The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation of Philadelphia has given the Wake Forest University Divinity School a $100,000 grant to support a new Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies position for three years.
The professorship will bring established Jewish theologians and scholars to the Wake Forest Divinity School to teach one semester for each of three academic years. They will teach two courses per semester. One course will be for Wake Forest students, and one will be open to the community. The professors will also serve as resources to local synagogues and churches.
“The Carpenter Foundation board was intrigued with the idea of the Divinity School learning from a variety of Jewish voices, and helping to build an understanding and appreciation of the Jewish faith among its ministers in training,” said Joseph A. O’Connor Jr. of the Carpenter Foundation.
Divinity School Dean Bill J. Leonard said the new position will enhance the master of divinity program and “extend interfaith dialogue in the university.”
The Carpenter Foundation grant will support the professorship for three years while the Divinity School raises money to endow the position. The full endowment will cost $700,000.
The Carpenter Foundation has also pledged an additional $212,000 toward the endowment. That gift will be given after the university raises $488,000.
The university has already raised $100,000 through a gift from the Herbert and Ann Brenner Fund. The Brenners are both former members of the Wake Forest Board of Trustees. The late Herbert Brenner was the first Jewish member of the board.
“The establishment of a permanent Visiting Professorship in Jewish Studies is an excellent reminder of the importance of pluralism and our commitment to hearing a number of voices,” Leonard said. “It was an idea planted at Wake Forest through the early work of Dr. Walter Harrelson, former dean of the divinity school at Vanderbilt, who worked for two years as a consultant for the university in beginning the Wake Forest Divinity School.”
The Divinity School already has partially endowed professorships in biblical studies and homiletics.
“I see this new Jewish studies position as a benefit to the whole university and to our area,” Leonard said. “All of our professors are called upon to participate in religious communities and lectures throughout the area.”
The Divinity School will graduate its first class in the spring of 2002. The school currently has 47 full-time students, and 25 additional students are expected to enroll this fall.
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