Arieh Saposnik quote
Arieh Saposnik
Center Director Arieh Saposnik believes that providing an academic framework will make discussion of the issues related to Israel less contentious.

Furthering Cross-Cultural Understanding

The Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies
UCLA has long stressed the importance of learning about cultures around the world and how to thrive in a global arena. The university’s International Institute is home to 18 centers, each focused on a particular region. The newest one was added to deepen students’ and the community’s understanding of Israel and the complex issues related to that nation. It is the first full-fledged center of its kind on the West Coast and one of only three in the nation.

This is particularly important since Los Angeles is home to the nation’s second-largest Jewish and Israeli communities. UCLA is strategically positioned to broaden knowledge and understanding of Israel’s history, religion, arts and culture.

The Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies was made possible by a generous endowment from the Nazarians. The gift enabled the Israel Studies program - which the Nazarians’ daughter, Dr. Sharon Baradaran, helped establish in 2005 - to deepen its academic presence, expanding its offerings in scholarship, teaching, research and public education.

“Our goal is to bring the leading scholars in this field together to collaborate in the most innovative research,” says Arieh Saposnik, center director.

The Nazarians came to Los Angeles in 1979, fleeing the violence leading up to the Iranian Revolution, fearing they would be targeted for their ties to Israel. They arrived with four children, a few suitcases and a burning determination to succeed.

The Y & S Nazarian Family Foundation has given a total of $5 million to advance the study and understanding of Israel at UCLA.

“Because discourse on Israel is often contentious, gaining an unbiased view can be difficult,” says Saposnik. But the Nazarian Center welcomes diverse perspectives and is committed to rigorous scholarship. “Intellectual integrity is vital to fostering a different kind of discourse,” he says. “Studying the history and culture can help to create hope for a different future.”