David Ruderman already had a long list of accomplishments when he came to Penn in 1994 to lead the new Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. When he stepped down as the center’s Ella Darivoff Director this spring, he left a globally recognized legacy.
Under Ruderman, the Katz Center (renamed in memory of its former Board of Overseers Chair Herbert D. Katz, W’51, in 2008) has become a place where Judaic scholars of all ages and cultures gather each year to develop a subfield of Jewish studies. They not only take time to think, learn, and write, but also work together and get involved in the life of the University and the community.
So far, 450 fellows have come through the center, forming bonds with their fellow scholars that last long after the year is over. “What administrator gets the opportunity to be inspired every year by 20 new scholars?” asks Ruderman. “I got to know and guide them, and they got to know each other. I’m an intellectual shadkhan [matchmaker], bringing people together. It’s been a privilege.”
Author and editor of a host of publications, Ruderman has twice received the national Jewish Book Award in history and won the Koret Award for best book in Jewish history. He edits the center’s series Jewish Culture and Contexts and was awarded the Charles Ludwig Distinguished Teaching Award at Penn in 2008. The National Foundation for Jewish Culture has honored him with its lifetime achievement award.
Ruderman remains Joseph Meyerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History in Penn Arts and Sciences and continues teaching, especially undergraduates—always his first passion.