You are here: American University President Announcements April 17, 2023

AU Memo Letterhead

Dear AU Community,

Exploring complex and critical topics with a focus on engagement and impact is at the heart of American University scholarship and learning. For 25 years, AU’s Center for Israel Studies has pursued this important mission and built community through collaboration and discourse. This weekend, we celebrated the center’s anniversary and achievements and began the next 25 years of impact thanks to generous gifts from some of our community’s most dedicated supporters. This is a great illustration of the best of our community, including our pursuit of lives with purpose and meaning. It reflects the commitment of AU changemakers to the service of helping others and making our world a better place through dialogue and understanding. 

Inaugurated in 1998 by Israel’s prime minister and future president Shimon Peres, the Center for Israel Studies was the first of its kind in the United States dedicated to studying the modern state of Israel. It is a preeminent place for groundbreaking scholarship and exploration of these important topics. But more than that, it is a place where people engage with Israel’s culture and people and hear from a wide range of perspectives about Israel today and possibilities for the future. The center also continues to focus on building bridges, breaking down barriers, and creating the conditions for change and tolerance, a focus that is shared campuswide. 

As part of our overall commitment to inclusive excellence, our educational and research work─including the Center for Israel Studies─helps us look holistically at the world. At a time when antisemitism is an ongoing concern, one of the most impactful things American University can do is help our community and communities around the world understand and address these issues through research and coming together in constructive discourse. 

This weekend, we looked to a bright future of continued impact for the Center for Israel Studies. Thanks to a joint multi-million-dollar commitment from Amy Meltzer, Board of Trustees member Alan Meltzer, CAS/BA ’21, and AU friends Jaime and Andrew Schwartzberg─we are proud to officially name the Meltzer Schwartzberg Center for Israel Studies. These philanthropic investments will secure the center’s place as the hub for advancing Israel studies and preparing our students to serve the global community, waging peace, and improving our understanding of the world.

Under the leadership of Distinguished Professor Michael Brenner, the center’s scholarship focuses on modern Israel’s history, society and culture, multiethnic democracy, and complex geopolitical challenges. Working with faculty advisors and affiliates from 15 disciplines, the center features regular convenings with leading Israel scholars, artists, and practitioners from around the world. Partnerships with people from across the political and cultural spectrum help our students learn to listen and empathize with different opinions and perspectives. And academic offerings that include the first minor in Israel Studies in the US, a focus that gives graduates the tools and expertise to launch changemaking careers. Over the last several years, the center has hosted 746 speakers, 13 visiting professors, 24 conferences, and so much more. 

Since its earliest days, the Meltzer Schwartzberg Center for Israel Studies’ impact has been fueled by the generosity of lead supporters from our AU community, including Lillian Klein Abensohn and her late husband Seymour, for whom the Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Endowed Chair in Israel Studies is named; Daniel and Helen Sonenshine, who established the Sonenshine Lecture Series and the Helen and Daniel Sonenshine Professorship Fund supporting Israel and Jewish studies; and Larry Swillinger, whose generous estate gift will endow the Lawrence D. Swillinger Fund to support the priorities of the center and Jewish Studies Department at the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Meltzers’ gift follows their previous support to the center, including establishing the Alan L. Meltzer and Amy Meltzer Fellowship and providing a joint gift with the David and June Trone Family Foundation to endow the center’s annual conference. The Meltzers have given more to the Change Can’t Wait campaign than any other individuals to date. The Schwartzbergs, longtime friends of the Meltzers, were inspired to join this commitment in recognition of the center as a national leader committed to welcoming a diversity of thought and fighting antisemitism. 

The newly named Meltzer Schwartzberg Center for Israel Studies reflects a time of great momentum for our university. Our Change Can’t Wait $500 million campaign is transforming educational opportunities, creating space for diversity of thought, and fostering innovation. We are a community that truly knows—change can’t wait.

Congratulations to the Meltzer Schwartzberg Center for Israel Studies for 25 years of outstanding contributions and thank you again to Amy, Alan, Jaime, and Andrew.