College of Liberal Arts Appoints Director of Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies

Sept. 10, 2007

AUSTIN, Texas—Robert H. Abzug, the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History at The University of Texas at Austin, will lead the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, a center established in 2006 with a $6 million challenge grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

"The center is the first of its kind in the region, and will play a pivotal role in fostering understanding of the Jewish contribution to Western civilization," said Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "Dr. Abzug brings a critical understanding of Jewish history and culture that will help the center develop as it explores the dynamic complexity of Jewish literature, population and traditions."

Abzug researches the Holocaust, antebellum America, and religion and psychology in American culture. His work has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Guggenheim Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies and numerous other foundations.

He is the author of "America Views the Holocaust, 1933-1945," "Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination," "Inside the Vicious Heart: Americans and the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps" and "Passionate Liberator: Theodore Dwight Weld and the Dilemma of Reform." He also has been a consultant on numerous documentary films. The latest, "Borrowing Time," is a portrait of an American Holocaust survivor who devotes his life to the aid of terminally ill children and the homeless.

Abzug holds a doctor's degree in history from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor's degree from Harvard University. In 1978, he joined the faculty after teaching at universities in California. Since then, he has served as founding director of the Liberal Arts Honors Programs and chair of the Department of American Studies. He also held the Eric Voegelin Visiting Professorship at the University of Munich.

The College of Liberal Arts committed to raising an additional $6 million by 2011 to support the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies. The initiative will support several new faculty positions in Jewish studies, including endowed chairs and professorships, offer scholarships to attract and retain outstanding students in Jewish studies, and use endowments for special events, symposia, exhibits and lecture series, and funding to support faculty research and travel._

In addition to expanding offerings in traditional topics related to Jewish studies, the center will focus on the study of Jewish life in the Americas: the United States, Latin America and Canada. More than 400,000 Jews live in Latin America, making it the fifth largest community of Jews after Israel, the United States, Russia and France, and a growing focus of Jewish Diaspora research. This year, U.S. News & World Report magazine ranked the College of Liberal Arts' Latin American history graduate program no. 1 in the nation, reflecting the university's strength in the field and making it an ideal environment for Latin American Jewish studies to flourish.

"As one of the premier universities in the world, with more than 4,000 Jewish students, the University of Texas at Austin is the ideal venue for a world-class Jewish studies center," said Lynn Schusterman, president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. "We look forward to the center becoming an international beacon for Jewish studies."

The center complements important resources already in place at the university, including the Hebrew Studies program, the university libraries' extensive Judaica collections and the Harry Ransom Center's archives of notable Jewish writers, including Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, David Mamet, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Leon Uris.

For more information contact: Robert Abzug, director, Center for Jewish Studies, 512-475-7240; Jennifer McAndrew, public affairs specialist, 512-232-4730.