The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life

CSJLBldg SqA major gift from visionary philanthropists Allen and Joan Bildner in 1996 made it possible to establish the Center for the Study of Jewish Life at Rutgers University. The founding of the Bildner Center and shortly thereafter the Department of Jewish Studies, demonstrated the university’s commitment to the growth and vitality of Jewish studies scholarship, Jewish culture, and Jewish life on campus and in the broader community. A unit of New Jersey’s flagship state university, the Center creates compelling programs that connect the university to the wider community and promote the values of a pluralistic and just society.

Under the guidance of Professor Emerita Yael Zerubavel, founding director (1996–2018), the Bildner Center grew into an internationally recognized leader in the field of Jewish studies.

In 2018, Nancy Sinkoff, a professor of Jewish studies and history at Rutgers for more than twenty years, stepped into the role of the Center’s academic director. Sinkoff, with her broad range of scholarship and creative vision, is leading the Center into its next phase of development. She codirects the Center with Karen Small, managing director, a recipient of numerous awards for innovative programming in the areas of Jewish education and Holocaust education. (See bios for Sinkoff and Small below.)

The Bildner Center serves as a bridge between the university and the larger community through a rich breadth of public programming that includes lectures and symposia, the annual Rutgers Jewish Film Festival, online mini-courses, and cultural events. The Center collaborates with other schools, units, and departments throughout the university as well as with academic institutions, cultural organizations, and scholars around the region, nationally, and internationally, to create innovative educational programs that draw diverse audiences.

Thanks to a generous gift from the Herbert and Leonard Littman families, the Center developed its holocaust resource center in 2000, which offers professional development for public school educators on teaching about the Holocaust and genocide. This training helps teachers meet the New Jersey state mandate for Holocaust education.

Working closely with the Department of Jewish Studies, the Center offers a wide range of programs, internship opportunities, and financial support for Rutgers students. The Center’s commitment to academic excellence also includes hosting scholarly conferences, and sponsoring international visiting scholars. Three endowed visiting scholar positions make this possible: post-doctoral positions established by the late Jerome and Lorraine Aresty, and by Dr. Norman and Syril Reitman; and the Bildner Visiting Scholar position created by Joan and Allen Bildner to enhance intellectual life at Rutgers.

For twenty-five years, the Center has inspired audiences, addressed ignorance, and fostered a deep understanding of the world. Today, the Center is more committed than ever to presenting ideas that equip audiences to navigate contemporary challenges.

Fostering Academic Excellence

Partnering with the Community

Serving as a Holocaust Resource Center

  • Teacher training
  • Resource for scholars, teachers and students
  • Access to USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive
  • Public programs on the Holocaust, racism, and genocide