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Israel: Balance and Complexity 
January 11 - 14, 2016
9:30 am - 4:00 pm
CUNY Graduate Center, NYC


Monday, January 11, 2016

9:30-10:00 "Overview of the Field of Israel Studies - Why the Teaching of Israel in the Academy Matters"

10:15-12:15 "Settling the Land - Colonialism or Colonization?"
Ilan Troen, Stoll Family Chair in Israel Studies, Brandeis University and president, Association for Israel Studies

12:30-1:30 Lunch with Michael Miller, executive vice president and CEO, Jewish Relations Community Relations Council, New York

2:00-4:00 "Jewishness in Israel"
David Ellenson, director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and visiting professor in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Brandeis University

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

9:30-11:30 "Origins of Zionism"
Rachel Fish, associate director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, Brandeis University

12:00-1:30 Lunch with Peter Beinart, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism: "Reporting the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Israeli-Diaspora Relationship"

2:00-4:00 "Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State"
Yehudah Mirsky, associate professor of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

9:30-11:30 "Hebrew Literature"
Ilana Szobel, assistant professor on the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Chair in Hebrew Literature, Brandeis University

12:00-1:30 Lunch with Steven Bayme, director of the Contemporary Jewish Life Department of the American Jewish Committee and of the Koppelman Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations

2:00-4:00 "Arab-Israeli Relations and Conflict"
Jonathan Gribetz, assistant professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies and Program in Judaic Studies, Princeton University

Thursday, January 14, 2016

9:30-11:30 "Environment, Conflict and Peace Building in Israel"
Shahar Sadeh, adjunct instructor with the Columbia University, Earth Institute, and a visiting scholar at NYU

12:00-1:30 Lunch with Thair Abu Rass, former director for Fair Representation and Employment Equity at Sikkuy-The Association for the Advancement of Civic Rights in Israel

1:30-3:30 "Peace Prospects between Israelis and Palestinians"
Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington DC 

3:30-4:00 Wrap-up

We are grateful for the generous support of donors who have made possible this collaboration between the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and the Jewish Community Relations Council, New York.


David Ellenson is director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and visiting professor in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University. Chancellor-emeritus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, he served as president of HUC-JIR from 2001-2013. A scholar of modern Jewish thought and history, Ellenson is recognized for his writings and publications in these fields. He has written extensively on the origins and development of Orthodox Judaism in Germany during the Nineteenth Century, Orthodox legal writings on conversion in Israel, North America, and Europe during the modern era, the relationship between religion and state in Israel, the history of modern Jewish religious movements, and American Jewish life. Ellenson has authored or edited seven books and over 300 articles and reviews in a wide variety of academic and popular journals and newspapers. His book, After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity, won the National Jewish Book Council’s award as outstanding book in Jewish Thought in 2005. As of Fall 2015 at Brandeis, he will be teaching a course on "Who is a Jew? Jewish Status and Identity in Israel and America." More...

Rachel Fish '13 is associate director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, Brandeis University. She completed her doctoral degree in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department at Brandeis University in 2013.  Her dissertation, "Configurations of Bi-nationalism: The Transformation of Bi-nationalism in Palestine/Israel 1920's-Present," examines the history of the idea of bi-nationalism and alternative visions for constructing the State of Israel. Rachel has worked as an educator and consultant in various capacities in the Jewish community and higher education, teaching about Zionism and Israeli history at Brandeis University, UMASS Amherst and the Me’ah Adult Jewish Education program. At Brandeis she teaches the Myra Kraft seminar on Israel at the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. In 2015 she held the Rohr Visiting Professorship at Harvard University where she lectured on modern Israel and received the Derek Bok Certificate of Teaching Excellence. From her blog...

Hussein Ibish is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. He is a weekly columnist for The National (UAE) and Now Media, and a monthly contributing writer for The International New York Times. Ibish is also a regular contributor to many other American and Middle Eastern publications. Many of his writings are archived on his Ibishblog website. His most recent book is What’s Wrong with the One-State Agenda? (ATFP, 2009). Ibish was included in all three years (2011, 2012 and 2013) of Foreign Policy‘s “Twitterati 100." Ibish previously served as a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), Executive Director of the Foundation for Arab-American Leadership and Communications Director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Jonathan Marc Gribetz is an assistant professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies and in the Program in Judaic Studies at Princeton University. He teaches about the history of Zionism, Palestine, Israel, Jerusalem, and the Arab-Jewish encounter. His first book, Defining Neighbors: Religion, Race, and the Early Zionist-Arab Encounter (Princeton University Press, 2014), investigated the mutual perceptions of Zionists and Arabs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, showing the prominent place of religious and racial categories in the ways in which these communities imagined and related to one another. His current research focuses on post-1967 Palestinian nationalist interpretations of Judaism and Zionism. Gribetz earned a PhD in History from Columbia University, an MSt in Modern Jewish Studies from Oxford University, and an AB in Social Studies from Harvard University.

Yehudah Mirsky is associate professor of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis. He studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshiva College and received rabbinic ordination in Jerusalem. He graduated from Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the law review, and completed his PhD in Religion at Harvard. He worked in Washington as an aide to then-Senators Bob Kerrey and Al Gore, and at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and served in the Clinton Administration as special advisor in the US State Department's human rights bureau. From 2002-2012 he lived in Israel and was a fellow at the Van Leer Institute and Jewish People Policy Institute. He has written widely on politics, theology and culture for a number of publications including The New Republic and The Economist, and is on the editorial board of Eretz Acheret. After the attacks of September 11 he served as a volunteer chaplain for the Red Cross. He is currently a member of the board of Yerushalmim, the movement for a pluralist and livable Jerusalem. His biography, Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution, was published in 2014 by Yale University Press. At Brandeis he teaches courses on the nexus of religion, state and society.

Shahar Sadeh is is an adjunct instructor with the Columbia University, Earth Institute and a visiting scholar at NYU. Her field of Research is Environmental Peacemaking in the Middle East. She is investigating various case studies of the relations between Israel and its neighbors and looks into past and present (governmental and nongovernmental) efforts to establish Peace Parks on their mutual borders. Shahar received her degrees from Tel Aviv University, her BA from the Political Science Department and her MA from the Sociology and Anthropology Department writing her thesis about "The Israeli Environmental NGO's and the construction of the Security Fence." She is also Director, Faculty Engagement Initiative, at the Jewish Community Relations Council, New York.

Ilana Szobel is assistant professor on the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Chair in Hebrew Literature at Brandeis. Her recent book, The Poetics of Trauma: The Work of Dahlia Ravikovich (2013), was published as part of the Schusterman Series for Israel Studies.  It examines the work of Dahlia Ravikovich (1936-2005), one of the most significant cultural figures in Israeli society. In her teaching, Szobel presents the challenges posed by gender, war and peace, family structure, economic and cultural dislocation as compelling entry points for the study of Israeli society and culture.

Ilan Troen '63 is the Stoll Family Chair in Israel Studies at Brandeis and founding director of the Schusterman Center. Before joining Brandeis, he served as director of the Ben-Gurion Research Institute and Archives in Sede Boker, Israel, and dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He has authored or edited numerous books in American, Jewish and Israeli history. He is the founding editor of Israel Studies (Indiana University Press), the leading journal in the field, publishing three issues annually on behalf of Brandeis and Ben-Gurion University. His book publications include Jewish Centers and Peripheries: European Jewry Between America and Israel 50 Years after World War II (1998); The Americanization of Israel (2001), with Glenda Abramson; Divergent Jewish Cultures: Israel and America (2001), with Deborah Dash-Moore; Imagining Zion: Dreams, Designs and Realities in a Century of Jewish Settlement (2003); with Jacob Lassner, Jews and Muslims in the Arab World; Haunted by Pasts Real and Imagined (2007); with Maoz Azaryahu (eds.), Tel Aviv, The First Century: Visions, Designs, Actualities (2012); and with Donna Robinson Divine (eds.), Zionism in the Twenty-First Century (2014). More...


Thair Abu Rass is the former director for Fair Representation and Employment Equity at Sikkuy – The Association for the Advancement of Civic Rights in Israel. Rass advocates for Arab employment in the public sector, including meetings with government ministries and government companies. He researches and analyzes the status of Arab employment in Israel.  Rass serves as an advisor to the Knesset subcommittee on the employment of Arabs in the public sector.  He is currently pursuing his M.A. at the University of Houston in political science, with an emphasis on comparative politics and American politics.

Steven Bayme serves as director of the Contemporary Jewish Life Department of the American Jewish Committee and of the Koppelman Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations. His responsibilities include Jewish family issues, Jewish education, Israel-Diaspora relations, Jewish identity and continuity, and intra-Jewish relations. He holds undergraduate degrees in history from Yeshiva University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Jewish history from Columbia University.  He has lectured widely across the country and taught at Yeshiva University, Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, and Queens College.  He currently holds the rank of Visiting Associate Professor of History at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He has published articles on family policy, intermarriage, liberal Judaism, Jewish parenting, Jewish responses to modernity, Jewish attitudes on terrorism and violence, and modern Orthodoxy in America. His volume Understanding Jewish History: Texts and Commentary is widely used in adult education. He has been widely cited in the media on Jewish communal issues and was profiled in Lifestyles magazine. Three times he has been named in the Forward’s annual list of the top 50 Jewish leaders who “make a difference”.  

Peter Beinart is associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York. He is also a contributor to The Atlantic and National Journal, a senior columnist at Haaretz, a CNN political commentator, and a senior fellow at The New America Foundation. His first book, The Good Fight, was published by HarperCollins in 2006; his second, The Icarus Syndrome, was published by HarperCollins in 2010; his third, The Crisis of Zionism, was published by Times Books in 2012. Beinart has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Newsweek, Slate, Reader’s Digest, Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Polity: the Journal of the Northeastern Political Science Studies Association. He has appeared on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” “Charlie Rose,” “Meet the Press,” “The Colbert Report” and many other television programs. After graduating from University College, Oxford, Beinart became The New Republic’s managing editor in 1995. He became senior editor in 1997, and from 1999 to 2006 served as the magazine’s editor.

Michael Miller is the Executive Vice President and CEO, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.  For more than two decades, Michael Miller has served as the Executive Vice President and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, a central coordinating body for more than 60 major civic, communal, educational and religious organizations representing the 1.4 million members of the Jewish community in the New York metropolitan area.  His responsibilities include overseeing the organization’s agenda, which includes handling Israel and international affairs, security and emergency planning, intergroup and government relations, Jewish voter outreach, Jewish communal affairs, and Jewish legal assistance.  Michael is recognized as one of the foremost influential leaders of the New York Jewish community.  Mr. Miller has personally led more than 60 missions, accompanying to Israel over 500 influential New Yorkers, including former Senator Clinton and current Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Mayors Dinkins, Giuliani Bloomberg, and De Blasio, numerous members of Congress and State and City legislative leaders, media figures, and ethnic and religious notables.