“…it will offer an opportunity for all groups on campus to become better acquainted with Jewish history, philosophy and theology and where other issues of general concern to the students can be explored and discussed.” — Edgar M. Bronfman
New York City (Dec. 5,) — New York University will dedicate today (Thursday, Dec. 5, 1996) the Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, located at 7 East Tenth Street, in the heart of NYU’s Greenwich Village campus.
The dedication ceremonies will begin at 5:00 p.m. Television and print coverage is welcome. Please call 212/998-6849 or 212/ 998-6848 to make a press reservation.
“We, at New York University,” said Laurence Tisch, chairman of the NYU Board of Trustees, “are grateful to Edgar Bronfman for making this Center for Jewish Student Life possible. His recognition that the college campus provides an important place where Jewish students can explore the meaning and relevancy of Judaism today and his willingness to give financial support, as well as time and personal effort, to provide such opportunities on campuses throughout the country is a major contribution to the Jewish community.”
The NYU Bronfman Center, purchased with a $2.5 million gift from Mr. Bronfman, was formerly the Lockwood de Forest house, described by a writer at the turn of the century as the “most Indian house in America” and one of the most beautiful buildings in New York City.
It has been painstakingly renovated to preserve its historic interior and exterior and remains one of the most interesting townhouses in New York.
The building itself is five stories, with lounges, conference rooms, study areas, computer and recreational areas, and space for quiet contemplation, discussion, the exchange of ideas and worship. The building will be used not only for Jewish students, but also for other student programs within NYU.
“I join Laurence Tisch,” added Dr. L. Jay Oliva, President of NYU, “in applauding and thanking Edgar Bronfman for this magnanimous gift to New York University, which fills so important a need at NYU. We are especially pleased that the Center has been named for Mr. Bronfman, whose name is synonymous with community service, philanthropy, education, the struggle for Jewish survival and for equality, civil rights and social justice for all. I have no doubt that the Bronfman Center will become a place where each person, regardless of affiliation or belief, will feel welcome — and where meetings, conferences, discussions and interpersonal exchanges will educate, stimulate and enrich our students.”
In response, Mr. Bronfman stated his pleasure at having the “opportunity to provide a Jewish center at New York University where Jewish young people can explore their roots, understand their heritage and find meaning in their Jewishness. I hope, too, it will offer an opportunity for all groups on campus to become better acquainted with Jewish history, philosophy and theology and where other issues of general concern to the students can be explored and discussed.”
Studies have shown that Jewish education before bar mitzvah years has only a limited impact on encouraging Jews to remain Jewish. The greatest impact is derived from “association behavior” — attendance at Jewish camps; participation in Jewish teenage groups; membership in Hillel at college or even taking a single Jewish course. The Bronfman Center has been created to meet that need.
The Bronfman Center will work closely with Hillel. It will be supervised by an Advisory Board co-chaired by Professor Robert Chazan, chairman of the NYU Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, and by Senior Vice President Naomi Levine. The Board consists of many distinguished leaders and thinkers in the Jewish community and several scholars such as Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, the Ethel and Irwin A. Edelman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies; and Dr. Arthur Hertzberg, the Bronfman Visiting Professor of Humanities in the Department of History. Both Professors Schiffman and Hertzberg played important roles in creating the Center.
Dr. Susan F. Dickman has been named the Executive Director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life. The Center will report to the Office of Student Affairs at NYU. “In this way,” explained co-chairman Naomi Levine, “it will be part and parcel of student activities at New York University. It will also act as a bridge to other institutions in the Greenwich Village area, providing programs and activities for the entire community.” The renovation of the de Forest house was done by the firm of Helpern Associates, who undertook their task, and accomplished it, with great respect for the building’s historic past.
In addition to Mr. Bronfman, additional funding for the Bronfman Center has come from the Skirball Foundation, the Jewish Culture Foundation and trustees of NYU, including: Diane Belfer, Morris Bergreen, Alan Greenberg, George Heyman, Helen Kimmel, Martin Lipton, Larry Silverstein, Sheldon Solow, Leonard Stern, Henry Taub and Laurence Tisch.