As an undergraduate at UW-Madison in the 1970s, Richard Sincere (B.A.'75, History) spent his junior year at Tel Aviv University. The experience proved so transformative that today, some 40 years later, he and his wife Debra are paving the way for a new generation of students and scholars to reap the benefits of a globe-spanning education.
To that end, the Sinceres are funding an innovative multi-year program of academic collaborations between UW-Madison's Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies and Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, a top-ranked think tank in the region.
"One of the goals is to make sure that students have a broader worldview," says Richard Sincere, founder and president of Sincere & Co., LLC, which specializes in mutual funds. "You've taken these two outstanding schools and brought them together. That, to me, is what's so exciting."
The new program provides support for a five-year collaboration between the universities, including an annual conference organized around a timely theme. The first conference, which will take place in Tel Aviv in November, focuses on "Religion and the Public Sphere in the Contemporary Middle East."
Six UW-Madison scholars from a range of disciplines will travel to Israel to participate, including Chad Goldberg (Sociology), Teryl Dobbs (Music), Philip Hollander (German and Jewish Studies), Anya Paretskaya (Sociology), Simone Schweber (Education and Jewish Studies) and Nadav Shelef (Political Science and Jewish Studies).
"All of our faculty are, in some way, engaging with religion," says Schweber, director of the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies and Goodman Professor of Education and Jewish Studies. "My hope is that the trip will help us understand a little better how Israeli academics are grappling with a complex subject in complicated times."
In addition to sharing ideas and research, the conference will offer opportunities for UW-Madison and TAU scholars to get acquainted and make preparations for future events involving more faculty and students. The next gathering is slated to take place in Madison next spring.
"There is great potential for this to turn into a groundbreaking partnership," Schweber says. "We are thrilled that Richard and Debra Sincere have given this gift."
For Richard Sincere, it comes down to bridging cultures with face-to-face conversations around humanities topics — something that transformed his life as an undergraduate and, he says, contributed to his professional success.
"The focus is on making sure education comes to life," he says. "When professors, researchers, and students are interacting with people from around the world, going back year after year — really connecting — a great crosscurrent of learning takes place."