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‘A deep connection’

While I was in Jerusalem, I had the pleasure of speaking with Seth Franzen of the Jerusalem Post about Brandeis University’s connection to Israel.

You can read the whole interview here:

Remembering MLK and the March on Washington

Jules Bernstein ’57 and President Fred Lawrence

Jules Bernstein ’57 and President Fred Lawrence

I enjoyed participating in a ceremony to dedicate a bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. given to Brandeis by Jules Bernstein ’57 and his wife, Linda Lipsett.

The bronze sculpture, crafted by Robert Berks, was installed on the ground floor of the library/lounge in the Shapiro Campus Center, where hundreds will be able to enjoy it every day.

Jules presented the sculpture to Brandeis to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Jules helped organize the march in August 1963, and has advocated for working people as a lawyer for more than 50 years.

Jules recalled that he first heard King speak when the civil rights leader came to campus during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. The talk was held in Ford Hall, which formerly stood where the Shapiro Center is now.

President Fred Lawrence and Jules Bernstein ’57

President Fred Lawrence and Jules Bernstein ’57

Gathering with alumni at the Supreme Court of the United States

President Fred Lawrence with Brandeis alumni in front of the portrait of our university's namesake.

President Fred Lawrence with Brandeis alumni.

We celebrated the admission of our Brandeis alumni to the bar of the high court at a great gathering yesterday at the Supreme Court of the United States.

Joining us were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who I was pleased to present with Melvin I. Urofsky’s biography of Louis D. Brandeis.

We gathered in front of the portrait of our university’s namesake for a group photo. It was a memorable occasion, which we are now celebrating annually.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and President Fred Lawrence.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Brandeis President Fred Lawrence

Chief Justice John Roberts and President Fred Lawrence.

Reception with U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Kathy and I had the opportunity to attend a reception last night at the residence of U.S.  Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro ’91 as a part of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s economic mission to Israel.

I am privileged to be a member of the business and academic delegation, which represents the largest official delegation to ever travel to Israel with a U.S. Governor. The mission spanned three days, and included many meetings with Israeli CEOs, academic leaders and government officials with the goal of bringing increased economic activity and stronger bonds between Massachusetts and Israel.


Dr. Kathy and President Fred Lawrence, Diane and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Ambassador Dan '91 and Julie Shapiro

Dr. Kathy and President Fred Lawrence, Diane and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Ambassador Dan ’91 and Julie Shapiro

A conversation with Yossi Klein Halevi

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have a remarkable conversation with 2014 National Jewish Book of the Year winning author Yossi Klein Halevi at Brookline’s Congregation Kehillath Israel.

Kehallith Israel gave 500 copies of “Like Dreamers” to its membership this year. Members report the gift deepened the community’s rapport with Zionism’s dreams and designs.

Watch the video of the conversation:

’DEIS Impact gets better and better

Fred Lawrence and panelists at the SoJust Forum, part of 'Deis Impact.

Fred Lawrence and panelists at the SoJust Leadership Forum, part of ’DEIS Impact.

’DEIS Impact — our festival of social justice — gets better and better. For the capstone event, we welcomed more than 200 students, dozens of alumni and more than 50 employers to campus for the third annual SoJust Leadership Forum.

The forum, organized by the Hiatt Career Center, provided our students an opportunity to learn from our alumni and others about their careers in social justice.

I was honored to introduce Julia Simon-Mishel ’09, who moderated the alumni panel discussion. As a Brandeis student, Julia co-founded the Student Peace Alliance. She recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is now serving as a clerk for the Honorable Norma L. Shapiro in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In the fall, she will join Philadelphia Legal Assistance, where she will help low-income workers with wage theft and unemployment compensation cases.

A special thanks to our alumni panelists:

  • Yos Bugallo ’03, assistant director of inclusiveness recruiting, Ernst & Young
  • Tara Cook-Littman ’97, founder, GMO Free CT
  • Will Tickle ’03, director of impact investing, Ballentine Partners
  • Blanca Vega ’98, director of the Higher Education Opportunity Program, Marymount Manhattan College
President Fred Lawrence speaks at 'Deis Impact.

President Fred Lawrence speaks at ’DEIS Impact.



Sister Helen Prejean visits Brandeis

Sister Helen Prejean and Fred Lawrence

Sister Helen Prejean and Fred Lawrence

Anti-death penalty activist, bestselling author and Roman Catholic nun, Sister Helen Prejean visited Brandeis on Feb. 6 to share her firsthand accounts of the people she’s ministered to on death row.

Sister Helen was invited to campus by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism as part of ’DEIS Impact, Brandeis’ annual festival of social justice.

She began the day talking with the students in David Cunningham’s Protest, Politics, and Change: Social Movements class, which was packed not only with Brandeis students, but also 20 visiting Waltham High School juniors and seniors. Cunningham’s class was featured as part of ’DEIS Impact College, which spotlights academic engagement with social justice. These sessions of courses taught by Brandeis faculty represented a range of disciplines and shared a common goal: grounding college students’ passion for changing the world in solid theory. They are open to the public during ’DEIS Impact.

The Schuster Institute hosted a lunch at the Faculty Club honoring Sister Helen, where I was privileged to welcome her to Brandeis.

Later in the afternoon, Sister Helen attended a pre-event supper with Brandeis student research assistants who work at the Schuster Institute. Students, some of whom do in-depth research for the Institute’s Justice Brandeis Law Project (JBLP) and its two cases of suspected wrongful conviction, had the opportunity to have an informal discussion with Sister Helen, as well as with the mother of one of the inmates whose case the JBLP is investigating.

Sister Helen concluded the day at Levin Ballroom, where, in the words of Jess Linde writing for the Brandeis Hoot, she “stunned the crowd” with her message.

Sister Helen Prejean, Fred Lawrence, and Schuster Institute advisory board member Cynthia Berenson

Sister Helen Prejean, Fred Lawrence, and Schuster Institute advisory board member Cynthia Berenson

Talk-back with actress Debra Messing ’90

I had the pleasure of moderating a talk-back with actress Debra Messing ’90 for 125 Brandeis alumni after we saw her star as Rosemary in John Patrick Shanley’s “Outside Mullingar” at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway.

Fred Lawrence and Debra Messing ’90

Fred Lawrence and Debra Messing ’90

Debra told us that she was a very proud Brandeisian and “would not be an actress without (Professor) Ted Kazanoff, a miraculous teacher.”

She graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis and informed our group, with a laugh, that achievement “was what my father was most proud of.”

She said that at Brandeis she was made to feel that if she worked hard, her career would eventually work out.

When she was shown photo of herself and Valerie David Barrish ’90 when they were sophomores at Brandeis, she said, “We felt at the time that we were adults doing serious things and were going to take over the world. Now we look like kids at an amusement park.”

Debra had the opportunity to see many Brandeis friends, including Sue Loeb-Zeitlin ’90 and her husband, Andy Zeitlin ’90.

The program was chaired by Rachel Reiner ’97, vice president of the Alumni Club of New York City, and Andrea Soloway ’89. It was co-sponsored by the Performing Arts Network and the Alumni Club of Westchester/Southern Connecticut.

WBRS Interview Recaps Trip to Asia

I sat down recently with WBRS reporter and Brandeis student David Huang ’16 to give an update on my recent trip to Asia and what it means to Brandeis. (My interview is from 2:05 to 20:25 in the clip.)

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Brandeis condemns ASA’s boycott

Brandeis University condemns the American Studies Association’s (ASA) boycott of institutions of higher education in Israel. I am proud that Brandeis was one of the very first institutions in the world to withdraw as an institutional member of the ASA, and I urge other institutions to follow our lead and disassociate from the ASA.

The boycott defies the explicit opposition of the American Association of University Professors, founded nearly a century ago to protect academic freedom; no organization has devoted itself more durably to the defense of such rights than the AAUP. The boycott also defies the stance of the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities, which has denounced the ASA’s attempt to delegitimize Israeli institutions of higher learning.

Remarkably enough, the boycott even defies the position of the president of the Palestine Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who has criticized such boycotts of Israeli institutions.

I find disturbing the uniqueness of the target of the ASA decision, with Israel representing the only nation on the planet whose universities are thereby stigmatized. The boycott even defies commonsense; what Israeli universities can do that would end the policies that the ASA has condemned is hard to imagine. As former Harvard president Lawrence Summers has said, boycotts targeted solely at Israel are, if not anti-Semitic in intent, anti-Semitic in effect.

Brandeis University values its many relationships with Israeli academic institutions. We will not allow the ASA’s action to undermine those relationships or the principle of academic freedom.

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