Grant launches Tikvah Project on Jewish Thought

July 7, 2008, 11 a.m.

A $4.5 million grant to Princeton University from the Tikvah Fund will help to strengthen undergraduate interest in Jewish thought and bring Jewish history and ideas into dialogue with other historical, philosophical and theological traditions.

The Tikvah Project on Jewish Thought aims to make Princeton University a national and international forum for exploring Jewish thought as it relates to fundamental human questions.

"We are very grateful to the Tikvah Fund for their generous support," said Professor of Religion Leora Batnitzky, the project's director. "We believe the Jewish tradition has an important contribution to make to the humanities as a whole -- in politics, history, religion, philosophy. Any educated person, Jewish and non-Jewish, ought to know something about Jewish thought and civilization. And we hope that the implementation of this kind of curriculum will have long-lasting effects for the future of Jewish studies and the humanities."

The project will host visiting scholars and fellows; sponsor new undergraduate courses that explore thematic questions -- such as "God and Politics," "Faith and Doubt" and "What Is Human Nature?" from both Jewish and non-Jewish perspectives; host a series of workshops and working groups that will bring together teachers and students from various disciplines; and eventually sponsor a series of publications and summer institutes. It also will encourage and support collaborative work in the humanities at Princeton, especially between students and faculty. In addition, this initiative will build upon the strengths of the existing Judaic studies program at Princeton. 

"We are very pleased to support this exciting new project at Princeton," said Eric Cohen, executive director of the Tikvah Fund. "Princeton is one of the great universities in the world, and we hope that this new initiative will invigorate the world of Jewish ideas and the world of the humanities, not only at Princeton but throughout the nation and around the world."

Although the Tikvah Fellows program will formally launch in 2009-10, the inaugural Tikvah Fellow, Professor Michael Fishbane, will be in residence next year. Fishbane, the Nathan Cummings Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago, is a world-renowned scholar of Judaica who has written about the Near East and biblical studies, rabbinics, the history of Jewish interpretation, Jewish mysticism and modern Jewish thought. In the fall, he will teach a Freshman Seminar on "The Problem of Evil and the Book of Job."

The project will be advised by a small group of distinguished scholars, including
Professor Peter Schaefer, director of Princeton's Program in Judaic Studies, Professor Michael Walzer of the Institute for Advanced Study, Professor Alan Mittleman of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Professor Robert Jenson of Princeton's Center of Theological Inquiry and Professor Asher Biemann of the University of Virginia.

The Tikvah Fund, based in New York City, is a foundation devoted to promoting Jewish ideas and culture.