CMU receives $5 million grant to expand Jewish studies, student life on campus
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CMU receives $5 million grant to expand Jewish studies, student life on campus

Jack Buncher Foundation awards two grants to university

Alex Zissman (bottom row, seated) has been named the Jack Buncher Director of Jewish Student Life at CMU. Zissman led 25 Jewish CMU undergraduate Hillel student leaders and non-Jewish campus student leaders exploring Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Photo provided by Alex Zissman.
Alex Zissman (bottom row, seated) has been named the Jack Buncher Director of Jewish Student Life at CMU. Zissman led 25 Jewish CMU undergraduate Hillel student leaders and non-Jewish campus student leaders exploring Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Photo provided by Alex Zissman.

The Jack Buncher Foundation has awarded Carnegie Mellon University $5 million to expand the university’s efforts to grow Jewish learning and life on campus.

CMU received two separate grants from the foundation. According to Buncher Foundation Grants Manager Karen Emmerich, a $2 million award created the position of Jack Buncher Director of Jewish Student Life. A separate $3 million grant created the Jack Buncher Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies.

The grants ensure “Jewish student life at CMU flourishes in the future through an endowed directorship at CMU-Hillel and sustains new research, scholarship and connections with an endowed professorship at the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Science,” according to a press release from the university.

Michal Friedman has been named as the inaugural Jack Buncher Endowed Chair. In addition to teaching and developing Jewish programming for the university, Friedman also will collaborate with Centropa in Europe, an interactive database of Jewish memories and oral histories.

Students from both CMU and the University of Pittsburgh, and the wider Pittsburgh community, will work with the “amazing public history NGO” to create educational experiences and exhibitions, as well as conferences and publications for use by students and educators around the world, according to Friedman.

“There are all kinds of opportunities to give a stage to these oral histories, which are very rich,” she said. She cited possible collaborations between Centropa and “people from entertainment, information sciences and the school of drama” to create innovate experiences in “drama, high tech or digital humanities.”

The professor said she was excited to bring “Jewish history to Carnegie Mellon in a way that is very cutting-edge” and both “publicly and dynamically engaging.”

Alex Zissman, formely the director of Jewish life at CMU, is now the first Buncher director of Jewish student life. He will continue to work closely with CMU’s student affairs team and serve as a key resource to the university’s hundreds of Jewish students.

Zissman, whose position is part of Hillel-JUC, said that the award provides “additional legitimacy for the importance and significance of Hillel being on the campus.”

“It’s a privilege to serve and support CMU’s thriving Jewish community,” Zissman said. “Working with CMU’s Jewish students, I know how much this gift means to them as it allows us to continue providing resources, services and support to every Jewish student at CMU.”

Hillel-JUC Executive Director and CEO Daniel Marcus said the award provides sustainability and continuity to Jewish campus life at the university.

“It provides security, allowing us to grow and expand our engagement with every Jewish student at Carnegie Mellon,” Marcus said. “We have tremendous gratitude for the gift and appreciation of the partnership with Carnegie Mellon for making this happen.” PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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