$5M bequest to UMass Amherst to benefit Judaic studies, Hillel

Julie Wiener

BOSTON (JTA) — A $5 million bequest to the University of Massachusetts Amherst will go toward Judaic studies as well as the Hillel.

The gift from alumni Pamela and Robert Jacobs will establish an endowed faculty chair in the Judaic and Near Eastern studies program, the university announced Monday. It is the largest single gift to the department and the university’s School of Humanities and Fine Arts.

The bequest also will establish scholarships in Judaic and Near Eastern studies and programming in the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. Part of the gift also will provide support for the UMass Hillel, which offers programming and resources to Jewish students.

“We have always felt a close connection to UMass Amherst, where we both received an excellent education and had meaningful social experiences,”  Pamela Jacobs said. “Giving charitably has always been part of our way of giving back.”


In 2001, the Jacobses, who met as students at UMass in the 1960s and now live in Washington, D.C., provided financial support to create the Center for Jewish Studies Endowment, a lecture series in Jewish culture and a permanent endowment that created the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies.

Pamela Jacobs is a member of the board of directors of the UMass Amherst Foundation. Robert Jacobs, a lawyer, is a founder of Rock Creek Partners, where he is senior counsel.

The faculty chair, in Bible and rabbinics, will “stimulate interest in its broader cultural implications for the fields of history, literature, philosophy and religion,” according to Jay Berkovitz, the chair of Judaic and Near Eastern studies. The new scholarship fund will also support study at Israeli universities and elsewhere.

UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in a statement that gifts for faculty chairs “represent pivotal investments in the intellectual leadership of the university.”

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