Leonard and Tobee Kaplan of Greensboro contributed $1 million to the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies to establish the Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Distinguished Professorship. Additional funding from the North Carolina Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund brought the Kaplan endowment to $1.33 million.

“We have been contemplating for a couple of years where we could make the biggest impact with a contribution to UNC Chapel Hill,” said Leonard Kaplan, who attended Carolina in the late 1940s, when the gift was made. “We hope this new professorship will bring to the forefront the modern world of Jewish religious practices, culture and social issues that are significant to not only the Jewish world, but people of all faiths.”

Based in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Distinguished Professor is housed in the religious studies department.

“The Kaplan professorship represents a dramatic step forward for the center,” said Jonathan Hess, center director, professor of Germanic languages and adjunct professor of religious studies. “It will enable us to recruit one of the foremost scholars in Jewish thought to UNC, giving generations of Carolina students the opportunity to study with a national leader in this field.

“Modern Jewish thought is a crucial field for both Jewish studies and religious studies, as it involves the relationships between philosophy, ethics and the Jewish tradition.”

The Kaplans head the Toleo Foundation, a family effort devoted to a variety of philanthropic causes. They were the leaders in building a new home for the North Carolina Hillel chapter at Carolina, and they have since worked with North Carolina Hillel to support the hungry and the homeless in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

The Leonard and  Tobee Kaplan Distinguished Professor

2014 – Present: Andrea Cooper
2007 – 2013: Jonathan Boyarin