From the Director

Welcome to a year of anniversaries. In May of 2019, UCLA initiated a year-long celebration of its centennial, marking 100 years of innovation and leadership in public education and research. In October of this year, the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies begins a year-long celebration of its 25th anniversary, marking a quarter century as a hub and catalyst for research, conversation, and learning in Jewish Studies.

 

Join our 25 magnetic events honoring 25 dynamic years.

 

In classic Los Angeles style, we are older than we look. While the Leve Center was inaugurated as the Center for Jewish Studies at UCLA twenty-five years ago, its history reaches back further still, to that midcentury moment when our university was officially renamed the “University of California, Los Angeles.” Already at this early time, the campus was home to pioneers in Jewish Studies.

 

The foundation for the Leve Center was laid in the 1950s and early 1960s, when Arnold Band, Herbert Davidson, and Wolf Leslau joined the faculty, bringing to UCLA their expertise in Hebrew and Aramaic language, literature, and medieval Jewish thought. During an astonishing decades-long career at UCLA, Professor Band published prodigiously, trained dozens of doctoral students, and helped found not only the Department of Comparative Literature and Center for Israel Studies, but the Center for Jewish Studies as well.

 

The roots of Sephardic Studies were growing in parallel in the 1950s and 1960s, with Samuel Armistead and Paul Silverman conducting research at UCLA on the Judeo-Spanish ballad with members of the LA Sephardic community. In the decades that followed, UCLA proved magnetic for luminaries in the field of Jewish history, literature, religion, and more—too many wonderful colleagues to list here. Courses in the field multiplied, a major and minor were introduced through the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, and major endowments were created in Holocaust Studies, Sephardic Studies, Yiddish Studies, and Mediterranean Studies. Students flock to courses taught by our affiliated faculty, while the Leve Center’s public offerings have blossomed, reaching thousands of visitors each year.

 

Through our history, what animates the Leve Center?

 

INNOVATION DEFINES AND DRIVES US
From our founding days to the present hour, the Leve Center is recognizable for its bold and path-breaking scholarship, its embrace of emerging intellectual currents, its intellectual and pedagogical breadth and depth. Certain fields, such as Hebrew and Yiddish literature, Holocaust Studies, or Sephardic and Mediterranean Jewish Studies, were championed at UCLA decades before they found equal footing at peer institutions. The Leve Center is now a nursery for other burgeoning fields, such as Latin American and Moroccan Jewish Studies.

 

DEDICATION IS THE KEY TO OUR SUCCESS
Center Directors have served long, successful tenures: David Myers a record-setting, eleven ambitious years (1996-2000, 2004-2011), Todd Presner an impressive eight (2010-2018), Kenneth Reinhard four (2000-2004), and two each for Arnold Band (1994-1996) and Carol Bakhos (2008-2010). Emeriti faculty members including Professors Arnold Band, Saul Friedländer, Janet Hadda, Lev Hakak, Amos Funkenstein, Yona Sabar, and Judaica Librarian David Hirsch crafted illustrious careers at UCLA over multiple decades, training new generations of scholars who would in turn reshape their fields. Current faculty are furthering this institutional dedication. Our doctoral students bring us honor, representing UCLA in their scholarship and at universities across the world. Our Center staff—truly the pillars of the day to day success of the Leve Center—have given a collective 53 years of service. Members of our Community Advisory Board, Faculty Advisory Committee, and pivotal donors have been with us from the Leve Center’s founding and are, along with Alan D. Leve and his family, crucial partners in our success.

 

DIVERSITY IS OUR STRENGTH
Scholars and students of Jewish Studies at UCLA are rooted across UCLA’s divisions, in Social Sciences, Humanities, and beyond. Our affiliated faculty command expertise from antiquity to the contemporary moment, from Marrakesh to Moscow, and across myriad academic disciplines. Our academic community is multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian, feminist, and LGBTQ inclusive. We welcome engaging speakers from across the globe, representing a wide range of intellectual perspectives. We foster conversation in the field of Jewish Studies and across its boundaries, and this demands a fresh and bold approach.

 

LOCATION IS EVERYTHING
The Leve Center is elevated by its home, UCLA, a public university dedicated to the creation, dissemination, and application of knowledge for the betterment of our global society. Its spirit is defined by Los Angeles, a true cultural center and home to ideas, people, and stories from every conceivable part of the world. Over twenty-five years of existence, the Leve Center has partnered with 80 units across campus and more than 100 institutions across Los Angeles, allowing us to open our doors to an immensely varied community.

 

All this deserves to be celebrated. Join our 25 celebratory events for 25 years described on our website and annual calendar. Learn from our inspiring students, celebrate faculty scholarship, and meet our dynamic speakers!

Happy anniversary,

Sarah Abrevaya Stein
Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director, Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies
Professor of History
Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies

About CJS

The UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies is a world-class research center and intellectual hub for the study of Jewish culture, religion, thought, literature, and much more. Nestled in a dynamic Humanities Division, at the heart of a public university dedicated to the creation, dissemination, and application of knowledge for the betterment of our global society, the Leve Center has helped UCLA earn the competitive title of the third best campus for Jewish students in the United States—a ranking it shares with Brandeis University. The Leve Center is among the oldest Jewish Studies centers in the country, and boasts a diverse community of faculty, students, staff, and community friends. Our staff work to maintain a breathless schedule of public programming with aplomb, having served the Center, in some cases, for decades.

Our affiliated faculty command expertise in all dimensions of the Jewish experience, from antiquity to the contemporary moment, from Marrakesh to Moscow, and across myriad academic disciplines. These instructors reach over a thousand students each year, whether in the very largest, lower-division undergraduate lecture classes, intensive, intimate seminars, or one-on-one mentorships or tutorials. Leve Center affiliated graduate and undergraduate students are conducting pioneering research, and compete for Center fellowships that nurture independent scholarship, participation in the global academy, and unique forms of training in “the field,” whether on an archeological dig in Israel, an archive in Mexico, or the streets of Los Angeles. Public programming is the backbone of our Center. Our events are free and open to the public, and they reflect the dizzying intellectual ambition of our faculty, students, and community partners. If you join us, you will be rewarded with a convivial, engaged environment and continual surprise—one of the essential ingredients of learning.

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 subsequent Directors, 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 former 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.”

Resources

UCLA RESOURCES

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


COMMUNITY PARTNERS

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
Yiddishkayt
Ha’Am, UCLA’s Jewish Newsmagazine


CAMPUS PARTNERS

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


JEWISH STUDIES RESOURCES

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