Brandeis has begun to establish the framework for a new Middle East Studies Center. The center will focus on teaching and research in all aspects of Middle East lifestyle. It will be established in response to the 2001 terrorist attacks and military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. The University has raised $20 million for the center and is hoping to raise $30 million towards its development.
The center is scheduled to open in Oct. 2004 and will be headquartered in the American Jewish Historical Society building near the Heller School. The center will offer programs for both undergraduate and graduate students and the faculty both levels. The events sponsored by the center will be open to the entire community.
University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Marty Krauss said the Middle East Studies Center is intended to create a world-class and well-respected center for the study of the Middle East.
The Center will also host visiting scholars, conferences, and events while broadening discussion on a range of topics relating to the Middle East.
"Because of its prominence it will attract the world's leading scholars on various topics," Krauss said.
Krauss also said that the administration is still unsure what departments and schools will play a role in the Center because it is still only in the planning stages. But the of politics, sociology, anthropology and history departments, as well the International Business School have shown interest.
Krauss also said that the director would determine the center's overall academic mission.
"Depending on who we attract and want, it will create the work for the initial years for the center," Krauss said.
Krauss also said that the center is only a Brandeis project and the faculty and resources are being drawn from Brandeis. However she did say that new chairs would be part of the fundraising efforts.
Krauss also sees the center as a worthwhile addition to the community from which all will benefit.
"This is a project that President Jehuda Reinharz has been working on and he is deeply committed to and the faculty is very supportive of it," Krauss said.
"It will be of interest to students as well because of strong academic interests in the Middle East. This is a region that is on everyone's mind and having a center that represents the highest scholarship in this area will be of interests to students and faculty."
Prof. Jonathan Sarna (NEJS) is the head of search committee for the director of the new center.
He said he wants a leader who models high standards of objective scholarship that the center will emulate.
"We are searching for a director that understands a wide range of issues facing Middle East countries," Sarna said.
Sarna says that the core aspects of the curriculum and research at the Center will focus on many contemporary issues, particularly those in nations that have not received a lot of attention.
"It will not be fixated on the Arab-Israeli conflict," Sarna said.
Sarna also feels that student interest and involvement in the center will be very high because there is a tremendous interest among students on matters in the Middle East.
Currently there are 65 Near Eastern and Judaic Studies majors at Brandeis.
"Everybody has agreed that the center will have an important teaching component and students will be a big part of the center," Sarna said.
Sarna also said that the center would focus on language study. In addition to Hebrew and Arabic, the center may offer courses in Persian and Turkish
"To study the Middle East you need to be able to read sources in their original language," Sarna said. "Language acquisition is the first step in dealing with the Middle East process."
Sarna hopes the center will give the Brandeis community a better understanding of Middle East issues.
"I hope that it will help the community understand the complexity of Middle East issues," Sarna said. "It will illuminate issues that have not be part of the discussion at all."