Joyce Zeger Greenberg, AB’52, was an early champion of the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago. “I was thrilled when [then-dean] Martha Roth informed me enthusiastically that the Humanities faculty recommended establishing the center,” she says of its 2009 founding. Roth is the Chauncey S. Boucher Distinguished Service Professor of Assyriology in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Greenberg started sending annual checks for $3,000 to the center’s inaugural director, Josef Stern, now the William H. Colvin Professor Emeritus of Philosophy.

Roth, Stern, and Greenberg kept in close contact—“He wrote me these wonderful letters,” she says—and a few years later she made the center’s first major endowment: $2 million to create the Joyce Zeger Greenberg Visiting Professorship in Jewish Studies, which brings senior scholars from around the world to teach and conduct research at UChicago.

Last October UChicago named the center in honor of Greenberg and her late husband, and in recognition of her $10 million gift, through a bequest, to support the expansion of activities at the center.

A partnership between the Divisions of the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Divinity School, the Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies has become the University’s home for research and dialogue on Judaism and Jewish civilization. Faculty from departments including anthropology, music, philosophy, and theater and performance studies work to promote greater understanding of the historical, cultural, and religious aspects of Jewish life and history. The center has sponsored conferences with organizations across the University, and to date has brought eight internationally esteemed Joyce Z. Greenberg Visiting Professors to teach, study, and speak on campus.

“The center has allowed me to create collaborations with people in other areas of the University,” says Na’ama Rokem, associate professor in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. In July she becomes the Greenberg Center’s new director. “Joyce’s gift will amplify those collaborations and give the center more stability and continuity.”

“There’s no doubt,” says Dean of the Division of the Humanities Anne Walters Robertson, “that the new fund and the naming of the center will help in those connections across campus and raise the University’s profile even higher as a destination for Jewish studies.”

Greenberg attended the College during the Hutchins era, when it was common for 16-year-olds like her to soak up the Great Books curriculum. “I found it very challenging,” she says. “I was very happy that I graduated,” she adds with a laugh.

In 1969 Greenberg became the third female stockbroker—“the first Jewish woman,” she notes—in Houston, Texas. Later, when she met businessman Jacob Greenberg, they bonded over German expressionist art, which he collected. “My first encounter with German expressionism,” Greenberg says, “was at the University of Chicago.”

In 2015 she created the Jacob Greenberg Fellowship in Jewish Studies to support graduate students writing their dissertations through the center and to honor her husband, who died in 1995. She is delighted that her new gift links both their names to the center’s burgeoning future. “I am sure,” she says, “that he would be very pleased with what I’ve done.”

Photo Creds: 
Photograph by TBS Photography

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