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Nazareth Creates Konar Center for Tolerance and Jewish Studies

Published February 05, 2019

Nazareth College continues its commitment to religious pluralism with a new gift of $500,000 from the William and Sheila Konar Foundation to create the Konar Center for Tolerance and Jewish Studies at the College. The Konar Center will strengthen the College’s rich tradition of the academic study of religion and its commitment to discovery and dialogue among people who hold belief systems different than their own.

The Konar Center will work closely with the Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue and the Center for Spirituality, providing educational opportunities including courses, internships, and study abroad opportunities. It also will offer programs for students as well as Rochester community members that promote cross-cultural awareness and deeper understanding of Judaism. Over the next few months, Nazareth will be hiring the inaugural executive director of the Konar Center to provide leadership and vision for this important initiative.

“Our foundation is pleased to support Nazareth’s Center for Tolerance and Jewish Studies,” said Howard Konar, a trustee of the Foundation. “This initiative builds on the College’s current work fostering interfaith understanding and civic engagement. We hope our support will help strengthen and expand programs for students and the community promoting cross-cultural awareness, tolerance, and a deeper understanding of Judaism.”

Nazareth is already distinct among colleges and universities for the internationally known Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue. With the addition of the Konar Center, Nazareth will be uniquely situated to integrate offerings in Jewish studies and the development and support of students who identify as Jewish within the broad existing context of programming that spans Abrahamic, Asian, Indigenous, and Humanistic traditions. Nazareth was one of only 10 higher education institutions accepted for the 2018 Institute on Teaching and Learning for Campus-wide Interfaith Excellence, a new partnership of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC).

“Each day intolerance, divisiveness, and polarization impact the lives of people across our ‘global village,’” said Nazareth President Daan Braveman. “For some, the realities of religious, racial and other forms of prejudice are ever-present and devastating. With this generous gift from the Konar Foundation, Nazareth College hopes to respond to these realities with transformative education, civic engagement, service-learning, and interfaith dialogue.” By empowering students to participate in courses, programs, and conferences focused on promoting tolerance, fostering civic responsibility, and advancing religious pluralism, President Braveman believes that the Center for Tolerance and Jewish Studies will enable Nazareth to take its current efforts to the next level and become a model for other colleges and universities to emulate.

The William and Sheila Konar Foundation seeks to improve lives by promoting educational opportunities, access to health care, and a more tolerant civil society. The late William Konar was a Holocaust survivor who made his way to Rochester at the age of 16. Despite achieving extraordinary success in his new homeland, he never forgot the lessons of the Holocaust. His Jewish identity never diminished, and his commitment to philanthropy and service grew wider and deeper with time.

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Nazareth College’s academic strengths cross an unusually broad spectrum of 60 majors, including education, health and human services, management, the fine arts, music, theater, math and science, foreign languages, and the liberal arts. The coeducational, religiously independent, classic campus in a charming suburb of Rochester, N.Y., challenges and supports 2,300 undergrads and 700 graduate students. Nazareth is recognized nationally for its Fulbright global student scholars and commitment to civic engagement. Rigorous programs, an uncommon arts and sciences core, experiential learning, career skills, and a global focus prepare graduates for not just one job, but for their life’s work.

Listen to WXXI Connections for more about the Konar Center and the importance of interfaith education. Link below.