First, I’d like to take a moment to thank Professor Alan Levenson, the Director of the Schusterman Center for Judaic and Israel Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and the Schusterman/Josey Chair in Judaic History, for providing me with this opportunity to offer words of thanks on this momentous anniversary occasion. Alan, you have been an inspiring, deeply dedicated and wonderfully effective leader of the Center and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with you, both as a History Department colleague, and as a representative of the College of Arts and Sciences. I’d also like to take offer my warmest thanks to Noam Stillman, the Founding Director of the Center. Noam, today’s successes in building this outstanding program rests on the foundations of your vision, first articulated more than a quarter of a century ago, for the University of Oklahoma to become an international leader in Judaic and Israel Studies. Thank you for that inspired vision and the two decades of hard work and dedication that went into bringing it to fruition. We’re also deeply appreciative of the work of two History Department Chairs, Rob Griswold and James Hart, whose service and leadership has coincided with the first quarter century of the Schusterman Center.
Next, I’d like to take a moment to thank our very special guest, Lynn Schusterman. Lynn, your confidence in Noam’s and Alan’s vision for the Center, and your generous and consistent support, have built something quite remarkable here at OU: one of the great intellectual centers for the field of Judaic and Israel Studies. But let me go a step further and say what we all already know: this is one of the great intellectual centers in the nation for the study of culture and humanity. And this center exists, and it thrives, in no small part, because the Schusterman Center recognizes the value of its contributions, not just to this university and this state, but to the nation and the larger global arena of Judaic Studies, and of humanistic endeavor. Lynn Schusterman, thank you for your faith in the potential of this Center twenty-five years ago, and for your generosity in supporting its endeavors from then to now.
Last, I’d like to say a little more about why the Schusterman Center is such a vitally important part of the College of Arts and Sciences and the University of Oklahoma. Intellectual community builds mutual understanding and respect; mutual understanding and respect move communities, societies, and humanity, forward. Universities are vital sites for this vital humanistic building project. The more fragile the world seems to become, the more tattered and torn and unraveled the ties of human understanding become, the more vital universities are as sites of humanistic renewal, and rejuvenation, and healing. Universities are the cultural glue and the enduring ties that bind us together as communities. Those of you who are joining us today have seen the work of community building and healing that that the Schusterman Center does every day.
Think of the many departments in the College of Arts and Sciences bound together by the Schusterman Center—including Anthropology, Classics and Letters, English, History, Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, and Religious Studies—and other Colleges, too, including Fine Arts, Honors, and International Studies. Think about the consistently large audiences who attend the JuST Lunch brown bag lecture series that so many of our core and associated Judaic and Israel Studies faculty present in, and the high-powered discussions at those events. Think about the distinguished presenters in the Yedida K. Stillman Memorial Lecture Series. Consider the students in our program who have had one of the transformative cultural and intellectual experiences of their lives studying in Israel. Consider the impressive accomplishments of those students, and the impressive body of publications crafted by the
center’s core and associated faculty. And think about the ways in which the Schusterman Center communications—including the website and the newsletter—consistently celebrate the accomplishments of every member of this community and in doing so make it more unified and more intellectually vibrant.
I would venture that Judaic and Israel Studies, nationally and internationally, is made markedly stronger by OU’s Schusterman Center, and that our university community is the palace of humanistic thought on the prairie that it is, in no small part because of the work of the Schusterman Center. And I am convinced that the intellectual core of our university, strengthened and deepened as it is by the Center, makes us a national and international site of humanistic renewal, and rejuvenation.
Thank you to our brilliant Judaic Studies core and associated faculty, our equally brilliant students, thank you to Alan and Noam for your leadership, to all of the outstanding staff over the years who have devoted their time and expertise to this enterprise. Thank you to the community members who support the Schusterman Center by attending our events and contributing to our discussions, and thereby making our community more meaningful. And thank you, Lynn Schusterman and the Schusterman Foundation, for believing in a vision and supporting a transformation. It has been a wonderful first twenty-five years. Here’s to the next quarter century, and to many more momentous anniversaries to come. The College of Arts and Sciences is truly grateful for the Schusterman Center for Judaic and Israel Studies. Happy Anniversary!
- David Wrobel, December 2, 2020