Making Connections across Cultures

Forsan Hussein ’00 is the CEO of the Jerusalem YMCA and a passionate advocate for peace and understanding

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Forsan Hussein '00 came to Brandeis to bridge divides. The recipient of a Sylvia and Joseph Slifka Israeli Coexistence Scholarship, which goes to two Israeli citizens a year — one Arab and one Jewish — Hussein designed his own peace building major.

He took War and Possibilities of Peace with Professor Gordie Fellman, hosted the campus radio show Just Like You where he shared stories of Palestinian culture from food to politics and, with an Israeli classmate, organized coexistence dialogue groups that drew students from Brandeis and other universities in the Boston area.

“Those lessons that I learned during my interactions with the Brandeis student body made me believe at a deeper level that it all starts with one-on-one, people-to-people connection,” Hussein says today. “The sense of social justice that Brandeis carries through its classes and through its extracurricular activities impacted me personally a great deal. The fact that students can actually start real change on the ground was a new narrative to me. That's something that I take with me through the rest of my life: the ability to stand up, to act, to change something as an individual.”

After Brandeis, Hussein earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and an M.A. in international relations from Johns Hopkins. Today he is CEO of the Jerusalem International YMCA, a gathering place for people of all religions.

Wherever he is — in the United States, on a visit to his family's home in Sha'ab or at work developing the Y's peace preschool that brings together Arab and Jewish children — he continues to bring people of divergent ideologies and backgrounds into dialogue.

"I live three different mentalities: the Israeli mentality, the Arab-Palestinian-Muslim mentality and the Western mentality, he says. “Jumping among these three is not an easy thing to do, but it does allow me to do the work I do. I am a Muslim CEO of a Christian institution in a Jewish country. It doesn't get any better than that.”