Monthly Archive for June, 2011

The Culmination of a Trip — The Renewal of a Profound Engagement

Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem

The magnificent Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the hours leading up to the welcoming of the Shabbat.

As the sun set over the Old City of Jerusalem this evening, I reflected on all that our Brandeis delegation has accomplished here in just two weeks. It is rare for one experience to be both so moving and satisfying personally, and also so substantive on matters of policy and strategy; but that best-of-both-worlds combination is exactly what characterizes Brandeis’ burgeoning engagement with Israel. Brandeis’ global reach is significant as is evidenced by the 116 countries that send students to our campus. We as a university also stand to be strengthened by sustained, deep and broad strategic engagement with a smaller number of partner countries around the world. The historic ties between Brandeis and Israel make Israel a natural place to begin this mission.

In two weeks, our delegation spent time with leaders and colleagues from all the major research universities of Israel: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University, the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC), Weitzmann Institute of Science, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev — as well as Al-Quds University, one of the leading Palestinian universities. At several Israeli high schools, we shared the Brandeis vision with some of Israel’s most inquisitive and energized — I dare say, Brandeisian — students.

We held a number of alumni events as well. As we contemplate enhancing our engagement with Israel, it was inspiring to see the enthusiasm, spirit and support of Brandeis alumni on the ground in Israel, as demonstrated at our two packed alumni events during our time here, one in Jerusalem and one in the greater Tel Aviv area. I know that these members of the Brandeis family will be very helpful to our efforts.

In Haifa, we dined with several members of the Boston-Haifa Connection, the sister city program that binds together Brandeis’ home city with Israel’s most famous hub of multiculturalism. I had the privilege to engage in a public conversation with my old friend, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak of Israel, among the most courageous intellectuals and jurists of our time. We had a fruitful and inspiring visit to Teva Pharmaceuticals. And I represented Brandeis by speaking at the Israeli Presidential Conference, where the theme of the symposium was “Tomorrow,” and where I put forth the Brandeis vision of preparing students not only for the literal tomorrow, with its challenging job market, but also for the figurative “tomorrow,” the next generation, in which skills of rich analysis and clear communication will be more crucial than ever before.

Each place where we went, we were both moved emotionally and energized to find that Israelis always wanted to know more about Brandeis. They wanted to know more about Brandeis’ academic strengths, its strategic foci and its vision for the future. Brandeis’ identity as a nonsectarian, diversity-embracing institution with roots in the Jewish community also resonated with them; many Israelis voiced the idea that Israel too, at its best, aspires to this vision.

I leave Israel profoundly grateful to all the members of the Brandeis delegation, and all the members of our staff back on campus, who worked so hard to make this trip the resounding success that it was. There will be a great deal of follow-up work in the weeks and months ahead, to realize the full potential of the endeavors that we have only just begun. But in the meantime, in this moment, we as a community can take great pride in what we have accomplished — as always, together.

Now, I am off to The Hague, The Netherlands to check in on the passionate, spirited Brandeis students who are hard at work in our Hague program in international law! A good week to you all, and I look forward to continuing to work together in the days to come.

Reflecting on prospects and connections

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This morning we made our way — not without misadventure due to a dead battery — from the city of Haifa to the Tel Aviv suburb of Rehovot, where we visited another of Israel’s premier institutions of higher education, the Weizmann Institute of Science.  Unlike Brandeis, Weizmann is focused exclusively on research and graduate education, with no undergraduate component at all. But President Daniel Zajfman and I found common ground over our shared commitment to world-class research and outstanding opportunities for young scientists.

Historic particle accelerator on the Weizmann Institute campus

Professor Alon Chen, an expert on the biology of stress, gave us insight into his groundbreaking work and highlighted the affinities between Weizmann’s program and Brandeis’ strengths in neuroscience. And Professor Lia Addadi, dean of the Feinberg Graduate School, expressed her strong interest in attracting some of our top students to visit at Weizmann.

In the afternoon, we visited another sort of scientific institution, Teva Pharmaceuticals, in Petach Tikva. We visited Teva at the invitation of Dr. Yehudah Livneh, Ph.D. ’81, whom I had met for the first time earlier this year. Teva is both a manufacturer and distributor of generic drugs and a developer of innovative pharmaceutical products.  Yehudah is vice president for corporate Intellectual Property and legislative affairs, and he assembled a group from across the company to talk with us about possible intersections of research interest and ways that Brandeis students might be involved in Teva’s work. It was a fruitful exploration of the kind of relationship that we are seeking in Israel and around the world as we work to build synergies between the various parts of the global Brandeis community.

Fred Lawrence with Shira Ruderman and Jay Ruderman ‘88

Eight nights ago we launched this trip with an alumni event in Jerusalem; tonight, as the trip comes to a close, we were privileged to meet with another group of Brandeis alumni and friends at the beautiful home of Jay Ruderman ’88 and his wife Shira in Rehovot. The event was an occasion for me to reflect on the many exciting prospects and connections that this visit has created, in the company of people who care deeply both about Israel and about Brandeis. We were fortunate to have among Jay and Shira’s guests three members of Knesset — Avi Dichter, Eitan Cabel and Tzipi Hotoveley — who recently visited Brandeis as Ruderman Fellows. I was also pleased to meet Gilad Erdan, the Israeli minister of the environment, who served as an adviser to the Ruderman Fellows program.

Tomorrow, on our final day, I will be participating in two events as part of the Israeli Presidential Conference under the auspices of Shimon Peres. Alongside leaders of other universities and institutions with global reach, I will be speaking on a panel addressing the future of higher education in an era of rapid change.

Science and Students – Haifa and Beyond

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The deep connections between Boston and Haifa hold great potential for Brandeis and our engagement in Israel – this has been clear in multiple ways during our time in this beautiful city on the Mediterranean. Our visits to the Leo Baeck School and the Reali School in Haifa gave us the opportunity to meet with prospective Brandeis students of the future as well as faculty and administrators at these creative and innovative schools. The impact of Brandeis on Leo Baeck in particular is clear; their visionary leader of decades, Bob Samuels ’54, himself describes Leo Baeck as a kind of “mini-Brandeis in Haifa” – and his vision is real.  The students were bright, energetic and in every way very Brandeisian. Overall there is a great level of excitement about the potential for more students from Israel coming to Brandeis.

Our productive meetings at the University of Haifa hold seeds for potential collaborative efforts in faculty research and student exchanges. I am grateful to University of Haifa President Aaron Ben-Ze’ev for interest and enthusiasm in working together with us. All of the possible means of working together with colleagues in Haifa have a great multiplier effect because of long-established close connections between the sister cities of Boston and Haifa.

Meanwhile, our Brandeis team focused on science has been fanning out across the country.  Steve Goldstein, our incoming provost, has focused on the Technion, spending the past two days at the institution where he has had substantial scientific collaborations originally forged during his days as a post-doc at Brandeis. Irene Abrams, our associate provost for innovation, explored possibilities of linking Brandeis science with Hebrew University, as well as with BioLineRx, a Jerusalem-based company that specializes in taking promising potential therapeutic compounds from universities and bringing them through preclinical and clinical trials, before licensing them to a pharmaceutical company.

Seth Fraden (physics) spent Tuesday in an intensive series of meetings at Tel Aviv University, while Liz Hedstrom (biology and chemistry) went south to Ben-Gurion University in the Negev.

On Sunday, Liz and Seth both visited the prestigious Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.  Liz delivered a seminar on her research and met with colleagues from the laboratory of Dan Tawfik working in the field of archeobiology, literally recreating proteins from ancestral organisms from hundreds of millions of years ago in order to understand how proteins evolved to the functions we use today.

Seth met with colleagues in the field of biophysics, another area of overlap with the Weizmann. Brandeis and the Weizmann have been leaders in the trend to integrate the life and physical sciences and both institutions would benefit by exchanges of researchers. For example, Seth visited the labs of Prof. Elisha Moses who is developing hybrid neurological – electronic chips to form a bridge between the computer and brain.

Today, I will join with members of the science team at the Weizmann Institute, where we will explore possible collaborations with the president and other leaders of the institute. Indeed, it is courtesy of our hosts at Weizmann that I am posting this entry from the Institute.

* * * * *

Our last night in Haifa concluded with a splendid gathering of the Haifa leadership of the Boston-Haifa Connection, which for more than two decades has created so many meaningful links between our cities. Our delegation had a natural link.  Ruth Aronson, our associate director of development and a key member of the Brandeis team in Israel, spent seven years as the Boston director for the Connection.

Over the course of the evening, leaders of the community told stories of many ongoing links to Brandeis, while spinning out ideas for the future. No doubt there will be many further conversations that will involve Naomi Greideinger, the dynamic chair of the Boston-Haifa Connection, and Vered Israely, its talented director.

Brandeis in Haifa, The Boston of Israel

I have been traveling to Haifa for many years now, especially during my volunteer work for the Boston-Haifa sister city partnership. Yet nothing in my previous experience, as interesting and meaningful as it was, could have prepared me for the excitement and dynamism of today’s visits to Yemin Orde and the Technion.

Our group drove northward through the coastal plain, winding high into the Carmel Mountains until we arrived at Yemin Orde, a student residential village where refugees from Ethiopia and Darfur study. Some of the current staff members are Ethiopian Jews who were themselves evacuated during Operation Moses and Operation Solomon.

Fred Lawrence with Chaim Peri

Fred Lawrence with Chaim Peri, director of Yemin Orde

Yemin Orde’s director, Chaim Peri, described the village’s unique approach to rejuvenating troubled youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, an approach that has now been adopted by other schools across Israel and the United States. The pedagogical ideals of the school emphasize belonging to a community, as opposed to an institution or boarding school. Thus, the community becomes a real home. It not only educates students’ intellects, it also empowers them to embark on healing and strengthening their senses of self, as many of the students are orphans as well as refugees.

Fred Lawrence and Atalkit Tesfaye

Fred Lawrence and Atalkit Tesfaye, a Yemin Orde resident who attended Genesis at Brandeis University in summer 2010

Yemin Orde graduates now hold the highest positions throughout various fields in Israeli society, from business to the military, and they have gone on to top graduate schools — including Brandeis. The great miracle of Yemin Orde is that the students do not just survive; they thrive. They graduate committed to changing the world, just like our Brandeis students. We were reluctant to leave Yemin Orde but we departed filled with energy and dedication, embracing our hosts as if they were friends of decades, rather than half a day.

As we sped down through the mountains, we witnessed ominous signs of the recent traumatic fire that consumed the forests above Haifa, including many buildings at Yemin Orde. We then headed for the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, an extraordinary high-tech university and medical school. It is hard to describe the electricity that pervades this campus. Students in shorts and sandals walked briskly past us on their way to class in contemporary buildings, widely set apart amid lush flowering vines and plants, flourishing under Haifa’s blue skies and Mediterranean sun.

I shared lunch with President Peretz Lavie of Technion and members of both his and our faculty. In welcoming us, the president and his professors exhibited the usual Israeli warmth, hospitality, professionalism, and friendship. After President Lavie and I toasted to each other’s schools, when all those around the table had a chance to say a few words of introduction, the room was filled with the kind of collaborative conversations that augur well for future relationships between our institutions.

Fred Lawrence and Professor Oded Shmueli ’77

Fred Lawrence and Professor Oded Shmueli ’77, executive vice president for research at the Technion

Throughout the day, I met with various members of the Technion community, envisioning and planning exciting possibilities for joint ventures: for scientific collaboration between faculty colleagues at Brandeis and Technion; and for programs whereby students of each university can visit and study at the other institution. Indeed, collaboration among faculty colleagues is well under way, as throughout the day Brandeis faculty members were meeting with members of the Technion faculty. We were particularly pleased and grateful for the opportunity to meet Technion’s Vice President for Research, Professor Oded Shmueli — a Wien scholar of the Brandeis Class of 1977.

I was struck by the complementary, symbiotic nature of these opportunities for collaboration. Technion has among other things one of the world’s great programs in engineering, a field in which Brandeis has yet to establish a program. Meanwhile, Technion admits to a relative weakness in the humanities, a particular strength of Brandeis.

To conclude the day, Mayor Yona Yahav of Haifa gave us a personal tour of the Haifa port, and of the Carmel Academic Center, a college that is among the numerous institutions that make up Israel’s significant expansion of colleges in recent years. We all shared a celebratory dinner at the end of the day, where Mayor Yahav and I discussed the future of higher education in Israel and America, and how Jewish roots like those that animate the values of Brandeis can nourish a positive future for young people.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav and Fred Lawrence

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav and Fred Lawrence

As the dinner came to a close, Mayor Yahav said, regarding my blog, “Give your readers my best wishes.”

Mission accomplished!






Mutual commitments to excellence

On Shabbat, we remember that moments of rest and reflection are not a retreat from life: they lie at the essence of life. It was in this spirit that nearly thirty of us sat down to Shabbat dinner in Jerusalem this past Friday night. What connected us all — from artists to public servants, from faculty and staff to Israeli intellectuals, from alumni of Brandeis’ early classes to teenage prospective students — was a shared stake in the success of this unique university and a shared conviction that the already-deep bonds between Brandeis and Israel are only just beginning to grow.

The cornucopia of careers and interests around the table reflected the multi-faceted nature of Brandeis itself. Former Israeli Consul-General in Boston Nadav Tamir joined us, a longtime friend of Brandeis who is now an adviser to President Shimon Peres. We also hosted Mark Regev, spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told the story of what inspired him to make aliyah from Australia as a young man. Acclaimed filmmaker Yael Hersonski described how Jerusalem has changed since she studied at the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School and discussed her Holocaust documentary A Film Unfinished, which she screened at Brandeis earlier this year as a Schusterman Fellow. We were delighted to welcome newly named editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post Steve Linde, along with Post reporter Tovah Lazaroff ’86.

Then, Professor Maurice Roumani from the Political Science Department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev recounted the story of how Brandeis’ Wien Scholarship rescued him from turmoil in Libya and forever changed his life and the lives of his family. Professor Fred Tauber of Tel Aviv University had a similar epic narrative to tell, describing how President Abram Sachar got American papers for numerous intellectuals among the survivors of the Holocaust — including Prof. Tauber’s father, who ultimately became a significant benefactor to the university whose founding president had transformed his life.

The rejuvenating spirit of Shabbat, and of the fellowship of the Brandeis family, continued on Saturday during the day as my family and I joined a discussion at the home of Rabbi Ron Kronish ’68 and his wife Amy. Ron is a founder and longtime director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, which works for interfaith dialogue. Among Rabbi Kronish’s guests were Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, arguably the most prominent reform rabbi in Israel; Dr. Mohammed Dajani, founder of Wasatia, a Palestinian group that highlights the roots of moderation within Islam; and the Rev. Timothy Lowe, rector of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute.

On Sunday, we visited the main campus of Al-Quds University, in Abu Dis. I had the chance to see in action the bridge-building exchanges of faculty, staff and students that have for years now characterized the partnership between Brandeis and Al-Quds, funded by the Ford Foundation. Brandeis professors Sue Lanser and Derek Isaacowitz and senior associate dean Elaine Wong teamed with Al-Quds colleagues in leading a discussion on the responsibilities of department chairs. In the new student center, two recent Brandeis alumni, along with assistant provost Alwina Bennett, introduced me to Palestinian students, who glowingly described how student exchanges in Waltham and Jerusalem had transformed their socio-political perspectives. I also discussed the future of our partnership with acting president Marwan Awartani and with Dr. Khuloud Khayyat Dajani, an energetic, innovative leader of the partnership from the Al-Quds side since the beginning.

The key to this partnership is that its roots are our institutions’ mutual commitments to excellence. The more discussions we held together on pedagogy, text study and best-practices administration, the more the spotlight shone on our common nature — as human beings and as members of academic communities.

Our incoming provost, Steve Goldstein, joined us today in Jerusalem. We were fortunate to benefit from his expertise, especially regarding our science collaborations. At Al-Quds, Steve met with the dean of the medical school, Dr. Hany Abdeen. In the coming days, Steve will spend considerable time at the Technion in Haifa, where he has forged in-depth collaborations as early as his days as a post-doc at Brandeis.

Later, we met with Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, chairman of the planning and budget committee for Israel’s Council of Higher Education. Professor Trajtenberg gave Steve, Dan Terris and me a bird’s-eye view of Israeli higher education, emphasizing the past two decades’ tremendous expansion of colleges, and describing the government’s renewed commitment to supporting research. I look forward to continuing to consult with him as Brandeis builds ever-deeper connections and collaborations here in the Holy Land.

Welcoming Shabbat in Jerusalem with the Brandeis family

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“Here is a place whose atmosphere is peace, where political and religious jealousies can be forgotten and international unity be fostered and developed.”  So reads the quotation, in Hebrew, Arabic and English, at the front gate of the Jerusalem International YMCA, where I spent the afternoon of erev shabbat in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem YMCA CEO Forsan Hussein '00 and Fred Lawrence.

My guide was Forsan Hussein ’00, the CEO, who last Tuesday had hosted me for a welcome lunch and extracted a promise from me to come back for the full tour. It was well worth it, not only to see this extraordinary institution, but also to spend time with a Brandeis alumnus who is making his mark in his native land.

Forsan has been CEO here for two years — the first Muslim CEO of a Y anywhere in the world. Born and raised in the Galilee village of Shaab, he came to Brandeis in 1996 as one of the first two Slifka coexistence scholars. With his Brandeis education as a foundation, he is the ideal leader for this wide-ranging institution: one that is both a for-profit hotel business and a non-profit organization with ambitions for social progress.

Forsan’s vision for the Y is both practical and uplifting. He wants to make the Y’s business side efficient, profitable and service-oriented; and at the same time, he wants to make the Jerusalem Y a hub, both substantively and symbolically, for the development of coexistence in Israel and the Middle East.

In this sense, Forsan’s vision is profoundly Brandeisian. Forsan reminds me of the countless Brandeis alumni I have met who, like Forsan, have mastered the brass-tacks knowledge to run an organization like clockwork, but who see this know-how not as an end, but as a means — a means to realizing the ideals of community, learning and social justice in the most substantive sense. Here at the Y, the landscape is thousands of miles from Waltham but the ideals ring with the same clarion call I hear in students’ voices on campus. I look forward to finding ways for Brandeis students and faculty to connect with Forsan’s work here in the Holy Land.

The 600-seat auditorium, which houses many cultural events.

Ecumenism was woven into every aspect of the Y’s design, as Forsan showed us: windows and trees in biblical numbers of 12 and 40; inscriptions in three languages, extolling the greatness of the Almighty; symbols of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions cut into the light fixtures in the 600-seat auditorium. Founded in the mid-19th century, the Jerusalem Y moved into its current building in the early 1930s — a Byzantine-esque structure, complete with a six-story tower that is now among the city’s most prominent landmarks.

At the top of the tower, I looked out with Forsan over a spectacular vista, the skyline of Jerusalem — in one direction, the storied Jerusalem-stone walls of the ancient Old City; in another, modern Jerusalem’s towers, offices, apartment buildings and parks. In the small space beneath the top of the tower, a group of young visitors sang hymns from different traditions and it felt only natural to join them in song.

As I write these words, I am now preparing for Shabbat in Jerusalem. This day of rest and reflection will be for me a chance to absorb all that I have seen and learned throughout a non-stop week of long-planned visits come to fruition, long-cherished relationships renewed, and new connections built.

Tonight, we will share a Shabbat dinner both with Brandeis faculty and administrators, and with a number of Israeli guests: Mark Regev, spokesperson for the Prime Minister, and his family; Nadav Tamir, former Israeli consul-general in Boston; and a number of Israeli intellectuals. It is especially meaningful to spend a Shabbat here in Jerusalem with my wife Kathy and my son Noah, who has been living in Jerusalem the past several months, working for Kadima Party chairwoman Tzipi Livni. For all these reasons, it will be a fulfilling day of rest here, as I re-charge my batteries for another busy week ahead  — starting on Sunday morning!

The life of the mind

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Among the core principles of Brandeis University is that academic study is not the end, it is the beginning — the beginning of a lifetime of public commitment and personal growth. In keeping with this, the diverse nature of the liberal arts, today marked the trip’s first day on which my itinerary was entirely outside university campuses. After two days of meeting with the Presidents of Al-Quds University, Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, today my travels took me to a different set of institutions: the Jerusalem Foundation, a major foundation supporting cultural, artistic and educational programs; the Boyer School, an extraordinary, diverse Israeli high school; the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School; and a public conversation where I spoke alongside my good friend Aharon Barak, former Chief Justice of Israel’s Supreme Court.

I began the day meeting with Ruth Cheshin, President of the Jerusalem Foundation. She and I discussed ways for Brandeis and the Jerusalem Fund to collaborate, and for Brandeis to connect with Israel and in particular with Jerusalem. Specifically, we discussed holding joint events at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the storied artist’s colony and conference center in the forested foothills of the Old City. The Director-General of Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Uri Dromi, joined Ruth and I for this breakfast meeting. And the day’s closing event with Justice Barak was held at Mishkenot Sha’ananim.

Next, I visited the Boyer School in western Jerusalem. This visit was an opportunity to meet with the inspired faculty and students of this exceptional institution. With one-third of its students enrolled as boarding students, the Boyer School brings students together from all over Israel, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds who otherwise might never have the chance to put their brilliance and creativity into action. We discussed possibilities for joint efforts, especially to recruit top-level Israeli students to Brandeis.

The day progressed with a visit to Israel’s national film school, the Spiegel Film School. Professor Alice Kelikian, director of our film program, Dan Terris, Ruth Aronson, and I met with the school’s head and founder, Renen Schorr, a visionary leader and true creative mind. The school’s alumni include director Yael Hersonski, a Schusterman Fellow who came to Brandeis this past winter to screen and discuss her acclaimed documentary, A Film Unfinished, at Brandeis’ Wasserman Cinematheque.

These inspiring visits would have been enough to make today phenomenal. But perhaps the highlight was the last event of all: a program where I spoke alongside Justice Barak. As a scholar, and personally, I have been privileged to know Justice Barak for years. Tonight, moderator Dan Terris asked Justice Barak and me to discuss American and Israeli approaches to freedom of speech, after which we fielded questions from the audience.

I spoke about the idea, among others, that Brandeis as a private school is not bound by the First Amendment — but this fact does not end the discussion of freedom of speech; instead, it liberates that discussion to concern not, “What does the law compel us to do?” but rather, “What ethos would characterize the ideal community, and what do we want to characterize ours?” The event will provide a model for future Brandeis-Israel collaborations. And it exemplified the fact that the life of the mind is the beating heart of Brandeis University — from which all the diverse parts of the university draw their lifeblood.

Building bridges in Tel Aviv and Herzliya

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Today brought the opportunity to meet with the leadership of two more of Israel’s top institutions of higher learning: Tel Aviv University and the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya.

Professor Joseph Klafter, President of Tel Aviv University and a well-known scientist, was well aware of connections that already exist between our science faculty and his. He is looking forward to the visit of Professor Seth Fraden of our Physics Department next week. We discussed possible expansion of collaborative activities between scientists at our two universities.

Tel Aviv University is the largest university in Israel. It may therefore provide us with other opportunities for meaningful engagement. For example, they host a very fine film school where I hope Professor Alice Kelikian will visit next week.

At the IDC, Dan Terris and I met with Professor Uriel Reichman, visionary founding president of this path-breaking private university in Israel, along with most of his deans. We had a wide-ranging discussion of a number of potentially fruitful ways for our two institutions to connect: faculty-to-faculty and student-to-student. I look forward to bringing these ideas back to our faculty in Waltham for further discussion and consideration.

I am hopeful that we will be able to host presidents Klafter and Reichman on their visits to the United States in October and September, respectively. An exciting spirit of cooperation filled all of our meetings at these two great universities.

We also began our efforts to explore possibilities for recruiting additional Israeli students to Brandeis. Before this trip is over, we will have the opportunity to visit several high schools in both Jerusalem and Haifa. In this regard, today we met with Eli Shermeister, Chief Education Officer of the Israeli Defense Forces, and one of his predecessors, retired General Elazar Stern. Both were helpful as we consider the opportunities and challenges of recruiting top-level Israeli students to our campus.

Last but not least, we ended the day at a gathering of young Russian-speaking immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union. The Genesis Philanthropy group that also supports our Genesis institute for Russian-speaking students funds their discussion and support group. Our fascinating conversation, mostly in English with Hebrew and Russian mixed in, ranged over a wide swath of topics including group identity and the challenges of being an immigrant generation with a hyphenated identity.

We returned to Jerusalem late at night under a full moon with the city in front of us, its ancient walls lit with incandescent papier-mâché ornaments of the summer light festival.

Opening doors to new opportunities

President Lawrence and Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh share a discussion at Al-Quds University's campus in Beit Hanina, Jerusalem.

Brandeis University has given me the privilege of many sublime moments, and few have been as awe-inspiring as the chance to address members of the Brandeis family in front of the panoramic walls of the Old City of Jerusalem under a full moon.

The alumni gathering in Jerusalem represented the culmination of a day full of significant events and meaningful progress for Brandeis in the Holy Land. After just a day and a half, our trip here has already opened a number of doors to new opportunities.

My day here began with a meeting with Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al-Quds University, with which Brandeis has had a partnership since 2003 and exchanges of faculty and staff since 2005. I traveled to Beit Hanina in the Jerusalem area, where one of Al-Quds University’s campuses is located, and President Nusseibeh and I discussed ways to continue our partnership, specifically how to promote the education of women in the sciences.

President Lawrence meets with Jerusalem YMCA CEO — and Brandeis alum and Slifka Scholar — Forsan Hussein '00 (left), as well as Ireland's Ambassador to Israel, a guest at the YMCA (center).

I shared lunch with the CEO of the Jerusalem YMCA — a Brandeis graduate and former Slifka Scholar, Forsan Hussein ’00. The lovely, traditional Jerusalemite building and tower house this remarkable institution, dedicated to creating a space for inter-faith and inter-group dialogue, just a few short blocks from the Old City walls.

Next, I met with Hebrew University President Menachem Ben-Sasson, on the Mount Scopus campus of this renowned institution. We had a wide-ranging discussion on many opportunities for collaboration, such as ways in which faculty members from both schools can work together to pursue shared interests.

The day concluded with an Alumni and Friends Event at the David Citadel Hotel, overlooking the centuries-old, Jerusalem-stone walls of the Old City, and the storied Tower of David. We hosted alumni from the Class of 1957 all the way through to newly-minted alumni of the Class of 2011, as well as several current students who are working in Israel for the summer. To give voice to the social justice mission and Jewish roots of Brandeis University, in the same place where Isaiah the prophet gave voice to his vision of social justice — the word “magical” does not even capture it. I felt profoundly thankful and blessed.



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