It is with tremendous pleasure that I greet you as Director of the Program in Jewish Culture and Society. I was brought to the University of Illinois by the Program which hired me in the fall of 1998, fresh out of graduate school. When I arrived in Champaign, I felt like I had won the lottery – and I still feel this way. Teaching and researching at the international powerhouse that is Illinois is an enormous privilege. But it is also sheer fun. Nothing beats the exhilaration of working with some of the country’s brightest students; nothing compares to the intellectual camaraderie we share among the faculty. Growing up in post-Holocaust Vienna, East-Central Illinois would seem like an implausible destination. But the Jewish experience is full of unlikely twists and turns – this is a very happy one.
The University of Illinois is a special place for so many reasons. But for me, it is the Program in Jewish Culture and Society that stands out. Not only is it home to the most brilliant and congenial colleagues on campus, it also endeavors to make a real difference in the field at large. Our emphasis on culture and society, the ways Jews have creatively reorganized their own lives while interacting with other groups, gives us a distinct profile. We owe this orientation to the vision of our two founders, Michael Shapiro and Gary Porton. Their service as long-time Director and Associate Director has made the Program into the special place it is. Bruce Rosenstock, our new Associate Director, and I are honored and daunted by the prospect of continuing their legacy.
Everything we do is made possible by our friends and donors. The faculty we hire, the courses we teach, the public lectures we organize, the workshops we convene – the entire presence of Jewish Studies at Illinois – it all comes from the support of our contributors. We want to thank all of our friends who continue to give with such generosity. We simply couldn’t do our work without them.
If you are interested in becoming a friend of the Program, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at email@example.com. Even the smallest contribution makes a difference!
Director, Program in Jewish Culture and Society
Professor, Department of Anthropology
To learn more about Matti Bunzl’s background and research, you can listen to Andrew Patner’s interview, broadcast on February 25, 2008 on the WFMT-Chicago radio show “Critical Thinking.” For the audio file, click here.