PSU gets $320,000 for Middle East book collection
By Paul Haist
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The recently approved U.S. federal budget for 2005 includes $320,000 to be used to enhance and increase accessibility to the collection of Middle East and Judaic Studies books at the Branford P. Millar Memorial Library at Portland State University.
"This funding will support the university's work to help students and the community better understand the peoples, languages, cultures and religions of this critical region of the world," said Terry Ann Rohe, university librarian.
PSU is home to the Middle East Studies Center and Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies.
Established in 1961, the Middle East Studies Center is the first federally supported undergraduate program in the United States for Arabic language and area studies.
Established in 2002, the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies focuses on the encounter of Jews and Judaism with the modern world.
The core principles of the PSU program are interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship, a flexible curriculum and a commitment to partnerships with educational institutions.
PSU sociology professor and acting director of Judaic Studies Robert Liebman noted that the university's Hebrew collection includes some 10,000 volumes, and that its Arabic collection includes some 25,000 volumes.
Liebman said the federal funds will be applied to a three-tier project whose primary aim is to increase access to the existing collection.
"The bulk of the money will be directed to enhancing access by going from a card catalog to a computerized catalog.
The second phase of the project involves linking the new computerized catalog of Hebrew and Arabic materials online with other Jewish literature collections at colleges, synagogues and high schools such as Portland Jewish Academy.
Finally, the funds will enable the university to purchase online materials such as academic databases and journals and relevant newspaper subscriptions.
The grant "provides us with added access and new materials for students studying Hebrew and Arabic, and for course work on Israel and Arabic nations," said Liebman.
"In addition, the funds will make available to scholars and students a treasure trove of materials received in the 1960s and 70s."
Liebman said the timing of the federal grant coincides with the arrival on campus of a new Judaic Studies faculty member whose expertise can be used to help apply the funds.
Michael Weingrad, who holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Washing is a specialist in Hebrew literature.
Weingrad joined the PSU faculty this month after completing a fellowship
year at the Harvard Center for Jewish Studies.
"He will teach medieval Jewish history, Hebrew literature in translation from periods before and after the creation of the modern state of Israel, and post World War II American Jewish history and modern Jewish thought," said Liebman.
Liebman noted also that Weingrad's wife, Mel Berwind, is also a Jewish educator who helped develop the American Jewish history curriculum for the Jewish Women's Archive. The Jewish Women's Archive (www.jwa.org) is dedicated to uncovering, chronicling, and transmitint the history of American Jewish women.
Both Weingrad and Berwind taught in the Melton Mini-School program in Leeds, England.
Liebman said that much of 2005 would be dedicated to planning how to expend
the federal funds, and that the program would be fully implement "within 24 months or so."