Monday, 27 June 2011

Building bridges in Tel Aviv and Herzliya

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.