$12 million gift funds education and Jewish studies at Stanford

The San Francisco-based Jim Joseph Foundation has awarded $12 million to Stanford's School of Education to create a concentration in education and Jewish studies focused exclusively on preparing doctoral scholars and researchers. The gift, which is the largest in the education school's history, provides funding to endow a new faculty chair, support fellowships for graduate students and underwrite seminars and conferences on questions at the intersection of education, religion and civil society.

This area of scholarship is not new to Stanford. From 1992 to 2002, the university offered a similar concentration, graduating 10 doctoral and two master's degree students. By renewing its commitment to the field through the gift from the foundation, Stanford now joins New York University as the only research universities in the country to provide doctoral training in education and Jewish studies.

"More children across the globe are educated in religious institutions than secular ones," said Sam Wineburg, the professor of education who led Stanford's effort to renew the concentration. "However, we don't yet know, and have not yet begun to properly study, what ramifications this may have for future generations. This generous gift provides an important entrée into such issues, leveraging Stanford's depth and breadth in Jewish studies and our previous experience in the field of Jewish education."

Dr. Wendy Rosov, a graduate of Stanford's original concentration who is now a private education consultant, collaborated with Wineburg on a feasibility study for the new effort.

"Stanford is a great institution, and we are certain it will attract extraordinary talent and produce scholars who will help to build and lead the field," said Chip Edelsberg, executive director of the Jim Joseph Foundation.

Faculty in the School of Education will collaborate with scholars in Stanford's Taube Center for Jewish Studies to develop the curriculum, offer courses and seminars, and advise doctoral students.

Students will elect to concentrate in education and Jewish studies upon entering the School of Education through one of its existing doctoral degree programs. The approach will be highly multidisciplinary, keeping with Stanford's efforts to bring together scholars from distinct but related fields.

"Our center has long participated in educating the next generation of leaders in the study of Jewish history, religion and literatures," said Vered Karti Shemtov, co-director of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies. "The new concentration will allow us to train scholars who will influence not only the academic world but also K-12 education."

Scholars can help advance a better understanding of the role religious education plays in the formation of identity, community and moral behavior, and whether and how it can promote intercultural understanding rather than intolerance. Such insights could contribute to many fields, including international security and economic development.

"This extraordinary gift from the Jim Joseph Foundation allows Stanford to lead the country in the study of the nexus of culture, religion and education," said Deborah Stipek, dean of the School of Education. "Scholarship in this area is critical to understanding the central role of religion in education, and its broad implications for humanity. We are deeply grateful to the foundation for this opportunity."

The Shimon Ben Joseph Foundation, commonly known as the Jim Joseph Foundation, was established in 2006. The foundation is committed to the legacy of its founder, Jim Joseph, a dedicated philanthropist who cared passionately about the education of Jewish children, youth and young adults in the United States.