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Gift for Jewish Culture Center creates model to counter antisemitism, enhance student experience

For Immediate Release Jun 26, 2023

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana University’s emergent Jewish Culture Center on the Bloomington campus has been endowed through a generous gift from Jill and Ron Sedley. The Jewish Culture Center serves students and develops leaders in a vibrant hub that provides traditional and creative connections to Judaism. IU Bloomington currently has around 4,500 Jewish undergraduate and graduate students.

Jill and Ron Sedley Jill and Ron Sedley. Photo by Jacqueline Marie Photography As the first of its kind among public universities in the United States, the Jewish Culture Center at IU is positioned to become a highly sought-out model for the cultivation, support and enrichment of the Jewish student collegiate experience. The center seeks not only to spark positive change at IU, but also to propel other universities’ efforts to counter the darkness of antisemitism by illuminating understanding about Jewish life, tradition and culture on their own campuses.

“Through their generosity, Ron and Jill Sedley will help ensure that we cultivate shared cross-cultural understanding and confront antisemitism through education and dialogue,” IU President Pamela Whitten said. “Their gift and the programming it will support position IU as a national leader and reaffirm our ongoing support for IU’s Jewish community.”

The endowment will supercharge the Jewish Culture Center’s ability to provide a welcoming and educational environment for all IU students, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, and expand the number and scope of its events, classes and services. To foster greater understanding of Jewish culture among all incoming students, the center will collaborate to develop programming with IU’s First Year Experience program. This effort alone will reach 100,000 students by 2033.

The Jewish Culture Center will also host social events to promote camaraderie between Jewish and non-Jewish students and sponsor leadership trainings, as well as forge partnerships with other IU culture centers, student groups and the Greek life system. Through partnerships with IU Hillel and the Borns Jewish Studies Program, the Jewish Culture Center will also expand IU’s existing for-credit academic opportunities and research efforts focused on countering antisemitism.

“This gift will be transformational for our ability to create greater understanding across the campus and foster community for Jewish students, faculty and staff,” said Rabbi Sue Silberberg, inaugural director of the IU Jewish Culture Center and executive director of IU Hillel. “Through the JCC, President Whitten and Indiana University are taking bold steps to recognize and elevate the depth of Jewish life and culture. I am truly grateful to the Sedley family for their commitment to the JCC and their partnership in its growth and impact.”

Jill and Ron Sedley are active philanthropists and dedicated supporters of Jewish cultural initiatives. Their daughter, Emily, graduated from the Bloomington campus in 2022. The Sedley family’s recent funding of the Mezuzahs Project at IU has been instrumental in uniting students in support of Jewish classmates. The project has distributed information as well as red mezuzahs for non-Jewish students to display to express solidarity with the Jewish community on the Bloomington campus.

“Through our engagement with the Mezuzahs Project at IU, we became more acquainted with President Whitten and Rabbi Sue and their view that antisemitism has no place on the IU, or any other, campus in America. Their unwavering commitment to create an atmosphere of tolerance and respect on IU’s campuses is inspiring,” the Sedleys said. “As we met other IU leaders, faculty, staff and students who shared our vision and passion for shining a light on Jewish culture and tradition, we realized we had an opportunity to model something truly special here in the heartland of America. We are thrilled to see this seed of an idea now come to fruition.”

Ron Sedley is the Owner of RonPak, the leading paper package distributor for pharmacies, grocery stores and fast-food chains in the United States. The Sedleys focus their philanthropy on health care, their love and support for Israel and the Jewish people throughout the U.S. and the world, and combating antisemitism. In addition to funding dozens of scholarships for students in Israel, they are also proud supporters of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, NYU Langone Health and IU Hillel.

An international search will commence soon for a permanent director of the IU Jewish Culture Center. IU seeks a dynamic and visionary leader to ignite a movement of understanding and inclusivity that begins at IU and one day extends to college campuses nationwide. The director will set a strategic course for the center, liaise with university and community leaders, lead collaborations with other culture centers and academic partners, serve as a resource to counterparts at other universities, and use research-based evidence to inform innovative programming and initiatives.

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