Pamela and Robert Jacobs donate $5 million to UMass for Judaic studies

Last modified: Wednesday, July 15, 2015

AMHERST — A couple who graduated during the late 1960s from the University of Massachusetts Amherst have donated $5 million to their alma mater to support Judaic studies, as well as programming and resources for Jewish students.

The gift, from longtime university supporters Pamela and Robert Jacobs, came through the $300 million UMass Rising fundraising campaign. Half of the bequest will be used to create the Pamela M. and Robert D. Jacobs Chair in Judaic and Near Eastern Studies within the university’s College of Humanities & Fine Arts. The remainder will be used for scholarships to the Judaic & Near Eastern Studies program, programming in the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies — which they helped to found — and to offer support to UMass Hillel, which offers resources to Jewish students.

UMass Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy said in a statement that the Jacobses have demonstrated “tremendous vision” in their support of UMass.

“Gifts for faculty chairs represent pivotal investments in the intellectual leadership of the university,” Subbaswamy said in his statement. “We are deeply honored to be a part of the Jacobses’ extraordinary philanthropic legacy.”

Previously, the couple donated to the university to help create the Center for Jewish Studies Endowment and the Robert and Pamela Jacobs Annual Lecture Series in Jewish Culture.

“We have always felt a close connection to UMass Amherst, where we both received an excellent education and had meaningful social experiences,” Pamela Jacobs said in a statement. “Giving charitably has always been part of our way of giving back.”

Pamela Jacobs, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1969, is a member of the board of directors of the UMass Amherst Foundation. Robert Jacobs, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in government in 1968, is senior counsel at Rock Creek Partners LLC in Washington, D.C.

Jay Berkovitz, chair of Judaic and Near Eastern studies, said the focus of the new endowed chair will be in the Bible and Rabbinics.

“An endowed chair in Bible and Rabbinics is especially important because it will launch the study of ancient Jewish civilization on our campus and will surely stimulate interest in its broader cultural implications for the fields of history, literature, philosophy and religion,” Berkovitz said. “We are also thrilled that Pamela and Robert have created a scholarship fund to support study at Israeli universities and at other institutions in the U.S. and abroad.”

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at


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