Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Leaves a Family History of Support for Jewish Scholarship

February 27, 2014

Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz, who passed away February 20, had a lifelong connection to the history of Jewish studies at Penn. Her father, Joseph Meyerhoff, was a supporter of Dropsie College, which later became the University’s Center for Judaic Studies. Eleanor and her husband, Herbert D. Katz, W’51, were critical to raising the endowment to ensure the center’s future and to supporting Jewish studies throughout the University. After Herb’s death in 2007, Ellie and her family made a gift to endow the center, now named the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at Penn.

“They were champions of Jewish learning at Penn and around the globe, and were instrumental in establishing the University's Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, one of the world's major centers for the study of Jewish civilization,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann and Penn Arts and Sciences Dean Steven J. Fluharty in a statement.

Herb and Ellie Katz were essential in establishing Penn’s program in modern Jewish history and endowed the Meyerhoff Chair in Modern Jewish History. The chair is currently held by David Ruderman, who also serves as the Ella Darivoff Director of the Katz Center.  The Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff lecture, named for Ellie’s parents, brings a prominent innovator in the fields of Jewish studies to the broader University community each year.

The Katz family also created the Ellie and Herbert D. Katz Distinguished Fellowships and a publications fund at the center. Herb was one of the center’s founding board members and its chair from 1998 to 2003; son Thomas O. Katz, W’79, parent, currently serves as chair of the center’s board. 

“[Herb and Ellie] have been visionary advocates and philanthropists who have been vital to the creation and promotion of Jewish learning at Penn and around the world,” said Ruderman. “They have created chairs and lecture series, supported academic publications, and been founding catalysts in the creation of the Katz Center, a world leader in international Judaic scholarship at its highest level.”