BOG 2022: TAU Inaugurates Koret Center for Jewish Civilization

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Center, uniting TAU and ANU Museum, aims to bridge divides between Israel and Diaspora, boost understanding of contemporary Jewish thought and identity.

Tel Aviv University, together with the Koret Foundation and with ANU – Museum of the Jewish People (ANU), on Sunday, May 15 inaugurated the Koret Center for Jewish Civilization.

The festive ceremony took place during TAU’s 2022 Board of Governors meeting. It coincided with the announcement of a $10 million gift from the Koret Foundation to establish the Center in a three-way partnership with the University and ANU. 

The Koret Center was formed to enhance education and understanding of contemporary Jewish thought, social engagement, and identity. It aims to do so by drawing on the strengths of each partnering institution to enact a comprehensive, multi-year approach combining joint public, teaching and research activities. Such endeavors range from leadership and teacher training, to community building, live and online international events, and scholarly research on Judaism and the Jewish people. 

WATCH: The inauguration of the Koret Center for Jewish Civilization

Touching on the vision behind the Koret Center, Dr. Anita Friedman, President of the Koret Foundation and the Chair of TAU’s Global Campaign, said: “Those of us who are in leadership in the Jewish community need to take responsibility for where we find ourselves. 

“It is simultaneously the moment we are the strongest the Jewish people have ever been,” she said, adding, “[but] we are also under tremendous attack; delegitimization of Israel and antisemitism are widespread.” 

She explained that the Koret Center is “finding the way forward by bringing together the preeminent Jewish museum in the world…with the flagship academic institution of the State of Israel and the world and a major Jewish foundation.” 

As part of its programming, the Koret Center will produce five online courses on Jewish civilization, provide internships at ANU for 100 TAU students, and establish two biennial international conferences.  

The Israeli government, which is acutely aware of the growing disconnect between Israel and global Jewry, has also pledged to lend critical support to the project.  

Touching on the urgent need to bridge ties throughout the Jewish world for the safety and future of the Jewish people, Jeffrey Farber, CEO of the Koret Foundation, said: “The Koret Center will pioneer new ways to educate Israeli and Diaspora Jews on contemporary Jewish, though, shared identity and shared Jewish stories.” 

Collaborating with Israeli schools, the Koret Center will provide teachers across Israel with innovative programs and resources to enhance their students’ understanding of Jewish peoplehood.  

In collaboration with the Koret Center, TAU will offer 325 BA, MA, and PhD scholarships for pedagogy, teacher and leadership training in Jewish Studies.  

Furthermore, the University will develop a new international graduate program in Jewish studies in cooperation with two major academic centers abroad in Europe and the U.S. 

In addition, TAU will establish a Koret International Society of Fellows for 25 postdoctoral students, who will participate in a yearlong research seminar. 

“Together we hope to transform Tel Aviv into a global focal point for bolstering the place of Judaism and the Jewish people in the world today,” said TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat at Sunday’s event. “This mission is critical, even existential.” 

The activities of the Koret Center will also help ANU expand its Jewish peoplehood education for Israeli public-school educators and youth. As such, the Museum will support instruction for 50,000 Israeli teachers and leadership training for 40,000 professionals and lay leaders. It will establish a J-Hub accelerator to support 60 to 80 Jewish peoplehood projects, capitalizing on ANU visitors to test apps and initiatives developed.  

Additionally, ANU will create an honors program for 240 Israeli high school students. The Museum will also serve as the educational and cultural training center for initiatives such as Birthright Israel. 

“We’re clearly seeing in the world now a fight between good and bad,” said Irina Nevzlin, Chair of ANU and President of the Nadav Foundation. “To be on the side of good…requires a lot of energy to stand on the side of good. And you can’t do it by yourself. You need partnerships.” 

She explained that the kind of partnership that bore the Koret Center has the potential to push the needle on some of the most pressing challenges the Jewish world faces to “make [Jewish] people feel proud and safe.” 

“The only way to fight evil is with education,” she said. 

Featured image: From left: Irina Nevzlin, Dr. Anita Friedman and Prof. Ariel Porat (Photo: Chen Galili)

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