The Crown Center for Middle East Studies commemorated its 10th anniversary Sept. 8 with an event that featured some of the key figures in its establishment and a panel discussion with some of the center's scholars that displayed its bright future.
"We're celebrating the 10th anniversary, but I think our best years are still ahead of us," Shai Feldman, the Judy and Sidney Swartz Director of the Crown Center, said to the crowd at Rapaporte Treasure Hall. "We will remain committed to introducing balanced and dispassionate analysis of the Middle East. We'll increase our institutional involvement in the Middle East by partnering with regional research centers. And we'll enhance our engagement with policy and opinion makers in an effort to ensure they are better informed, so when we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we'll have even more to celebrate."
The center was founded in 2005 after Jehuda Reinharz PhD '72, then-Brandeis president and now the chairman of the Crown Center Advisory Board, worked relentlessly to convince Lester Crown and Charles "Corky" Goodman that funding a center for Middle East studies at Brandeis was important and that its commitment to scholarship over politics would make it stand out.
"I told them that the Brandeis center would be different from all other centers, and I pledged we would have faculty and staff who would be Americans, Israeli, Palestinians, Egyptians, Iraqis, Iranians, Lebanese and Turks, among others," Reinharz said. "The only criteria for hiring them would be their scholarship and teaching ability. Ideologies and political agendas would not be part of class instruction."
Since its founding, the center has published 94 briefs and 6 books, hosted 29 junior fellows, produced 7 doctoral recipients and has a board that represents a broad spectrum of the Middle East.
Reflecting on the center's scholarly work during the past decade, Crown said the vision and goals Reinharz outlined have been achieved.
"He really convinced us this center would be based on superb scholarship with no agenda, and that's exactly what it's done," Crown said. "We're thrilled to be involved with it. We're thrilled all of you are here today and we hope it continues to do what it has done over the last decade."
Interim Brandeis President Lisa Lynch commended the Crown family for its commitment to the center.
"I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the Crown family, not only for your support but also for your guidance in defining the mission of this center, its vision and its direction," Lynch said.
A panel discussion, "The Untold Stories of the Middle East," moderated by Myra and Robert Kraft Professor of Arab Politics Eva Bellin, featured five Crown Center scholars highlighting details of their research.
Pascal Menoret, the newly-appointed Renée and Lester Crown Professor of Modern Middle East Studies, described the phenomena of joy riding in Saudi Arabia and the insights it shed on Saudi society, a subject he wrote about in one of his books; David Patel, junior research fellow, explained the staying power of the Islamic State; Neubauer Junior Research Fellow Richard Nielson discussed the connection behind jihadists and academia; Naghmeh Sohrabi, the Charles "Corky" Goodman Professor of Middle East History, described how social insiders are allowed to publicly criticize policy and the leadership regime in Iran; and Jean-Louis Romanet Perroux, junior research fellow, described the "New Libya."
Full audio of the opening remarks and discussion will be available on the Crown Center website.