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Chair in Judaic Studies established with gift from Konovers

by Cindy Weiss - October 22, 2007

Two founding supporters of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life at the University, Doris and Simon Konover of West Hartford, will endow the Center’s first faculty chair.

The Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies will support teaching and research by a leading scholar of Jewish life, history, and religion.

The appointment of a chair will enable the Center, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary, to attract a scholar with an international reputation to develop new courses and provide research leadership in the field of Judaic Studies.

“The University of Connecticut is very fortunate to have Doris and Simon Konover among its special friends, and personally I’m very grateful for their continuing support,” says President Michael J. Hogan.

“The Konover Chair will further strengthen our Center’s highly regarded programs and leadership in Judaic Studies.”

The $1.5 million endowed chair will be established by Doris and Simon Konover and the Konover Family Foundation.

“Doris and Simon Konover provided the first crucial endowment for the Center for Judaic Studies at its founding 25 years ago,” says Ross MacKinnon, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“They have generously supported the Simon and Doris Konover Program in Jewish-Christian Relations.

“The chair they will establish recognizes the high level of scholarship that the Center can sustain and the high level of international recognition to which it aspires,” he says.

Doris Konover received her bachelor’s degree in 1950 from the UConn School of Nursing. Simon Konover received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University in 1996.

Simon Konover was born in 1922 in the town of Makow Mazowiecki near Warsaw, Poland. As a 16-year-old he survived internment in a labor camp.

He was pressed into service in the Russian Army, fought in the Battle of Stalingrad, and in 1944 was imprisoned in Siberia for nearly a year.

He returned to Poland after the war to find that more than 50 members of his family had perished in the Holocaust.

He emigrated to Cuba at the age of 26, and a year later, settled in the U.S., aided by family members who settled in the Hartford area before World War II.

In 1959, he established Konover & Associates Inc., a real estate development firm.

President Michael J. Hogan, left, with Doris and Simon Konover at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
President Michael J. Hogan, left, with Doris and Simon Konover at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
Photo by Peter Morenus

During the 1950s, as part of his business, he laid the floor tiles in the original Student Union building, notes Arnold Dashefsky, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life.

Simon Konover is now president and chief executive officer of Konover Properties Corp. and is a trustee of the Konover Family Foundation.

The Konovers are major philanthropists in the Hartford area and have supported many academic initiatives at the University.

In addition to their gifts to the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, they have provided support for the University Libraries, the UConn Health Center, and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, where the auditorium was named in their honor.

They have also supported the Morris N. Trachten Kosher Dining Facility for students.

Their gift of an endowed chair in Judaic Studies “is a watershed development in the evolution of Judaic Studies at the University of Connecticut,” says Dashefsky.

“This gift is also consistent with the University’s objective of expanding the study of human rights,” he adds.

“The pursuit of Judaic Studies allows students to explore in-depth the ethical traditions of Jewish civilization and its commitment to social justice and the repair of the world.”

The Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is dedicated to academic research and teaching, public service, and community outreach.

It provides an individualized major in Judaic Studies, and offers one of only six master’s degree programs in Judaic Studies at a public college in the United States.

The center has an Israel Study Program and co-sponsors an archaeological dig at Sepphoris in Israel.

It is currently the home of the Berman Institute-North American Jewish Data Bank, the central repository of social scientific studies of North American Jewry.

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