ASU to establish Judaic, Holocaust professorship

Article Published: Jul. 14, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

In response to a challenge from The Leon Levine Foundation in Charlotte, Appalachian State University, with significant support from the High Country community, has raised more than $200,000 to establish an endowed professorship to be called the Leon Levine Distinguished Professor in Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies.

In less than nine months, the university raised the money, which has been matched with a $466,000 gift from the Leon Levine Foundation.

Appalachian will seek another $334,000 from a special state of North Carolina trust fund to reach a total of at least $1 million to create the endowed professorship and supplement the operations of the university's Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies.

"This successful fundraising effort means the important work of the center will continue for generations," said Rennie Brantz, history professor and a founder of the Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies. "It means victims of human oppression will never be forgotten, diversity will always be honored, and the goal of a peaceful world will remain central to our mission. We are grateful to the Leon Levine Foundation for its remarkable generosity and for the strong support of our local community."

"Appalachian has a long-standing commitment to developing new educational opportunities for students, teachers and the community," said ASU Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock. "The support of the Leon Levine Foundation and that of community members ensures that the important work of educating our students and others in the area of Judaic, holocaust and peace studies will thrive for decades to come and make a positive impact on our campus and beyond."

When Appalachian approached the Leon Levine Foundation about supporting the endowed professorship, the foundation indicated it would do so happily if the university could generate community support for the campaign. Much of that assistance came from the Havurah of the High Country and the fundraising efforts of its members. One member in particular composed and mailed 57 handwritten letters, raising more than $8,000.

"The endowed professorship could not have happened without community involvement. This effort is another reflection of a community that cares deeply about human dignity, the importance of memory and the value of learning. We are proud to partner with Appalachian State University on such a worthwhile endeavor," said Leon Levine, chairman of the Leon Levine Foundation.

Appalachian's work in Judaic, holocaust and peace studies began more than a decade ago with the creation of the annual Martin and Doris Rosen Summer Symposium on Remembering the Holocaust. From that lecture series and growing campus and community interest, Appalachian established the Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies in 2002, directed by a team of interdisciplinary faculty members.

Located administratively within Appalachian's College of Arts and Sciences, the center seeks to strengthen tolerance, understanding and remembrance by increasing the knowledge of Jewish culture and history, teaching the history and meaning of the Holocaust, and using these experiences to explore peaceful avenues for human improvement and the prevention of future genocides.

The center's faculty members teach a number of undergraduate courses, including a freshman honors seminar on genocide, a general honors course on the Nazi Holocaust, a senior history seminar on modern genocide and a senior history seminar on the rise of Adolf Hitler.

In addition, the center has presented the annual Rosen Summer Symposium: Remembering the Holocaust series that The Leon Levine Foundation has also supported. The purpose of the 40-hour symposium is to train teachers on the best practices for Holocaust education. The center also sponsors annual lecture and film series. Every program is free and open to the public.

The center works with a number of campus-based groups, such as the Hillel student club.
In addition to participating in the extracurricular activities of the center, undergraduate students at Appalachian may minor in Judaic, holocaust and peace studies.

For more information about Appalachian's Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies, see, email ( or call Brantz at (828) 262-2311.

With the establishment of the endowed professorship and director position, the center hopes to launch an 18-semester-hour undergraduate minor in Judaic, holocaust and peace studies; create a visiting scholars program; and boost its fundraising and grant-writing program.

"This endowed professorship reflects the university's and the community's collective belief in the basic human values of tolerance, understanding, and hope," Brantz said. "It also embodies a commitment to learning, remembrance and diversity. This is the most exciting moment in my 37 years of teaching at Appalachian State University. It guarantees the continuation of a kind of learning that changes lives."

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