December 16, 2001
On Nov. 10, nearly a hundred people crowded into the Randy J. Unger Reading Room on the third floor of Jones Hall to celebrate its official opening as part of the Dr. L. Joseph Cahn Library for Hebraic Studies. Houston attorney Alan Levin created the fund for the library in 1997 to honor his friend Joseph Cahn, who for 20 years was regional director of Bnai Brith.
At its inception, the library consisted of about 60 books in two modest bookcases, says Chris M. Brady, assistant professor of classical studies and director of the Jewish studies program. Levin's efforts on behalf of Jewish studies did not stop with the initial creation of the library. He also asked John O'Quinn, another Houston attorney, to support the Cahn library.
O'Quinn donated funds for shelving, storage and display cabinets and work stations. O'Quinn, just as Levin, did not want his own name honored permanently. Instead, he opted for the reading room to be named in honor of his friend Randy Unger, a graduate of Tulane's College of Arts and Sciences and Law School. The New Orleans Hillel Center also donated the Herbert Charles Yellin Memorial Library of 600 books to Tulane's Jewish Studies Program.
"All these acts of generosity are signs of the renewed vitality of the interdepartmental, interdisciplinary program. Various aspects of Jewish studies have long been part of Tulane's curriculum, mainly as a component of classical studies," Brady points out. "Classics has been taught at Tulane since its founding," he says. The oldest award that Tulane offers is the Judah P. Touro Medal in Classical Languages, and classical languages includes Hebrew.
"As an independent program, however, the history of Jewish studies on campus goes back only 20 years. In the early stages of the program, we relied on people in various departments who were willing to teach courses that were related," says Brady. "The Jewish Studies Program has experienced steady growth in recent years. We're able to teach between 300 and 400 students every year in a total of 22 to 25 different courses that are either directly labeled Jewish studies or are history, political science or music courses that are Jewish studies-related," Brady says.
Brady completed a doctorate in ancient Hebrew and Jewish literature at the University of Oxford. He works in rabbinic literature and exegesis and how the rabbis read the Bible. Since coming to Tulane in 1997, Brady has taught Hebrew Bible, Rabbinic Judaism, Second Temple Judaism, Dead Sea Scrolls and Women in the Hebrew Bible courses.
"Assistant professor Jeffrey Haus, a specialist in modern Judaism, also has joined the faculty, allowing for more directly Jewish studies courses," says Brady. A significant new development for the program has been the endowment of the Sizeler Chair in Jewish Studies.
"This past summer we were able to secure a Louisiana Board of Regents matching grant for this chair," says Brady. "This will be a big move for us, as this is a senior appointment. We plan to start the search to fill the chair next fall."
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