center for the Study of Religion
UCLA Department of English
UCLA Department of Italian
UCLA Library
Mickey Katz Chair in Jewish Music at UCLA
UCLA Department of Comparative Literature
UCLA Department of Germanic Languages
UCLA Department of History
UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
UCLA Digital Humanities Program
UCLA Maurice Amado Program for Sephardic Studies
Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA
UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies at UCLA
Ralph J Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA
UCLA Institute for Digital Research and Education
UCLA Department of Anthropology’s “Culture, Power, Social Change” Group
UCLA Department of Spanish & Portuguese
UCLA Slavic, East European Languages & Cultures
UCLA Department of Art History


American Academy of Religion
American Historical Association
Association for Jewish Studies
H-Judaic (Jewish Studies Network)
Primo Levi Center

Middle East Studies Association

Society of Biblical Literature

The UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies' policy on programs and participants

  • The Center does not support an academic or cultural boycott of Israel. We believe that such a boycott directly contravenes the spirit of openness and intellectual inquiry at the heart of the university.
  • In that same spirit, the Center supports academic freedom in the fullest sense of the word and does not censor speakers. We do not evaluate outside speakers, affiliated faculty members, students, or members of the general public with regard to their political beliefs, affiliations, or positions.  The political positions of speakers/faculty members/ students/members of the general public are theirs alone and not those of the Center.