From the Director

Dear Alan D. Leve Center Friends,

We are pleased to welcome you to the 2023-2024 academic year, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the creation of a Center for Jewish Studies at UCLA, and to usher in a vibrant year of research, teaching, and service in our community.

I am delighted to announce an ambitious new endeavor funded by the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation and housed between the Alan D. Leve Center and UCLA’s recently-created Initiative for the Study of Hate (ISH): the UCLA Research Hub on Antisemitism. Antisemitism, described as the “longest hatred,” is surging in the face of growing extremism in the United States and the world. In this climate, we are called upon to study antisemitism within both local and more global eco-systems of hate. By bringing together faculty and student researchers from all parts of campus, the Research Hub will support innovative and cross-disciplinary scholarship on antisemitism.

The Research Hub dovetails with the Alan D. Leve Center’s own intense, ongoing focus on antisemitism, a topic that winds through our courses, research, and public service. This year, the Alan D. Leve Center welcomes Post-Doctoral Fellow Naomi Taub, a scholar of literature whose research explores the ever-shifting vocabulary of antisemitism and the complex relationship between Jews and whiteness. While carrying on her research at UCLA, Dr. Taub will participate in the Alan D. Leve Center’s and ISH’s communities:her visit will coincide with a year-long series of events on antisemitisms past and present. 

We open our Newsletter with an image of local artist Joshua Abarbanel’s 2016 sculpture Golem, a powerful and evocative work on display at the Jewish Museum, Worms. A biblical concept with multiple manifestations, the Golem has gained potency, in the Eastern European tradition, as an artificial being conjured from mud or other materials that can be animated through the power of Hebrew letters. But the Golem has a dangerous side, for its superhuman powers can be used against its creator.

Abarbanel’s Golem honors Eleazer of Worms (c. 1176-1238), the Jewish mystic and scholar whose life was upended when his wife and two daughters were murdered by crusaders. In response, Eleazer wrote a commentary on the Sefer ha-yetsirah (Book of Creation), describing how one could configure numbers and Hebrew letters to create a Golem. Abarbanel’s interpretation on the challenge of coping with trauma and grief through (and potentially in tension with) Jewish traditions is moving and timely, an apt embodiment of the dilemmas of the current moment.

Of course, the study of antisemitism, trauma, and violence is not all that drives our community. Across 24 departments/centers and 5 schools/institutes at UCLA, our affiliated faculty are engaged in dynamic, prize-winning, timely scholarship. Our classes enroll thousands of undergraduates each year. And through a rich roster of programming and public-facing scholarship, we fulfill a commitment to service that echoes UCLA’s own mission to create, disseminate, preserve, and apply knowledge for the betterment of global society.

The Alan D. Leve Center boasts a world-class community of students and scholars who focus on the study of the ancient Jewish world, born of a decades-long collaboration with the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. Holocaust Studies at UCLA has long been a pioneer and leader in the field, and remains a powerful force still today. The Center’s faculty affiliates are enmeshed in contemporary public affairs and literature, and engage in public-facing scholarship that reaches a broad international audience. You will gain a feel for this engagement from a report in this Newsletter by Faculty Affiliate Lilya Kaganovsky; like many members of our community, she is personally, pedagogically, and intellectually preoccupied by Russia’s brutal assault on Ukraine.

The Alan D. Leve Center promotes Moroccan Jewish Studies with local partners and in partnership with the Université Internationale de Rabat, Morocco. In this Newsletter, you will read about a landmark translation project between our institutions that brings scholarship on Moroccan and Mediterranean Jewish culture into French and Arabic language translation. 

Our graduate students and alumni distinguish themselves through their many scholarly achievements, and by fostering a UCLA Jewish Studies diaspora across the national and international academy. Last but certainly not least, our dynamic undergraduates impress and inspire us. You will encounter their words, too, in this year’s Newsletter.

The staff at the Alan D. Leve Center, Vivian Holenbeck, Reina Chung, David Wu, Chelsea White, outgoing Graduate Student Leve Fellow Rebecca Glasberg and incoming Benjamin Kersten, remain our bedrock: their commitment, professionalism, and generosity are keys to our success. With them, I wish everyone a productive start to the academic year and welcome you to join the Alan D. Leve Center soon—at an event, in the classroom, or by engaging with our scholarship. 

Thank you for all you do to make UCLA an international hub of Jewish Studies, and such a fruitful intellectual community.

Sarah Abrevaya Stein
Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director, UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies
Viterbi Family Endowed Chair in Mediterranean Jewish Studies
Professor of History

$5 million gift will ensure UCLA Center for Jewish Studies remains among the best in U.S.

Donation from alumnus Alan Leve honors the legacy of his family

Leve_RoyceHallA $5 million gift from Alan Leve, a UCLA alumnus and the founder and president of Culver City, California-based Ohmega Technologies, will establish several endowments at the UCLA College’s Center for Jewish Studies. Leve said he hopes the gift, which will benefit students, faculty and the community, will honor his family’s legacy of giving — one that started with his late grandmother, Hinda Schonfeld.

Leve still vividly remembers the cold and rainy day in 1941 when he left the Breed Street Shul in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood for his grandmother’s funeral. He was amazed at the sight outside the car window: rows of mourners standing shoulder to shoulder for three city blocks on each side of the street, umbrellas over their heads, to pay their last respects.
“It’s a memory indelibly etched in my mind,” said Leve, now 87. “It was a revelation to me. My grandmother had no fame, no material assets of any value; but everyone gravitated to her because of her warmth and generosity of spirit. I realized then that who you are is more important than what you have.”

His grandmother’s legacy of generosity has lived on through her grandson. In recognition of his gift, the center, which is among the world’s most prestigious Jewish studies centers, will be renamed the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies.

“The Jewish presence in academic, social and cultural life on the UCLA campus is strong, and Alan Leve’s generosity helps to ensure its continued vitality,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “We are proud of the role that the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and UCLA — through many other research centers, faculty members, students and public programing — play in the international, national and local dialogue about Judaism.”

Todd Presner, the former Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the center, said, “Alan Leve’s gift will enable us to launch a vibrant public history initiative, support undergraduate and graduate students working in all fields of Jewish studies, initiate programs supporting Jewish life on campus, attract international scholars to UCLA and provide vital research and teaching support to our faculty. This gift will secure UCLA’s standing as a preeminent center for the study of Jewish history, culture and civilization.”
The gift will be divided into several endowments.

  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Student Excellence will be used to fund graduate and undergraduate students engaged in fields related to Jewish studies at UCLA, including graduate fellowships, undergraduate awards and stipends for student travel and summer research projects.
  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Teaching Innovation will support teaching and curricular innovation in Jewish studies. It also will establish the Etta and Milton Leve Scholar-in-Residence program, which will bring academics from across the world to UCLA and foster international collaborations.
  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Research Innovation will support faculty and graduate student research and provide travel and research grants and conference support.
  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Public History and Community Outreach will support the Alan D. Leve Center’s public programs, courses and community collaborations in Los Angeles.  This endowment will also establish the biennial Leve Award, which will recognize an outstanding leader working within or impacting the Jewish community. 

Leve, who was born in Boyle Heights at a time when the neighborhood was the focal point of Jewish culture in Los Angeles, has also made sure that scholars won’t forget that history, nor his grandmother’s sense of community. A portion of the gift will establish the Hinda and Jacob Schonfeld Boyle Heights Collection, which, in collaboration with the UCLA Library, will include archival materials and artifacts related to the history of Boyle Heights.

Through the Schonfeld Boyle Heights Collection, the center also will establish a public history program that will include lectures, exhibitions, tours and courses addressing the history of Jewish Los Angeles.

“My parents lived in Boyle Heights from the late 1920s to the mid 1930s and my grandparents from the late 1920s to their passing in the early 1940s, and they were members of the Breed Street Shul,” said Leve, who has 13 family members from three generations of his family who have graduated from UCLA: his daughter, Laura Leve Cohen, two nieces and their husbands, and eight cousins.

“We lived two blocks away on St. Louis Street, just south of Brooklyn Avenue, at a place and time when the majority of the Jewish population of Los Angeles lived there,” he said. “That period of Jewish presence in Boyle Heights is history now. I’m proud that the center plans to keep it alive through its commitment to programming around public history.”

David Schaberg, dean of humanities, said that Leve’s gift will allow the center to expand its research and outreach into a community that helped shape Los Angeles.

“The mission of the humanities is to explore the rich legacy of human creativity and thought,” he said. “Alan’s philanthropic leadership will allow us to study and teach Jewish history and culture in innovative ways so that our students graduate with the ability to thrive as global citizens.”

Founded in 1994, the center is the leading research hub for the study of Jewish culture and civilization on the West Coast and one of the largest and most active centers in the world. It is dedicated to advancing scholarship in Jewish culture and history, educating the next generation about the role of Judaism in world civilization and serving as an exceptional public resource for Jewish life and learning.

Leve, who still occasionally visits Boyle Heights to show relatives where the family roots began, can only imagine what his grandmother — whose dying words to her daughter were “give $2 to the poor” — would have said about his generosity.

“We came from very modest means,” he said. “I don’t think my grandparents or my parents could’ve conceived of such a gift. For me, this gift fulfills a number of personal aspirations on many levels — supporting my alma mater, investing in education, honoring my Jewish heritage by investing in its future, honoring the memory of my parents and grandparents, and establishing an enduring family legacy.”

Resources, Partners, and Policies


UCLA Gateway
UCLA Library
UCLA Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies
UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies
UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies 
UCLA Center for the Study of Religion 
UCLA Department of History 
UCLA Department of Germanic Languages


The 1939 Society  
The California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language  
Chabad House at UCLA
Hillel at UCLA 
Jewish Journal of Los Angeles
Skirball Cultural Center
Western States Jewish History
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
The Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
The Maurice Amado Foundation
Ha’Am, UCLA’s Jewish Newsmagazine


UCLA Center for the Study of Religion
UCLA Department of English
UCLA Department of Italian
UCLA Library
Mickey Katz Chair in Jewish Music at UCLA
UCLA Department of Comparative Literature
UCLA Department of Germanic Languages
UCLA Department of History
UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
UCLA Digital Humanities Program
UCLA Maurice Amado Program for Sephardic Studies
Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA
UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies at UCLA
Ralph J Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA
UCLA Institute for Digital Research and Education
UCLA Department of Anthropology’s “Culture, Power, Social Change” Group
UCLA Department of Spanish & Portuguese
UCLA Slavic, East European Languages & Cultures
UCLA Department of Art History


American Academy of Religion
American Historical Association
Association for Jewish Studies
H-Judaic (Jewish Studies Network)
Primo Levi Center
Middle East Studies Association
Society of Biblical Literature


  • The views and political positions of speakers, UCLA faculty members, students, and other participants in the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies are theirs alone and do not represent the views of UCLA or the Alan D. Leve Center.
  • The Alan D. Leve Center supports academic freedom in the fullest sense of the word and does not censor speakers. We do not evaluate or screen speakers, affiliated faculty members, or students with regard to their political beliefs, affiliations, or positions.
  • The statements on this page represent the views of The UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of California, or UCLA or its Chancellor