Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies
The Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies was founded in 1994 with an initial endowment from Carl and Dorothy Bennett of Greenwich, Connecticut. Its goal is to enrich the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual life of Fairfield University through lectures, programs, and other special events; enhancement of the university library's Judaic collection; monthly Shabbat services and dinners (co-sponsored with the Office of Mission and Identity), and ongoing support of the College of Arts and Sciences' undergraduate interdisciplinary program in Judaic Studies. Bennett Center events are open to the University and greater Bridgeport/Fairfield communities.
Since its inception, Dr. Ellen M. Umansky has served as both the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor of Judaic Studies (a faculty position within the university's Department of Religious Studies) and the Director of the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies. The Center has received support from numerous individuals and foundations, including the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Foundation, the Adoph and Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation, the Samuel and Bettie Roberts Endowment in Jewish Art, David and Edith Chaifetz, and the Frank Jacoby Foundation. Through these gifts, the Bennett Center has brought many world-renowned lecturers to the University, including New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof; Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.), former NATO Supreme Allied Commander; author Elie Wiesel; actress and activist Mia Farrow, Ruth Messinger; President of American Jewish World Service; and Deborah Lipstadt, author and Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University.
Particularly successful has been Ellen Umansky's Lunch and Learn series, an annual 10 week course that attracts more than 75 participants from the greater Fairfield/Bridgeport communities. The series tackles academically challenging themes, such as Jewish Identity in a Changing World, Jewish Concepts of the Messiah, and Textually Speaking: Modern Jewish Perspectives on Judaism and Jewish-Identity.
The Fairfield University campus community met in a sukkah for lunch, classes and reflection during the Jewish fall festival. Students Rachel Sperry '14, left, and Catherine Hughes, right, with Dr. Ellen Umansky, director of Fairfield University's Bennett Center for Judaic Studies.
From the establishment and retention of the Chair in Judaic Studies to monthly Shabbat services and an annual service in remembrance of the Holocaust, Hebrew workshops open to the university community, and its comprehensive resources and outreach programs, the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies has established a permanent and growing reputation in the Fairfield County community - reaching out to its 70,000 Jewish residents and neighbors effectively and prolifically - as well as to many others. Through the Center, Fairfield University continues to be committed to building a bridge of understanding between the Jewish and Jesuit traditions.
KADIMA is Fairfield University's undergraduate Jewish cultural organization, headed by its President, Aidan Wildes (class of 2014). Dr. Ellen Umansky serves as the group's faculty advisor.
Friday evening Kabbalat services and Shabbat dinners take place three times a semester for faculty, staff, students, and their guests.