The Walter & Elise Haas Fund Renew $75,000 Grant to the Madrasa-Midrasha Program

The Walter & Elise Haas Fund Renew $75,000 Grant to the Madrasa-Midrasha Program

BEREKELEY, CA – December 21, 2023 – The Graduate Theological Union (GTU) is pleased to announce the renewal of a $75,000 grant from the Walter and Elise Haas Fund to the Madrasa-Midrasha Program. This award builds on a legacy of longstanding support from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund for the Madrasa-Midrasha Program including a $75,000 grant received last year, and highlights the importance of the program's work in advancing the study of Jewish and Islamic traditions.  

Established in 2008 as a collaborative effort between GTU's Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies and the Center for Islamic Studies, the Madrasa-Midrasha Program explores the richness, diversity, and commonalities of the Jewish and Islamic traditions. Offering cross-cultural academic courses, workshops, lectures, and panel discussions to both GTU students and the wider San Francisco Bay Area, the program has become a cornerstone for fostering dialogue and understanding.  

"We are deeply grateful for continued support from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund,” said Dr. Mahjabeen Dhala, Director of the Madrasa-Midrasha Program. "This award is a clear indication of the vital importance of our work in the world today, where understanding and dialogue across Islamic and Jewish traditions is so deeply needed. I am very proud of the work and public programming that has been made possible by this funding and am energized about our plans for the coming year." 

In the coming year, the grant will support a spring semester graduate course examining legal texts in contemporary contexts, annual public events on Jewish and Islamic themes, a summer institute offering an intensive Hebrew course, and student grants, which continues to enrich resources for students.  

Previous support from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund has helped to fund a number of student research projects. In 2023, seven students working on interreligious projects related to Judaism and/or Islam received Haas Student Research Grants. The recipients included: 

  • Amy Shoemaker - The Tales We Tell: What Islamic and Jewish Stories Reveal about Our Religions and Ourselves  
  • Jibreel Delgado - Anxieties of Authenticity, Resurgence/Re-Existence, Border Thinking, and Muslim-Jewish Conditions of Modernity  
  • Katy Dickinson - The Same and Different: Supporting Muslim and Jewish Inmates  
  • Omar Naisan - The Anointed One: A Comparative Textual Inquiry of Messianism in the Hebrew Bible and Qur’an  
  • Zeinab Vessal - The Symbolism of Khamsa in Shi’i Tradition  
  • Morey Lipsett - Khamsa and Hamsa: An Inter-Religious Object in Islamic and Jewish Societies  
  • Carey Averbook - Menstruation in Judaism and Islam: Feminist and Queer Approaches 

Additionally, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund has helped to support the release of Madrasa-Midrasha public programming on GTUx, the GTU’s online learning platform, including recent offerings “Mystical Readings in Islamic and Jewish Traditions,” and “Calligraphy Workshop.” These offerings have garnered more than 80 registrations to date. 

“The Madrasa-Midrasha Program manifests the spirit of the GTU,” said Dr. Jennifer W. Davidson, Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “The GTU has long worked to create an inclusive, informed society where diverse perspectives are valued and celebrated. The renewal of support from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund underscores the critical nature of the Madrasa-Midrasha Program’s role in that necessary work and serves as a gesture of confidence that the more just and compassionate world we strive for is possible through dialogue and learning across differences.” 

Learn more about the GTU’s Madrasa-Midrasha Program, and stay up-to-date on forthcoming programming here: https://www.gtu.edu/projects/madrasamidrasha