Established within the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies, the Helen Diller Family Chair in Israel Studies will endow courses, programs, and research. The first such chair at the university will be held by Ron Hassner, the institute's faculty co-director and an international expert on the relationship between religion and conflict. Last fall, Hassner established UC Berkeley's first regular course on conflict in the Middle East.
The institute, which houses the Berkeley Program on Israel Studies and the Berkeley Program on Jewish Law, Thought, and Identity, will host classes, conferences, public programs, and academic events across campus. Inspired by the gift from the Diller Foundation, the institute's founding donor, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, awarded a separate $1 million endowment grant, while an anonymous donor provided an additional $1 million.
Helen and Sanford Diller met as undergraduates at Berkeley in the early 1950s and in 2002 awarded $5 million to the university in endowed gifts that now fund activities at the Center for Jewish Studies.
"I am moved and humbled by the generosity of the Helen Diller Foundation," said Hassner. "The foundation recognized the urgency of teaching Israel in an even-handed and professional manner on the Berkeley campus and sprang into action. Their gift allows us to address our students' growing thirst for bold discussions in this flourishing, provocative, and crucial academic field."