UCI News

UCI receives $4 million matching gift for Center for Jewish Studies

Donation from Susan and Henry Samueli to advance research, combat antisemitism

August 1, 2022
UCI receives $4 million matching gift for Center for Jewish Studies
For nearly 20 years, Susan and Henry Samueli have played a major role in UCI’s growth. “Susan and I enjoy supporting innovative solutions through many areas, ranging from engineering to health, but this is an area that uniquely touches our hearts,” says Henry Samueli, whose parents were both Holocaust survivors.

Irvine, Calif., Aug. 1, 2022 — The University of California, Irvine has received a $4 million matching pledge from Susan and Henry Samueli, longtime campus supporters, for gifts to UCI’s Center for Jewish Studies. The donation – the largest one ever in support of Jewish studies at UCI – positions the university as a leader in the field.

Launched in 2017 and administered by the School of Humanities, UCI’s Center for Jewish Studies is a campus and community hub for the interdisciplinary and comparative study of Jewish and Israeli culture and society. It’s led by historian Matthias Lehmann, who holds the Teller Family Chair in Jewish History. The School of Humanities’ first endowed chair – funded in 1991 – it established Jewish studies as a permanent part of UCI’s curriculum.

“Expanding Jewish studies on campus falls under a campuswide priority of ‘growth that makes a difference,’ facilitating interdisciplinary, problem-based scholarship and teaching,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Susan and Henry Samueli’s deep generosity will catalyze community support for Jewish studies at UCI and help UCI become a model for tolerance and appreciation of cultural and religious pluralism.”

Lehmann concurred: “Community support has been a vital component of establishing a permanent footing for Jewish studies at UCI. Now, with the support of the Samuelis’ matching gift, we can expand our impact.”

Gifts to UCI’s Center for Jewish Studies will help accomplish several goals: increasing programming to support K-12 educators teaching about the Holocaust; funding two more endowed chairs: one in the study of contemporary antisemitism and one in Israeli studies; and partnering with recognized universities in Israel to bring scholars to campus.

Already, UCI is leading in the study of antisemitism. Each year, Lehmann’s undergraduate lecture on the Holocaust fills to capacity, and Jeffrey Kopstein, a professor of political science, recently completed his term as a distinguished fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Recently, with support from UCI’s Office of Inclusive Excellence, Lehmann piloted a fellowship program called Confronting Antisemitism. Nine undergraduates participated in workshops about the history of antisemitism and led campus outreach projects to increase awareness of antisemitism and how to confront it among their peers.

On Aug. 30, the Center for Jewish Studies is joining with the Jewish Federation of Orange County’s Rose Project and other community partners to host Driving Out Darkness, a one-day, immersive learning experience focused on combating antisemitism – also supported by UCI’s Office of Inclusive Excellence.

For Henry Samueli, the study of antisemitism is personal. In 2005, he and his wife presented a gift to Chapman University to create the Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library. The place is named in honor of Henry Samueli’s parents, both of whom were Holocaust survivors.

“Susan and I enjoy supporting innovative solutions through many areas, ranging from engineering to health, but this is an area that uniquely touches our hearts,” he said.

“Combating antisemitism requires a community effort, and we hope this matching gift will inspire others to join us,” Susan Samueli added.

For nearly 20 years, Susan and Henry Samueli have played a major role in UCI’s growth. In 2017, they pledged $200 million to create the Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences. It remains one of the largest gifts in U.S. history to a public university. In addition, the Samuelis have made generous donations to support The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, and the Susan & Henry Samueli Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building.

About UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The School of Humanities’ Center for Jewish Studies plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more here.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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