Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

A Decade of Achievement at Crown Center for Middle East Studies

January 5, 2016

Lester Crown speaks at a podium in front of green ferns
Lester Crown speaks at the Crown Centers 10th anniversary celebration.

By David E. Nathan

The Crown Center for Middle East Studies recently threw itself a 10th anniversary party — and there was plenty to celebrate.

The brainchild of President Emeritus Jehuda Reinharz, PhD’72, H’11, the Crown Center has defied conventional wisdom by producing balanced and dispassionate Middle East research, something observers once thought impossible.

“When we started, the talk in the broader profession was, ‘Brandeis couldn’t possibly put together a team to reflect the diversity of the region,’ ” says Shai Feldman, the Judy and Sidney Swartz Director of the Crown Center. “Our biggest achievement has been earning a reputation as a center that produces research that meets the highest academic standards and does not have an agenda.”

Crown Center research has been broadly disseminated to both those who make policy and those who shape opinions. The center’s researchers have produced nearly 100 Middle East Briefs, detailed 4,000-word analyses of important regional issues of the day.

“We’ve customized our products for busy people whose inboxes are flooded,” Feldman says. “We want to be sure to reach people who have some role in formulating policy in the region and help them become better informed.”

At the center’s 10th anniversary celebration in September, Lester Crown recalled conversations he and cousin Charles “Corky” Goodman, G’09, had with Reinharz 15 years ago about launching the center.

“Jehuda really convinced us this center would be based on superb scholarship with no agenda, and that’s exactly what it has done,” Crown said. “We’re thrilled to be involved with it. We’re thrilled all of you are here today, and we hope it continues to do what it has done over the last decade.”

Thanks to the Crown family’s support, the center is poised for growth. Last year, it moved to its new home, the totally renovated Lemberg Hall. The Crowns also recently established the Renée and Lester Crown Professorship of Middle East Studies and announced a forthcoming faculty chair to be named in Feldman’s honor.

“I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the Crown family, not only for your support but also for your guidance in defining the mission of this center, its vision and its direction,” Interim President Lisa M. Lynch said at the anniversary event.

In the future, Feldman plans to hire more junior researchers and mentor them to become the next generation of leading scholars. The center will also increase its involvement in Washington, D.C., as well as in the Middle East, by partnering with research centers in the region.

“The Crowns are very, very interested in what we are doing,” Feldman says. “Lester, in particular, is enormously curious on an intellectual level but also emotionally engaged. He approaches the Middle East from the perspective of deeply caring about Israel, but also valuing balanced and dispassionate research.”