$450,000 in gifts boosts Stanford Jewish studies

Two major donations to Stanford's Jewish studies program will encourage graduate students to research the Holocaust and will defray the cost of running the office.

William Lowenberg of San Francisco has given $200,000 to establish the William J. and Fern H. Lowenberg Fellowship Fund for Holocaust Studies.

Tad Taube of Woodside has donated $250,000 to create the Taube Family Directorship in Jewish Studies.

They were the largest gifts in 1997 to the 11-year-old program.

Lowenberg's donation creates the fifth endowed graduate fellowship for Stanford's Jewish studies program. The university will match the money.

A Holocaust survivor, Lowenberg said last month he decided to donate the money after learning that no major university had an endowed graduate fellowship in Holocaust studies.

"That surprised the hell out of me," said Lowenberg, a member of the Jewish studies advisory board's executive committee.

"The survivors are getting old, including yours truly. Someone has to do something."

Lowenberg, who is also former vice chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's council, is asking others to donate to the fellowship as well.

An endowed fellowship pays a graduate student's tuition and living expenses for four years.

Professor Aron Rodrigue, the Jewish studies program's acting director during Steven Zipperstein's sabbatical, called the fellowship significant because "it enables us to train people who will be researching and teaching on the Holocaust."

Though Stanford offers several courses on the Holocaust, Rodrigue said the endowed fellowship will definitely influence the choice of dissertation subjects.

"Without this, they might not have specifically written a Ph.D. topic on it," said Rodrigue, who is the Eva Chernov Lokey Professor of Jewish studies.

The program hasn't admitted a student on the Lowenberg fellowship yet.

Altogether, about 15 graduate students based in Stanford's religious studies, history and English departments are enrolled in Jewish studies.

Taube's gift, which comes through the Taube Family Foundation, will help pay for administrative staff, the office's ongoing expenses and special items such as conferences. The money will cover about 40 percent of the program's operating budget for five years.

"It puts the finances of the administrative structure on a firm footing," Rodrigue said.

Although Stanford supplies the office space and utilities, Taube said, the Jewish studies program must rely on fund-raising to pay for most of its operating expenses.

"There is a gap the department had to fill," said Taube, chairman of the Jewish studies advisory board.

While individuals have purchased library collections and have endowed professorships or fellowships, fewer are interested in donating toward more mundane items.

"The one piece that has been missing is the nuts and bolts of funding the ongoing operations," Taube said.

Financing office expenses isn't glamorous, he acknowledged.

"That's why it's money that is hard to raise."