Defining a Shape and Mission
The Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies was founded in September 2007, intent on building a community that reflects the strengths and unique possibilities of the University of Texas and its broader public. We envisioned expanding an already existing Jewish Studies curriculum but also moving Jewish Studies from a marginal existence into an active and innovative contributor to university life through new hires, public programming, and community outreach. In practice, that has meant a wide range of collaborations—internal and new faculty recruitment, course development, and alliances with departments, archives, and nonacademic units such as Texas Performing Arts and the Austin Jewish Film Festival. And, we have made it a long-term mission to become (among other things) a crossroads for the study of Jewish history and culture in the Western Hemisphere by expanding the university's well-established Latin American interests and pioneering in the integration of Canadian Jewish Studies. We are in the beginning stages of this latter project.
Making the Center Visible to the Jewish Studies World
Texas, despite a fine faculty, extraordinary research facilities, as well as a vigorous and unique statewide Jewish community, does not generally come to mind as an important locus for Jewish Studies. We hope that perception will change as we make more visible our work as scholars and academic citizens and the special resources and opportunities of the university. We immediately joined AJS as institutional sponsors, took over hosting of the Latin American Jewish Studies website, will host the next meeting of the Early Modern Workshop in August 2011, and will hold a research conference on comparative study of Jews in the Americas in 2012. In addition, we endow a research fellowship for use of the incomparable modern Jewish literary, photographic, and theater arts holdings of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, and will soon establish similar fellowship support for the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.
All we have done has been made possible by a bountiful challenge grant provided by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and generous grants of the Gale Foundation of Beaumont, Texas. Matching the Schusterman grant has truly been a challenge in the last three years, especially for a new center, but we have made great progress. The faith and appreciation of our efforts by both foundations and by the College of Liberal Arts has been of immeasurable aid in trying financial times.