From the Director

Dear Leve Center Friends,


Welcome to the 2021-2022 academic year. I am thrilled that UCLA classrooms are reopening this fall, and look forward to reunions with students, colleagues, and staff. If the last eighteen months have taught us anything, it is the importance of gathering in-person, as a community.

The Leve Center had hoped we’d be welcoming one another and you back to UCLA in person this fall for a full-fledged roster of live events—but, alas, that is not yet to be. Our staff continues to work in hybrid fashion, conducting most of our work over Zoom. Until further notice, we will also continue all of our programming online in accordance with UCLA and Los Angeles County regulations and in the interest of the health of our community.

For all the challenges of the last eighteen months, the Leve Center found opportunities to thrive during pandemic, thanks in great part to the ingenuity and flexibility of our staff, students, faculty, and guest speakers. Our programming, which has been entirely conducted online since March 2020, has extended the Leve Center’s impact and imprint locally, nationally, and internationally, with an astonishing outreach of more than 950,000, and viewership of over 22,000 from twenty countries. We have cultivated partnerships with organizations as diverse as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, The Forward, Holocaust Museum LA, and Walt Disney’s Shalom Affinity Group, as well as peer institutions from Marrakesh, Morocco to Madison, Wisconsin. These relationships have allowed us to reach new audiences, broaden our impact, and expand our mission in meaningful and lasting ways.

Though our faculty and students yearn for in-person engagement, our courses and research have carried on remotely, too. I have watched with amazement as Zoom and online research opportunities have helped us forge new communities, connections, and insights. This newsletter is designed to highlight these achievements. In the pages that follow, you will read of a new, ambitious Moroccan Jewish Studies Initiative launched under the purview of the Leve Center; of the successes of our students, faculty, and alumni including new books, academic positions, honors, and innovative courses; and of key programs of the past year and landmark programs planned for the months ahead.

Like the innovative collages by GD Cohen that illustrate the pages of this Newsletter, we carry with us accrued layers of the last, tumultuous year, not least the painful loss of loved ones. We especially mourn the losses of our Board Chair, and longtime friend and supporter Al Finci; Board member and longtime partner Stephen Lesser; and Annette Leve, mother to Laura Leve Cohen and Elise D. Leve, and wife to Alan D. Leve. May their memories be for a blessing.

We are eager to have you join us in the coming year, whether through support for our students, scholarship, and programs; participation in our events; or engagement with our classes as a UCLA undergraduate, graduate student, or senior scholar. Your participation helps us continually reinvent ourselves as a world-class research center and intellectual hub for the study of Jewish culture, religion, thought, literature, and so much more.

Stay tuned for our weekly emails (and if you wish to subscribe, contact us at, peruse our rich collection of recorded events, and explore, via our website, our original, engaging digital humanities initiatives.

Wishing you good health,

Sarah Abrevaya Stein
Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director, UCLA Leve Center for Jewish Studies
Viterbi Family Endowed Chair in Mediterranean Jewish Studies
Professor of History

$5 million gift will ensure UCLA Center for Jewish Studies remains among the best in U.S.

Donation from alumnus Alan Leve honors the legacy of his family

Leve_RoyceHallA $5 million gift from Alan Leve, a UCLA alumnus and the founder and president of Culver City, California-based Ohmega Technologies, will establish several endowments at the UCLA College’s Center for Jewish Studies. Leve said he hopes the gift, which will benefit students, faculty and the community, will honor his family’s legacy of giving — one that started with his late grandmother, Hinda Schonfeld.

Leve still vividly remembers the cold and rainy day in 1941 when he left the Breed Street Shul in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood for his grandmother’s funeral. He was amazed at the sight outside the car window: rows of mourners standing shoulder to shoulder for three city blocks on each side of the street, umbrellas over their heads, to pay their last respects.
“It’s a memory indelibly etched in my mind,” said Leve, now 87. “It was a revelation to me. My grandmother had no fame, no material assets of any value; but everyone gravitated to her because of her warmth and generosity of spirit. I realized then that who you are is more important than what you have.”

His grandmother’s legacy of generosity has lived on through her grandson. In recognition of his gift, the center, which is among the world’s most prestigious Jewish studies centers, will be renamed the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies.

“The Jewish presence in academic, social and cultural life on the UCLA campus is strong, and Alan Leve’s generosity helps to ensure its continued vitality,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “We are proud of the role that the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and UCLA — through many other research centers, faculty members, students and public programing — play in the international, national and local dialogue about Judaism.”

Todd Presner, the former Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the center, said, “Alan Leve’s gift will enable us to launch a vibrant public history initiative, support undergraduate and graduate students working in all fields of Jewish studies, initiate programs supporting Jewish life on campus, attract international scholars to UCLA and provide vital research and teaching support to our faculty. This gift will secure UCLA’s standing as a preeminent center for the study of Jewish history, culture and civilization.”
The gift will be divided into several endowments.

  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Student Excellence will be used to fund graduate and undergraduate students engaged in fields related to Jewish studies at UCLA, including graduate fellowships, undergraduate awards and stipends for student travel and summer research projects.
  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Teaching Innovation will support teaching and curricular innovation in Jewish studies. It also will establish the Etta and Milton Leve Scholar-in-Residence program, which will bring academics from across the world to UCLA and foster international collaborations.
  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Research Innovation will support faculty and graduate student research and provide travel and research grants and conference support.
  • The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Public History and Community Outreach will support the Leve Center’s public programs, courses and community collaborations in Los Angeles.  This endowment will also establish the biennial Leve Award, which will recognize an outstanding leader working within or impacting the Jewish community. 

Leve, who was born in Boyle Heights at a time when the neighborhood was the focal point of Jewish culture in Los Angeles, has also made sure that scholars won’t forget that history, nor his grandmother’s sense of community. A portion of the gift will establish the Hinda and Jacob Schonfeld Boyle Heights Collection, which, in collaboration with the UCLA Library, will include archival materials and artifacts related to the history of Boyle Heights.

Through the Schonfeld Boyle Heights Collection, the center also will establish a public history program that will include lectures, exhibitions, tours and courses addressing the history of Jewish Los Angeles.

“My parents lived in Boyle Heights from the late 1920s to the mid 1930s and my grandparents from the late 1920s to their passing in the early 1940s, and they were members of the Breed Street Shul,” said Leve, who has 13 family members from three generations of his family who have graduated from UCLA: his daughter, Laura Leve Cohen, two nieces and their husbands, and eight cousins.

“We lived two blocks away on St. Louis Street, just south of Brooklyn Avenue, at a place and time when the majority of the Jewish population of Los Angeles lived there,” he said. “That period of Jewish presence in Boyle Heights is history now. I’m proud that the center plans to keep it alive through its commitment to programming around public history.”

David Schaberg, dean of humanities, said that Leve’s gift will allow the center to expand its research and outreach into a community that helped shape Los Angeles.

“The mission of the humanities is to explore the rich legacy of human creativity and thought,” he said. “Alan’s philanthropic leadership will allow us to study and teach Jewish history and culture in innovative ways so that our students graduate with the ability to thrive as global citizens.”

Founded in 1994, the center is the leading research hub for the study of Jewish culture and civilization on the West Coast and one of the largest and most active centers in the world. It is dedicated to advancing scholarship in Jewish culture and history, educating the next generation about the role of Judaism in world civilization and serving as an exceptional public resource for Jewish life and learning.

Leve, who still occasionally visits Boyle Heights to show relatives where the family roots began, can only imagine what his grandmother — whose dying words to her daughter were “give $2 to the poor” — would have said about his generosity.

“We came from very modest means,” he said. “I don’t think my grandparents or my parents could’ve conceived of such a gift. For me, this gift fulfills a number of personal aspirations on many levels — supporting my alma mater, investing in education, honoring my Jewish heritage by investing in its future, honoring the memory of my parents and grandparents, and establishing an enduring family legacy.”

Resources, Partners, and Policies


UCLA Gateway
UCLA Library
UCLA Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies
UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies
UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies 
UCLA Center for the Study of Religion 
UCLA Department of History 
UCLA Department of Germanic Languages


The 1939 Society  
The California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language  
Chabad House at UCLA
Hillel at UCLA 
Jewish Journal of Los Angeles
Skirball Cultural Center
Western States Jewish History
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
The Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
The Maurice Amado Foundation
Ha’Am, UCLA’s Jewish Newsmagazine


UCLA Center for the Study of Religion
UCLA Department of English
UCLA Department of Italian
UCLA Library
Mickey Katz Chair in Jewish Music at UCLA
UCLA Department of Comparative Literature
UCLA Department of Germanic Languages
UCLA Department of History
UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
UCLA Digital Humanities Program
UCLA Maurice Amado Program for Sephardic Studies
Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA
UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies at UCLA
Ralph J Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA
UCLA Institute for Digital Research and Education
UCLA Department of Anthropology’s “Culture, Power, Social Change” Group
UCLA Department of Spanish & Portuguese
UCLA Slavic, East European Languages & Cultures
UCLA Department of Art History


American Academy of Religion
American Historical Association
Association for Jewish Studies
H-Judaic (Jewish Studies Network)
Primo Levi Center
Middle East Studies Association
Society of Biblical Literature


  • The views and political positions of speakers, UCLA faculty members, students, and other participants in the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies are theirs alone and do not represent the views of UCLA or the Leve Center.
  • The Leve Center supports academic freedom in the fullest sense of the word and does not censor speakers. We do not evaluate or screen speakers, affiliated faculty members, or students with regard to their political beliefs, affiliations, or positions.
  • The statements on this page represent the views of The UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of California, or UCLA or its Chancellor