Gift from Joyce Z. Greenberg, AB’52, supports Jewish Studies at UChicago

A gift from Joyce Z. Greenberg, AB’52, will support the expansion of Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago through the newly named Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies.

The Greenberg Center is a home for interdisciplinary research and dialogue among faculty, students and visiting scholars, advancing the University’s role as a global destination for scholarship on the historical, cultural, and religious dimensions of Judaism and Jewish civilization. The center, known since its founding in 2009 as the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies, has been renamed in recognition of Greenberg’s generosity and the center’s growing impact in Jewish Studies.

“The University of Chicago has been a leading center for the academic study of religion since its founding. The Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies is a vital part of that intellectual tradition, analyzing the Jewish experience and religious tradition through the rich context of many relevant disciplines and histories. The generous gift of Joyce Z. Greenberg will enhance the University’s important work in Jewish Studies and support its role in advancing education and research in this rich and complex area,” President Robert J. Zimmer said.

The gift of $10 million, which was finalized earlier this year as an irrevocable bequest, will support new and existing programming, the teaching and research of College and graduate students, and postdoctoral fellowships in all the disciplines engaged in Jewish Studies at the University. It will create new models of education and scholarship that aim to reconfigure how Jewish civilization and Judaism are studied and taught within and beyond the University.

The center is inter-divisional, bringing together the Division of the Humanities with the Division of the Social Sciences and the Divinity School and ranging over 15 departments as varied as philosophy and Near Eastern languages, music and history. It was founded to articulate new questions and catalyze unexplored connections within and beyond the received boundaries of Jewish Studies, building on the University’s wide and deep interdisciplinary culture of intense intellectual engagement with the world.

Greenberg came to UChicago as a 16-year-old student, part of a program for young scholars created by then-President Robert M. Hutchins, and graduated with a bachelor’s in liberal arts in 1952. In 1969, as a divorced mother of two children, Greenberg broke into the traditionally male-dominated field of financial services, becoming one of the first female stockbrokers in Houston. Her career stretched for more than three decades.

Greenberg and her second husband, the late Jacob Greenberg, a former president and chairman of Chattanooga Gas Company, supported philanthropic causes together. Joyce Z. Greenberg has continued to support the Houston Public Library, the Jewish Heritage Grant Program of the World Monuments Fund in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Houston Jewish Book Fair. 

“I was elated when the University established the Center for Jewish Studies. There are 7.6 billion people on earth: 1.6 billion Muslims, 1.3 billion Catholics, but just 15 million Jews in the whole world. Education is the most effective way to eliminate anti-Semitism, and the University of Chicago provides an ideal opportunity to increase people’s understanding of what it means to be Jewish,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg’s support for Jewish Studies at the University began in 2012 when she established the Joyce Zeger Greenberg Visiting Professorship, which supports bringing senior scholars to the University to expand discussion on campus. Greenberg has been a regular attendee of lectures and honored Jacob Greenberg in 2015 by establishing the Jacob Greenberg Memorial Jewish Studies Fellowship Fund.

UChicago’s eminence in Jewish Studies dates back to William Rainey Harper, the first president of the University, who was a distinguished scholar of the Hebrew Bible. UChicago is home to the Oriental Institute, one of the foremost interdisciplinary research centers for ancient and medieval Near Eastern Studies. The University Library has extensive holdings in Jewish Studies, including one of the leading Yiddish collections among U.S. universities and the Ludwig Rosenberger Collection of Judaica, which is one of the largest private collections documenting the social, political, and cultural history of the Jewish people in modern Europe.

“The Greenberg Center will serve as a hub for interdisciplinary exploration of Jewish studies both on campus and in places around the world, supporting education and scholarship that’s critical to advancing understanding of the Jewish religion and culture,” said Anne Walters Robertson, dean of the Division of the Humanities.