A gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation will support Jewish life at Colby. The Harold Alfond Foundation will contribute up to $700,000 to complete the endowment of a professorship in Jewish studies at Colby and to launch the Center for Small Town Jewish Life.
The gift underscores the Alfond Foundation’s commitment to the partnership between Colby and Waterville’s Beth Israel Congregation. It also positions the Center for Small Town Jewish Life to provide visionary, inspiring, and accessible educational and cultural programs to Jewish communities throughout Maine.
The Center for Small Town Jewish Life will offer opportunities for students to cultivate leadership skills through serving the Waterville community, applying and sharing what they have learned at Colby on and off campus. Educational and cultural programs will include the annual Maine Conference for Jewish Life, which brings inspirational scholars, artists, and leaders to Colby each summer and attracts participants from throughout northern New England. The establishment of the center will enable Colby to share its vibrant and innovative programming with other synagogues and small-college Hillels, and to aid communities across the nation in replicating Colby’s approach to partnering with local Jewish organizations.
The Harold Alfond Foundation will contribute $500,000 outright toward the Jewish studies professorship endowment, with additional gift funds tied to successful completion of fundraising challenges for a total potential gift of $700,000. This most-recent gift continues a history of Alfond family support for Colby. The Harold Alfond Foundation has previously demonstrated this commitment with gifts to name the Harold Alfond Director of Athletics and the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion at the Colby College Museum of Art.
“We are delighted to receive this generous gift from the Alfond Foundation to support our expanding Jewish Studies Program,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Lori Kletzer. “The Alfonds have long had a deep appreciation for Colby and been an integral part of the College and Waterville. It is fitting that the foundation has chosen to further strengthen the connections between Colby, the Alfond family, and the people of Maine with this gift.”
Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, Colby’s Jewish chaplain and an instructor in Jewish studies since 2011, will be the inaugural holder of the new faculty chair and will direct the Center for Small Town Jewish Life. In her time here she has strengthened Colby’s ties to Beth Israel Congregation and was named one of America’s most inspiring rabbis by the Jewish Daily Forward. This gift secures funding for this position for Isaacs and her successors.
“As the result of this gift to Colby, we can live with the confidence that there will always be services provided to the Jewish community. Colby will always have an educational leader shepherding the Jewish community into fulfilling its promise and serving our town,” said Isaacs, who splits her time between Beth Israel Congregation and Colby, where she teaches Hebrew and Jewish theology.
Colby continues to distinguish itself among its peers by annually offering a wide array of Jewish studies courses, dozens of public lectures with internationally renowned scholars, a robust Hillel chapter led by a rabbi, and consistent, structured opportunities for intensive involvement with the local Jewish community.
Founded in 1813, Colby is one of America’s most selective colleges. Serving only undergraduates, Colby’s rigorous academic program is rooted in deep exploration of ideas and close interaction with world-class faculty scholars. Students pursue intellectual passions, choosing among 56 majors or developing their own. Independent and collaborative research, study abroad, and internships offer robust opportunities to prepare students for postgraduate success. Colby is home to a community of 1,850 dedicated and diverse students from around the globe. Its Waterville, Maine, location provides access to world-class research institutions and civic engagement experiences.