When Moses ’41 and Hannah ’41 Malkin read a copy of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies’ brochure, they were impressed with the story it told. So much so that it spurred them to make a gift to the College of Arts and Sciences to create the Moses M. and Hannah L. Malkin Distinguished Professorship in Jewish History and Culture.

In the brochure, they read about the center’s goals to create an academic program second to none and to nurture a community of bright, motivated students and faculty engaged in the study of a complex and resilient culture and community. And they also saw something else: photos of people Hannah had been connected with early in life.

“When we got that brochure, and we recognized pictures of an uncle and several cousins as well as childhood neighbors, all of whom were UNC students, we began to think of the long connections our family had with the University,” Hannah said. “The brochure told us how the program was set up; it really captivated us, and we are very happy that we are able to do this.”

They later met with Jonathan Hess, director of the center and professor of Germanic languages and adjunct professor of religious studies. He told them how the center sees itself as the crossroads of instruction and research in a field that is integral to the study of civilization, in all its tragedies and achievements.

The Malkins contributed $350,000 toward the professorship, and the University applied for matching funds from the state’s Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund, bringing the endowment of the professorship to $500,000.

“What we hope would come out of this gift is a professor being hired to expand the activity of the center and its impact on students,” Moses said.

Hess said that will indeed be the case. “The Malkins’ generosity will help us secure the key faculty resources necessary to begin developing an even more comprehensive undergraduate program, complete with a major in Jewish studies. We’re all enormously grateful to them for their vision and commitment to the future development of Jewish studies at Carolina.”

The Malkins feel that many topics of history and culture can be viewed through the lens of the Jewish experience, and that is why they did not restrict the professorship to a single area of study. The recipient of the Malkin Distinguished Professorship in Jewish History and Culture can be appointed to any number of departments within the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Judaism is the first monotheistic religion from which all other major religions stem; Jews presented the world with the Bible and the Mosaic code,” Hannah said. “We can’t understand the modern world if we can’t understand the Holocaust. I think it’s an extremely important area of study that impacts the study of modern civilization.”

The Malkins cherish their experiences at Carolina.

“Attending UNC was a great experience,” Hannah said. “It has had an enormous influence on our lives; it helped shape the direction of our lives. I am a native North Carolinian; I love the state and the University. It was a great university then, and I think it is an even greater university today.”

“Your first university is like your first love,” Moses said. “My studies at Chapel Hill were very meaningful to me.”

After graduating together and getting married in 1941, Moses served in the U.S. Army for four-and-a-half years, and in the European theater for three-and-a-half years. Upon his return home, the couple lived in New York City and both attended Columbia University. Again they graduated together, this time in 1948, Moses with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and Hannah with a master’s degree in social work.

While Moses started his professional life as an engineer, he subsequently entered the pension and insurance business and developed his own firm in New Haven, Conn. Known as Professional Pensions, it had as its clients mostly not-for-profit organizations, often consisting of minority workers with modest incomes. “It was rewarding work,” said Hannah. “He did well by doing good.”

“For some years we have been contributing to a scholarship for a minority student at Columbia, and in addition we give more to a community college in Boston that provides disadvantaged students a second chance for an education,” Moses said. “When it came to Carolina, for several years, we have split a contribution among the Ackland, the University Library and the Carolina Covenant. Beyond that, it seemed to us, through a professorship, more students would benefit than through contributing only to individual scholarships.”

The Malkins have made giving a lifelong habit—and for very personal reasons. “My family placed importance on higher education,” Moses said. “My mother was from Russia, where Jews were not allowed to go to school. She emigrated to America at age 16 and was thrilled to be able to go to night school. My father was originally from Moscow, and in the United States he took courses at Boston University for many years.

“Our reason for the gift is really to thank UNC and the state of North Carolina for making it possible for each of us to obtain a very good education at a fine university at moderate cost. And even now, the state of North Carolina is helping us to fund this professorship, which is deserving of additional thanks from us.”

Although she called herself and her husband “secular Jews,” Hannah thinks of philanthropy as integral to being a Jew. “That is one of the tenets of Jewish philosophy and tradition,” she said. “Jews consider it very important to give whether it is to the needy, to hospitals, universities, museums, the sciences and the theater. We want to continue in that tradition supporting the growth of the people of all colors and creeds.”

(Portions taken from a fall 2005 Carolina Connections article by Claire Cusick.)

The Moses M. and Hannah L. Malkin Term Distinguished Professor

2006 – Present: Jonathan Hess