$18M funds renamed U of T Jewish studies centre

From left, businessman Larry Tanenbaum, arts and science dean David Cameron, U of T president Meric Gertler and Ken Tanenbaum at the unveiling of the re-named Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies

TORONTO — Marking the end of an $18-million fundraising campaign, about 100 people gathered Nov. 17 for the unveiling of the renamed Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies in its new home at the University of Toronto’s Jackman Humanities Building.

This fundraising initiative – part of a larger campaign that moved the centre to a bigger space on campus and funds course development, conferences and more – was led by co-chairs Larry and Ken Tanenbaum, in partnership with UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and Jewish community leaders.

A $5 million donation from the estate of Anne Tanenbaum and the Lawrence and Judith Tanenbaum Family Charity Foundation contributed to the $18 million total, which will fund new programs that will benefit the 70-member faculty, more than 4,000 Jewish studies students, and the community in general.

“The $18 million goes toward an endowment and the proceeds from the endowment are used to support students, their research, visiting professorships, library acquisition, Holocaust studies, Yiddish studies – really, the whole gamut of Jewish studies, running from the Dead Sea Scrolls to [author] Philip Roth and everything in between,” said Jeffrey Kopstein, director of the Jewish studies centre.

A number of people involved with and supportive of the three-year fundraising campaign, including U of T president Meric Gertler and faculty of arts and science dean David Cameron, spoke to the gathering about the significance of the ever-expanding Jewish studies centre.

Kopstein said Larry Tanenbaum spoke on behalf of his mother, after whom the centre is named, and “who always valued Jewish education and Jewish learning.” 

Larry’s son, Ken Tanenbaum, also spoke about the “linkages between the centre and the bridges that it builds to the community, and the bridges that it builds to other units on campus,” Kopstein said.

In Kopstein’s address, he said that Jewish civilization “exemplifies the value of persistence and resilience, the possibilities of social and intellectual pluralism, and the need to delve into the deeper meanings of texts and events. Viewed in this way, the study of Jewish civilization is a natural part of what we do at the University of Toronto and must therefore be integrated across the university since it is too important not to be. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to know that the university and the community both support this vision.”

The goal is to turn one of Canada’s leading universities into “a global seat of Jewish learning,” Kopstein said.

“That is the broader vision. We are the one institution in Canada that has the capacity… to turn this centre into a global seat of Jewish learning for a whole new generation.”