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Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life at Rutgers celebrates turning 25

The Bildner Center provides public school educators with in-depth training on teaching the history of the Holocaust. (All photos courtesy The Builder Center)
The Bildner Center provides public school educators with in-depth training on teaching the history of the Holocaust. (All photos courtesy The Builder Center)

A talk on the Jewish perspective on world news, delivered by award-winning journalist Gal Beckerman, will usher in a year of events celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life at the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences.

Mr. Beckerman is the senior editor for books at the Atlantic and the author of “The Quiet Before: On the Unexpected Origin of Radical Ideas” and “When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry.”

He is expected to speak about how his career at such legendary Jewish institutions as the Forward and influential secular ones, including the New York Times, has given him a unique perspective on how to pursue objectivity while understanding his own identity commitments, ultimately enriching both.

The center’s academic director, Nancy Sinkoff, a professor of history and Jewish studies, said that its quadranscentennial year will be devoted to celebrating its accomplishments “and working to ensure its future as a vital educational and cultural resource on campus and in the broader community.”

She noted that Rutgers has one of the largest populations of Jewish university students in the United States, numbering roughly 5,000 out of more than 37,000 overall.

Founded in 1997 with a gift from New Jersey residents Allen and Joan Bildner, the center’s mission is to enhance Jewish life at Rutgers by providing programs for the public and promoting pluralistic values on campus and far beyond.

The center educates public school teachers on Holocaust history, presents the Rutgers Jewish Film Festival, and brings an eclectic mix of speakers to campus. Over the years, they have included the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of England, who spoke on confronting religious violence; culinary historian and chef Michael Twitty, who is Black, Jewish, and gay; and Moshe Zonder, head writer for the hit Israeli television shows “Fauda” and “Tehran.”

Dr. Nancy Sinkoff is the Bildner Center’s academic director.

The center also has brought Jewish and Arab American leaders together to discuss antisemitism and Islamophobia.

With rising  anti-Jewish and anti-Israel activity on campuses across the country, the Bildner Center provides “a resource to the senior administration on anti-Jewish hatred” and its leadership has made a point of bringing Israeli scholars, artists, filmmakers, screenwriters, and public figures to campus, Dr. Sinkoff said.

“Our visiting scholars and artists teach and interact with students; our films showcase the vitality of Israeli society; and our programs have highlighted the efflorescence of both modern Hebrew language and modern Hebrew culture in Israel,” she added.

The breadth and depth of programs make the center a key contributor to Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway’s goal of making Rutgers “a model of a beloved community,” she said.

“In our current moment, when diversity, equity, and inclusion are so much a part of society’s discourse, and especially relevant to the mission of higher education, the Bildner Center makes visible the history and culture of the Jewish people, in all its diversity, for the university community and the public.”

Dr. Holloway will give the opening remarks at Mr. Beckerman’s September 18 lecture.

Gal Beckerman will kick off its celebration with a talk about Jewish journalism.

The Bildner Center’s full lineup of 25th anniversary events at Douglass Student Center includes:

• A lecture by the authors of “American Shtetl: The Making of Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic Village in Upstate New York,” October 20 at 7 p.m.

• The 23rd annual Rutgers Jewish Film Festival, starting at 6 p.m. on October 30 and running through November 13

• “From Femme Fatale to the New Jewish Woman: Gender, Nationalism, and Orientalism in the Art of E. M. Lilien,” a virtual lecture on December 5 at 7:30 p.m. with Dr. Lynne M. Swarts  of the department of history at the University of Sydney in Australia

• “Temptation Transformed: How the Forbidden Fruit Became an Apple,” a public lecture by  Professor Azzan Yadin-Israel at 7 p.m. on
February 21

• The Toby and Herbert Stolzer Annual Lecture, “Reading Biblical Narrative,” with world- renowned scholar Robert B. Alter, the University of California Berkeley’s professor emeritus of Hebrew and comparative literature, who will speak on April 19 at 7 p.m.


What: “A Jewish Journalist’s View of the World,” free public lecture at Rutgers Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life 25th anniversary kickoff

Who: Gal Beckerman, senior editor at the Atlantic

When: September 18, 4:30 p.m.

Where: Douglass Student Center, Trayes Hall, 100 George  St., New Brunswick

Registration: Required. Go to bildnercenter.rutgers.edu/events/upcoming-events and click on “A Jewish Journalist’s View of the World.”

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