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Religious Studies in the News

Legacy Gift Lays Foundation for Future of Judaic Studies

Legacy Gift Lays Foundation for Future of Judaic Studies

A new endowment will provide support for a wide variety of opportunities for the Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Bob Andrews (’72) established the Robert N. Andrews, Solomon and Rachel Derby, Rabbi Josiah Derby, Rebbitzen Adele Derby, and Rabbi Matthew Derby Judaic Studies Excellence Endowment in honor of members of his family.

“Jewish education is very important to me,” Andrews says. “I never knew UT had a Judaic Studies program until my last visit to campus. I hope my gift encourages other people to contribute and build the endowment up to provide scholarships for students who want to participate in the program. It is my fond hope when people hear that UT has a Judaic Studies program, they will consider UT as their destination for a degree-granting program.”

Andrews transferred to UT as a senior and graduated with a degree in business. It was his first time away from home, but the friendships he established while in school helped him feel at home. His cousin, Matthew Derby, was the Hillel rabbi and spiritual advisor to Jewish students on the UT campus, as well as the rabbi at Temple Beth El in Knoxville.

Andrews’s maternal grandparents were originally from the Ukraine. His grandfather was the first of the family to leave. His grandmother, mother, uncle, and cousin were forced to leave the Ukraine and were smuggled out in a hay wagon. They were stopped at the Russian-Polish border.

“As the story goes, my grandmother bribed the border guard with her ancestors’ watch,” Andrews says. “They spent nine months in a Warsaw ghetto before boarding a boat for the United States. They landed at Ellis Island in 1920.”

Due to their background, Andrews’s grandparents made sure their three children had a Jewish education. Andrews attended Heska Emunah, a conservative synagogue, led by Rabbi Noah Golinkin, a colleague and friend of his uncle, Rabbi Josiah Derby. Andrews sees that his generation, however, seemed to have lost the drive to continue that education after their Bat Mitzvah.

“Lots of people just had their Bat Mitzvah then quit,” Andrews says. “My drive to invest in Jewish education comes from the drive I inherited from my grandparents, my mother, and my uncle. They had a vision for us to get a proper Jewish education.”

Andrews’s gift will help transform the program in a number of ways, including operating funds to allow Director Helene Sinnreich to spend in new and exciting areas.

“Mr. Andrews’s gift will have an overwhelming impact on Jewish Studies at UT,” Sinnreich says. “We are so grateful for his generosity.”

At present, funding for the program is earmarked for specific purposes, such as student scholarships, faculty research, lectures, or specific-focus topics.

“We would love to take students to the Holocaust museum in DC or to Israel,” Sinnreich says. “We do some of these things, but it requires years of planning to raise funds for these specific projects. Mr. Andrews’s gift allows us to provide students with these opportunities. It will also give us funds for our bread and butter items like sending our newsletter.”

Andrews’s knows his family, wherever they are, have big smiles on their faces due to his endowment.

“After my initial call with Helene, I knew I had to get this accomplished,” Andrews says. “It’s important to me and also a way of honoring my family. I look forward to returning to UT and meeting students who benefit from this endowment.”

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