Thanks to a $750,000 endowment gift from Taube Philanthropies, Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union will establish a new chair position at its Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies.
Sam Shonkoff, who is currently GTU’s assistant professor of Jewish studies at the Dinner Center, will be the first to hold the Taube Family Chair position. A Berkeley native, Shonkoff joined the theological school in June 2019 from Oberlin College, where he was a visiting assistant professor. Shonkoff teaches Jewish religious thought and modern Jewish cultures, and his current research focuses on “themes of embodiment in Martin Buber’s representations of Hasidism,” according to a press release announcing the gift.
Established in 1962, GTU is a consortium of seminaries and schools of theology that confers graduate degrees in the study of world religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others. The Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies is described by GTU as a “premier center for the advanced study of Jewish history, culture, theology, and religious life.”
Deena Aranoff, the center’s director, said in the press release that the gift “will allow us to continue to play a central role in the study of Jewish culture, history and thought,” help to “train the next generation of scholars and educators; and to maintain our commitment to bridging scholarship and the public sphere.”
In the same press release, GTU said it would be commemorating the gift at a public event this spring.
Taube Philanthropies has been a longtime supporter of GTU’s Jewish studies department, which was founded in 1968. In 2014, the philanthropy group established by Tad Taube gave the Jewish studies department a three-year grant of $75,000. In addition, Taube Philanthropies regularly sponsors events at GTU.