BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has established the
Institute for Jewish Thought, Heritage and Culture, a
multidisciplinary research and academic degree-granting center that
will focus scholarship on the critical role that Judaism has played
in the development and communication of Western thought.
The institute already is attracting major philanthropic support
with a $1 million gift from prominent Buffalo attorney Gordon R.
Gross, LL.B. '55, and his wife, Gretchen, to establish the
institute's first endowed professorship.
Creation of the institute and the gift from the Grosses were
announced today by UB President John B. Simpson at a news
conference in Capen Hall on the UB North (Amherst) Campus.
The institute has been created in UB's College of Arts and
Sciences (CAS) in conjunction with the strategic strength in
cultures and texts identified as part of the UB 2020 strategic
plan. That plan is designed to transform UB into a model
21st-century public university that will rise among the ranks of
the nation's public research universities.
The institute will establish UB as a leader in Jewish studies;
the university will be the first campus within SUNY to establish
master's and doctoral degree programs in the field.
"The interdisciplinary mission of the institute, a center of
excellence that is aligned closely with our strategic strength in
cultures and texts, is very much in harmony with UB's guiding
vision as a public research university -- to foster knowledge,
inquiry and scholarly excellence with a meaningful impact on the
world around us," Simpson said.
Praising the Grosses for their generosity and foresight, Simpson
added: "Gretchen and Gordon Gross have long supported programs that
increase cultural diversity and understanding, and we are grateful
for their generosity in supporting this new academic position."
Gordon Gross, a member of the SUNY Board of Trustees, noted that
"tzedakah, or righteous charity, is a fundamental tenet of Judaism
that teaches us to share our gifts with others."
Noting that he and his wife are "passionate about the Institute
for Jewish Thought, Heritage and Culture," he added: "We believe it
will invigorate the Jewish community in Western New York, as well
as allow UB to create a world-renowned Jewish studies program.
"The institute will support UB's plan for growth by attracting
top students and scholars, and will benefit the local community by
sparking intellectual discussion and providing access to notable
speakers and visiting lecturers."
SUNY Distinguished Professor Bruce D. McCombe, dean of the
College of Arts and Sciences, said the institute "will be a
world-class endeavor marked by a strong emphasis on scholarship and
research, particularly at the graduate level, with a director who
is a scholar of the first rank, a dedicated faculty and a highly
focused identity and coherence." He noted that a national search
has been completed and that the announcement of the institute's
director is expected soon.
McCombe said the institute is expected to become a
degree-granting program by fall 2009 with the offering of an
independent bachelor's degree in Jewish studies and expects, at the
same time, to offer an advanced certificate program for graduate
students in history, philosophy, classics and English, as well as
He said it's anticipated that by fall 2010, it will have five
dedicated faculty members and a range of graduate offerings,
including both master's degree and doctoral degrees.
McCombe described the leadership gift from the Grosses as "a
generous gift providing tangible evidence of support of this
important mission and an absolutely crucial step in launching the
institute." To underscore the importance of the institute and its
mission, the university will match the Gross professorship and a
second endowed professorship with two additional faculty lines.
McCombe praised a group of local supporters, including Gordon
Gross, who have worked closely with UB on creation of the
institute. Other members of the steering committee are Michael E.
Cohen, M.D.; Peter and Ilene Fleischmann; Michael Anbar, M.D., UB
professor emeritus of physiology and biophysics; and Kenneth
Dauber, Ph.D., UB professor of English. Peter Fleischmann is
director and CEO of The Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies. Ilene
Fleischmann is vice dean in the UB Law School and executive
director of the UB Law Alumni Association.
Cohen, professor of neurology and pediatrics in the UB School of
Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, noted the long history of
interest in Judaic studies at UB and the insistence by all involved
that the leadership, scholarship and programming of the institute
be of the highest quality.
"I am delighted that we have come this far," Cohen added. "Gordy
Gross has been very influential in moving things along and the
Jewish community has watched these efforts with a great deal of
interest and considerable enthusiasm. I hope that this is the
beginning of a major community philanthropic effort to support and
develop the institute."
Cohen also noted the contributions of UB faculty members
including Samuel Paley, professor of classics, and the late Selig
Adler, Samuel P. Capen Professor of History, in keeping the hope
for this program alive over several decades.
McCombe explained that interdisciplinary courses will be
cross-listed with departments in the College of Arts and Sciences
and other academic units across campus, addressing issues as
diverse as literature, law, philosophy, the arts, government,
history, ethics, medicine and economics. The institute's
researchers, faculty and academic programs will address the role of
Jewish heritage, culture and thought as it relates to current
issues in the academic world.
Its programs will be integrated into the UB curriculum, giving
it a high academic profile, and will focus on excellence in
scholarship and research with the goal of becoming one of the
leading hubs of scholarly activity in these areas.
McCombe said graduate courses will follow the research interests
of the institute's faculty, but will include such subjects as
Jewish ethics, Jewish law, textural criticism, literature, history,
sociology and philosophy.
"Because its programs will be cross-disciplinary in nature," he
said, "they will draw on the expertise of a wide variety of
disciplines and will encourage our faculty members in appropriate
departments to offer classes with Jewish content."
McCombe noted the existence at UB of the David Blitzer Memorial
Lecture Fund (endowed by Wolf Blitzer) and the Michael and Ada
Anbar Lecture Series in Jewish History. McCombe said the institute
will sponsor additional lectures to produce a series that will
bring additional internationally known scholars to the region
during the academic year.
The institute will establish and maintain an online journal and
will encourage publication of papers in recognized journals in this
"Through subventions and awards," McCombe said, "it also will
facilitate the publication of monographs and the proceedings of
symposia, which will help establish the institute as a leading
source of pioneering work."
By fall 2008, the institute will initiate community-wide
education programs and actively support established cultural
activities in the community and at UB. The community education
program will encourage non-matriculated and senior/retiree auditors
from the community to participate in institute classes at no cost.
McCombe said he expects the knowledge and unique perspectives of
lifelong learners to bring additional dimensions to the educational
experience of matriculated students.
Special Collections in the University Libraries has been
selected to house the Jewish Archives of Greater Buffalo containing
synagogue records, local community records, and the personal papers
of notable leaders of the Buffalo Jewish community. This material
is being collected and organized by the Jewish Buffalo Archives
Project, a collaborative effort of the Bureau of Jewish Education
of Greater Buffalo and the University Libraries.
Already in the UB Libraries are several collections presented by
the bureau in 2006, including the records and archives used by
Selig Adler, professor of history at UB, and UB professor of
English Thomas E. Connolly when writing "From Ararat to Suburbia"
(1960), a comprehensive history of the Buffalo Jewish Community,
and the papers of Buffalo Rabbi Isaac Klein, former president
(1958-60) of the Rabbinical Assembly, the official international
body of conservative rabbis.
The UB Libraries also house several Jewish books collections of
note; among them is the 1,800 item Holocaust collection assembled
by Jane Vogel Fischman, Ph.D. '96, and Stuart L. Fischman, D.M.D.,
UB professor emeritus of oral diagnostic sciences. The Bureau of
Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo has also given the UB Libraries
books and other material from the Fred Sales Music Library and the
Milton Plesur Memorial Community Library.
"Because of its comprehensive curriculum and the other resources
at our disposal," McCombe said, "we expect the institute to become
a regional center for Jewish studies and research."
Gordon Gross attended Oberlin College and the University of
Buffalo and received an LL.B. from the UB Law School in 1955. He
has been a senior partner of the law firm of Gross, Shuman, Brizdle
& Gilfillan, P.C. in Buffalo since 1959, and served in the U.S.
Army from 1955 to 57, primarily with the Army Judge Advocate
General's Corps, but also with the Air Force JAG Corps in
Active in the community, he is a member of the SUNY Board of
Trustees, chairman of the Park School of Buffalo Foundation,
chairman of the Foundation for Deaf Education, and serves on the
boards of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies, Jewish Center
of Greater Buffalo and the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo,
each of which he has served as president. He is also a former
director of Roswell Park Cancer Institute Corporation, past
chairman of the board of directors of the Community Foundation for
Greater Buffalo, Inc., and has served as officer and trustee of the
Buffalo Philharmonic Society.
He and Gretchen, an early childhood educator who founded the
Audubon in College Park child care center, reside in Amherst.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system that is its largest and most comprehensive
campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic
interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and
professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at
Buffalo is a member of the Association of American