The University of California, Santa Cruz, has announced a major new gift to support the campus’s Jewish Studies Program.

The Helen Diller Family will contribute $500,000 toward the establishment of a new Baumgarten Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies.

A previous gift from the Dillers in 1997 established the Helen Diller Family Endowment for Jewish Studies at UCSC.  

That initial seed funding helped to create UCSC’s Center for Jewish Studies—which has evolved over the past 16 years into a sophisticated center of research and learning, serving the largest number of enrolled undergraduates in Jewish Studies at any Northern California post-secondary institution.

A $1 million fundraising effort is currently underway to establish the Baumgarten Endowed Chair. The Chair will be held by a senior level faculty scholar who will guide a mature and expanding Center for Jewish Studies.

The Dillers’ latest gift now raises the total of designated funds to $700,000.

“We are delighted to receive this generous gift from the Dillers to support our expanding Jewish Studies program,” said UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal. “Their new gift celebrates the legacy they helped to create and assures the future vitality of our Center for Jewish Studies.”

“I believe that their lead gift will motivate others to step forward and help us fully fund the chair,” he added.

The Baumgarten Chair will honor the accomplishments of Jewish Studies scholar and teacher Murray Baumgarten, whose interdisciplinary vision of Jewish Studies has guided the program at UCSC for nearly three decades.

Baumgarten, along with UCSC history professor Peter Kenez, still teaches the annual upper division course The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry that was created in the mid-1980s and is now also an online class reaching nearly 18,000 people in 58 countries, and he had an essential role in developing UCSC’s new B.A. degree in Jewish Studies which the university began offering in 2010.

 “Murray Baumgarten’s unique leadership made the establishment of a premier Jewish Studies program at UC Santa Cruz a reality,” the Dillers noted. “We are pleased to be able to honor his vision.”