Two families with deep connections to American University and the Center for Israel Studies (CIS) are stepping up once more for AU, this time with a $500,000 matching-challenge gift to support the Center’s internationally known programming and scholarship about Israel.
American University Board of Trustee member Alan Meltzer, and his wife Amy, are teaming up with June Trone and her husband, AU Board of Trustees member Congressman David Trone, to match donations to the Center for up to $500,000.
The Meltzer-Trone challenge gifts will support the Center’s annual conferences, beginning with the spring 2022 conference, which will focus on Israeli democracy. The gifts are also are part of a $10 million fundraising initiative through 2025 to sustain CIS operations, a part of the overall university-wide Change Can't Wait campaign for AU. Spurred by this matching gift opportunity, the Center hopes to secure permanent endowed funding to support the depth and breadth of programming and scholarship about Israel for which the Center is globally recognized.
“Follow our Lead”
Alan Meltzer, a former AU wrestler, has served on the AU Board of Trustees since 2007. “After delving deeply into the programming and curriculum of the Center for Israel Studies (CIS) this past year, I am more committed than ever to ensuring its future success,” says Meltzer. “That is why my wife Amy and I have partnered with the Trones in the challenge gift to help the Center reach new heights of excellence in Israel Studies. We hope our gift will inspire others to donate to the Center to ensure that its scholarship about Israel will continue to grow in upcoming years.”
The Trones have long been involved in Israel advocacy and efforts to fight antisemitism. Congressman Trone has served on American University’s Board of Trustees for six years. “We wanted to support the incredible annual conference, which raises the international profile of the Center and nurtures and catalyzes Israel Studies,” says June Trone. “Our other goal through the matching gift is to provide an incentive for others to follow our lead in supporting the Center’s important scholarship and programming.”
$10 Million CIS Fundraising Goal and Priorities
Michael Brenner, the Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies and the Director of the Center, says that one of the primary goals of the campaign for the Center is to recruit permanent and visiting faculty in Israel Studies to ensure an ongoing range of Israel Studies courses. Other funding priorities include post-doctoral fellowships for young scholars in the field, research funds for faculty and students to study Israel, and scholarship funds for students to spend a semester or year abroad in Israel.
Donors may contribute to any of these priorities, or fund a speaker series such as the Writers About Israel series, which the Center is seeking to resume in 2021-22. Previous series have brought Israeli writers such as Etgar Keret, Meir Shalev, Eshkol Nevo, and Dorit Rabinyan to campus.
“The ultimate goal, of course,” says CIS Managing Director Laura Cutler, “is to secure a naming gift for the Center. This is a wonderful opportunity for a donor to link their name to one of the most extensive educational programs about Israel in the country.”
An International Leader
Since its founding in 1998, CIS has become an international leader in the study of Israel’s society, politics, and culture and its manifold contributions to our global civilization. The Center examines Israel in all its diversity, including its position within a changing Middle East, its self-definition as a Jewish state, its relationship to Jewish communities worldwide, and its Arab population.
In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, the Center has had an unprecedented and successful year, filled with stellar leadership, awards, and events, all made possible by the annual support of donors.
In 2020, Brenner received the very first Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Award for Scholarly Excellence in Research on the Jewish Experience, established by the University of Vienna and the Knapp Family Foundation. The University of Vienna states that this prestigious award “may well be described as a Nobel Prize in the study of the Jewish experience.”
Israel Studies classes continued with stellar enrollment. All but one of the Center’s eleven classes were at or near capacity; over half were full with waitlists. Students have continued to write for the student blog, Studentisraelity.com, and to attend Israeli politics discussions with School of International Studies Professor Guy Ziv — even without the allure of free falafel.
CIS is best known for its depth and breadth of programming about Israel, and in a new speaker series, the Center and AU’s Jewish Studies Program (made possible thanks to the generosity of the Knapp Family Foundation) have been bringing together distinguished scholars of Israeli, American, and European history to reflect broadly on antisemitism over the past seventy-five years. The series of virtual talks, “Antisemitism Since the Holocaust: America, Israel, and Europe,” focuses on topics ranging from Antisemitism and Racism, to Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism. The conversations coincide with several AU classes, including “The History of Antisemitism,” taught by Brenner.
To discuss the Changing Relationship Between Diaspora Jews and Israel, the Center brought together three of the most important Jewish voices from three continents: Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel; David Harris, Chief Executive Officer of the American Jewish Committee; and Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur, one of the intellectual leaders of the French Jewish community today.
Looking Forward: A Visit by Ehud Barak and More
In a very special event on March 15, Ehud Barak, Israel’s tenth Prime Minister, delivered American University's 2021 Amos Perlmutter Memorial Lecture. Barak spoke about the strategic challenges posed by Israel’s neighbors, the Iranian nuclear threat, and the electoral stalemate in Israeli politics, as well as the opportunities provided by Israel’s economic dynamism and the new peace accords with several Arab states. The lecture was organized by the Center and AU’s School of Public Affairs, where Perlmutter, a world-renowned scholar of political leadership in the Middle East, taught for nearly thirty years. And on March 31, the Center presented "How long will the Israeli Government last? Leading Israeli journalists discuss the fourth elections in two years" with leading editors of the Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post and Haaretz.
The Center is looking forward to returning to campus with new in-person classes, events, cultural performances, and important discussions. It received a grant from the Israel Institute for a spring 2022 Visiting Professor, Israeli director and performer Roy Horovitz, who will teach "Israeli Theater: Plays and Performance" in the Department of Performing Arts. The theater class rounds out CIS’s rich array of courses, which next year range from History of Israel, to Israeli Politics, to US-Israel Relations, to Israeli Society and Gender and more.
The Future is Bright
It is an exciting time for the Center for Israel Studies and for American University. The university- wide campaign for American University impacts all of AU’s schools and programs and enables each academic unit to execute its own strategic plan as an integral part of the university wide plan. CIS is a prominent feature of academic life at AU and has proven to be a leader in the field of Israel Studies. With your support, CIS will continue to build upon the notable academic and fundraising success already achieved, and propel the Center to new heights.
“Our goal is quite clear,” says Brenner. “We were the first Center for Israel Studies; American University has always played a leading role in the field and we want to keep and expand this role. We are uniquely positioned to do so being located in the nation’s capital, housing one of the biggest and most important schools of international service, having one of the most politically active student bodies in the country, receiving strong support of the university administration, and enjoying excellent relations with neighboring disciplines like Middle Eastern and Arab Studies.”
Please consider joining our efforts and participating in the Meltzer and Trone Giving Match.