UC Berkeley receives $10m. to ensure “lasting legacy” for Jewish studies

The Institute will also be renamed as the Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley. The Helen Diller Family Foundation has made previous donations to the institute and the school – aimed at forwarding Jewish studies at UC Berkeley – dating back to 2002, with an initial $5 million donation, and its most recent $5 million endowment in 2019 was provided to establish and name the Helen Diller Family Chair in Israel Studies.
The Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies was launched in 2011 to expand Jewish and Israel studies on the Berkeley campus. The institute is designed to support academic discourse and scholarship on the study of Israel through course coordination, programming and research support.
The endowment was made in honor of the 10th anniversary of the institute’s founding.
“We are proud of the depth and breadth of academic offerings across the UC Berkeley campus that have been made possible thanks to the support for the Helen Diller Institute, and it’s a pleasure to see the Israel and Jewish Studies academic landscape flourish here and become a model for programs around the country,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ.
“This consequential gift continues a history of pivotal philanthropy by the Diller family, and will help make it possible for us to educate leaders and scholars for generations to come,” the chancellor added.

Today the institute supports an enrollment of just over 20 students per semester, boasting 85 unique courses across dozens of departments. Classes include topics such as Israeli constitutional law, transboundary water in the Middle East, minority rights in Israel, Jewish mysticism, etc.
Among other initiatives, every year the institute sponsors several Israeli professors to come and teach classes at Berkeley.
“The generosity of the Helen Diller Foundation allows us to institutionalize our focus on supporting and mentoring students, and expanding programs and initiatives that deepen scholarly inquiry and discourse across the UC Berkeley campus for the long-term,” said Prof. Ken Bamberger, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation professor of Law and faculty director of the Helen Diller Institute.
“The naming gift further cements the Helen Diller Institute’s reputation as a leading academic institution for Israel Studies and the study of Jewish law, thought and identity nationally, placing Berkeley alongside such institutions as Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Brandeis, Northwestern and UCLA,” he added.
The endowment’s aim is to enable the institute to continue expanding the number and widen the diversity of the students it enrolls and the faculty it employs – bolstering both teaching and learning opportunities.

“Our next step is to put in place the core classes on Israel that would constitute a minor in Israel Studies so that Berkeley can become a magnet for undergraduate students who wish to specialize in Israel,” said Prof. Ron Hassner, Helen Diller Family Chair in Israel Studies and Faculty Director of the Helen Diller Institute. “We will also continue to develop experiential programs for study and internship in Israel for those Berkeley students who aspire to study about Israel in Israel.” Source

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