Meet the undergraduates selected for the Frances Taylor Eizenstat '65 Undergraduate Israel Travel Grant Program.
Ezra Cohen ’19 is a double major in Psychology and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. This summer he traveled to Israel to conduct research for his senior thesis, which explores the interaction between halakha (Jewish law) and mental illness. His thesis pays special attention to halakhic sensitivities to mental illness, in particular, to instances of alteration and even suspension of standard halakhic obligations for observant Jews struggling with mental illness. Ezra interviewed mental health professionals, hospital chaplains, and religious authorities to inform his understanding of how halakha is applied differentially to mentally ill individuals. He sought to answer questions about when Jewish law pardons a mentally ill individual from halakhic strictures; how mental health professionals operating in religious communities employ the guidance of rabbis and spiritual authorities when treating mentally ill individuals; and how religious authorities utilize the advice of mental health professionals in dispensing religious guidance to such individuals. He hoped his research would ultimately contribute to the treatment of mental health in observant Jewish communities by bringing halakha and mental health into dialogue with one another. Ezra is considering career paths in the rabbinate and in psychology and believes his experience this past summer will help him determine which professional path to follow.
Shai Dinnar ’20 is double majoring in Neuroscience and Business. Before entering Brandeis, she participated in a Social Leadership Gap Year in Israel, learning about Israeli societal issues with a group of Israeli youth, while leading projects aimed at developing future solutions. This spurred her interest in social entrepreneurship, which she explored upon enrolling in Brandeis. Here, she joined a small group of Heller school graduate students at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management to found a technology startup providing economic empowerment to refugees worldwide, and discovered her passion for the startup community. These experiences shaped her current career interests, which she was able to pursue this summer in Israel, famously known as Startup Nation. Shai worked as a Business Development Intern at Neura, a Tel Aviv-based technology startup company specializing in mobile artificial intelligence (AI). This internship combined her Neuroscience major focus in artificial intelligence and machine learning with her Business major entrepreneurship skills. The notable gender imbalance in both technology and the startup industry often results in barriers to women seeking to enter these fields; this internship served as a critical entry point for this young female entrepreneur into the Israeli startup ecosystem.
Haley Director ‘20 majors in Biology and minors in Spanish. She was offered an internship position, through Onward Israel,* in the lab of the influential geneticist Yosef Gruenbaum, a professor and researcher at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This internship is highly coveted by students interested in pursuing a career in genetics and is very competitive. Professor Gruenbaum is very influential in the genetics community. He and his team have published several papers that have changed the field of genetics; they continue to make discoveries that contribute substantively to scientific understanding of the genetic foundation of a number of diseases. Haley was assigned to one of the scientist’s current research projects, and her work this past summer could contribute to a scientific paper the lab may eventually publish on the study’s findings. She was excited to have the opportunity to be part of this work, which could have such profound and concrete impact on vital issues in human health. Through this internship, Haley hoped to gain a deeper understanding of the interplay between genetic and biological processes, which, coupled with this work experience, has moved her closer to her chosen career as genetic counselor.
Gavi Kutliroff ’19 majors in East Asian Studies. He spent the summer at the Gershom Scholem Library in Jerusalem, researching and preparing to write his senior thesis, a comparison of Hasidic and Taoist concepts of the self and ego-death. Gavi received access to the Library’s extraordinary collection of Hasidic texts from the past several hundred years, and had the Library’s director, Zvi Leshem, as his mentor. The relationship between Jewish and Taoist philosophies is virtually unstudied; only a handful of scholars have written on the subject, and most of them live in Israel. Gavi arranged to meet with several of them. This opportunity granted him access to rare texts, and rare access to the small community of scholars working in this area of study. It also gave him the time he needed to focus and develop his ideas before he begins writing. Gavi is considering a career in academia, exploring more deeply the philosophical relationship between Judaism and the religions and cultures of the Far East. This opportunity to engage in deep and serious scholarship helped Gavi determine that he does in fact wish to pursue an academic career, and when he does, this experience was an enormously helpful step in that direction.
Jerry Miller ‘19 double majors in Economics and Computer Science. Over winter break he took part in the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) Student Leadership Mission to Israel, a program that aims to empower Jewish student leaders with the tools to fight anti-Zionist sentiment on campus. Participants spent time in the West Bank, meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials. They also visited residents of Palestinian villages and cities, as well as Israelis living in nearby Jewish settlements. Motivated by his interest in the Israeli political economy, Jerry was particularly interested in gaining a nuanced understanding of the impact that Jewish West Bank settlements have on both the Israeli and the Palestinian economies. Through firsthand interactions with Palestinian workers in West Bank-based Israeli factories, Jerry discovered that some viewed Israeli settlements as the source of significant economic opportunities to which they would not otherwise have access. This information challenged the black and white view of the Jewish settlements as a divisive obstacle to peace so often conveyed in Western media. In highlighting a different perspective on the situation, the experience demonstrated how the the Jewish settlements could have a positive impact on both the Palestinian and Israeli eonomies, while also offering opportunities to connect the area’s Palestinian and Jewish residents in productive ways.
Hadas Nahar ‘20 is a Psychology major. This summer, through Onward Israel,* she was an intern at Beit Ha’Gefen, an Arab-Jewish Cultural Center in Haifa. The organization aims to bring together Arabs and Jews to build a shared society in Haifa and in Israel, promoting coexistence and tolerance and providing tools to navigate the complex issues of a multicultural society. Hadas was eager to learn about and participate in Arab-Jewish coexistence efforts, and was excited by the prospect of contributing to this important work. From a career standpoint, this internship helped expand her skill set and build her resume, while also enabling her to explore her professional interests. In her work at Beit Ha’Gefen, Hadas saw firsthand how a non-profit organization functions and learned about fundraising, management, and community work. On a personal level, Hadas wished to strengthen her connection with Israel. While there, she hopds to advance her Hebrew language skills, building upon her Hebrew School education, and moving towards fluency.
* Onward Israel is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide young Jewish adults ages 18-26 foster a connection with Israel while connecting them with opportunities to further develop their professional interests.
Maytal Babajanian ‘19 double majors in Biology and the Health: Science, Society and Policy (HSSP) program. She is spending August through December of 2017 participating in Tel Aviv University’s Voyage to Medicine fall semester program. Through the program, Maytal is gaining experience in one of the Tel Aviv area's finest hospitals and its medical institutions, taking academic courses and getting hands-on hospital experience, under the tutelage of expert physicians in the field. That hands-on experience includes shadowing medical professionals, volunteering as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and spending time in various medical units, including the ER and OR, Pediatrics, Orthopedics, and Gynecology.
Mya Goodman ’18 double majors in Education Studies and African and Afro-American Studies. This summer Mya interned with Onward Israel’s Diversity and Social Justice Program in Haifa. In her time there, Mya developed skills in cross-cultural communication and community organizing. She appreciated the opportunity to help facilitate positive relationships amongst Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs at her internship as well as in her day-to-day interactions with Haifa residents. Mya's blog post
Rebecca Hersch ‘19, a Sociology major double minoring in Religious Studies and Near Eastern and Judaic studies, interned with the Yerushalmit movement, through the Onward Israel program. The internship involved community organizing for Israeli sociopolitical change, including fieldwork, promoting grassroots campaigns and conducting fundraising research. The Yerushalmit Movement works to empower social activists and foster pluralism in neighborhoods throughout Jerusalem, with the aim of strengthening the city’s human capital, improving quality of life and preventing negative migration. Rebecca's blog post
Yael Jaffe ‘18 triple majors in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and Sociology. This summer, she participated in the Hartman Institute's iEngage Internship, serving as a research assistant and attending classes taught by Hartman faculty. Yael enjoyed the opportunity to develop connections with the other students in her cohort and with the Institute as whole. During her time at the Hartman Institute, she worked to develop salient connections between academia and lived Jewish experiences. Yael's blog post
Tova Perlman ‘18, an Art History major, spent her winter break researching the politics of street art and issues of gentrification and urbanization in Tel Aviv for her senior thesis. After spending the previous summer in Harlem working on murals and street art, Tova became fascinated with the positive and negative impacts that street art can have on a neighborhood. She decided to use Tel Aviv as a case study for cross-cultural analysis and comparison, exploring the relationship between residents of Tel Aviv and the street artists who operate there. Tova's blog post
Doron Shapir ‘19, who majors in International and Global Studies is preparing for a political career in Israel, where he hopes to work towards a better reality and a peaceful future in Israel. He began that journey this summer when he interns with Israeli Member of Knesset Yoel Hasson, gaining hands-on experience in the political and legislative work he plans to pursue after he graduates. In tandem with his Knesset internship, Doron also interned with Roots, an initiative led by a joint Palestinian and Israeli committee, based in the West Bank, which endeavors to lay the groundwork for “a reality in which future agreements between our governments can be built.” Doron assisted Roots’ efforts to coordinate between Palestinian communities and the Israel Civil Administration. Doron's blog post
Our first two grantees for 2015-2016 are Sophie Brickman '16 who double-majors in Psychology and Health: Science, Society and Policy; and Gabriel Sanders '17 whose double-major is Economics and Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies.
At the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma this Winter: "I always thought I wanted to work with people in a clinical setting, which I still enjoy, but my work at the center has helped me discover how much I love research." Sophie's blog
Gabriel has completed a Spring semester abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examining "the intricacies and complexities surrounding Israeli and Palestinian identity." Gabriel's blog
They are joined by the three more students in Israel over the summer: Camille Brenner '17, majoring in African and Afro-American Studies and volunteering on Kaima Farm, working alongside Israeli youth who have dropped out of school; Jared Kraay '19, majoring in Near Eastern & Judaic Studies and doing research at Shalem College; and Austin Shanabrook '18, majoring in Anthropology and Near Eastern & Judaic Studies, interning with the Israeli Antiquities Authority excavations in the ancient city of Hazor.
Emily Dworkin studies politics and economics and is enrolled in the Harvard spring honors program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
"Taking economics classes at Hebrew University, interacting with professors and interning in Jerusalem will all offer me a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about Israel through a hands-on approach." Emily's blog
Ohad Elhelo is a Slifka Scholar at Brandeis, studying business and economics. In July 2014 he returned to Israel to serve with fellow military reservists in Operation Protective Edge. Upon his return he spoke to a crowd of 3,000 people about the need for a 'new infrascructure of hope' and video of his speech went viral.
Ohad utilized the travel grant to expand the work of "Our Generation Speaks," formed to empower young Israeli, Palestinian and American college students and to promote productive conversation surrounding the conflict.
Hannah Kober is double-majoring in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, and language and linguistics. In Israel, she conducted research for her senior honors thesis on the motivations of Mizrahi youth to participate in Arabic language programs in Israel. Hanna's blog
Ilana Rosenbaum majors in psychology with a minor in health policy and Near Eastern and Judaic studies. Having a leadership position in the TAMID Israel Investment Group at Brandeis, she is able to fuse her passion about Israel and innovation together with her academic pursuits at her internship with Innovation: Africa (iA).
"iA is a non-profit organization that brings Israeli solar and agricultural technologies to African villages to improve the lives of rural African people and, in doing so, improves the image of Israel around the world." Ilana's blog and podcast
Ethan Stein graduates in 2015 with a triple-major in computer science, film, and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. He spent two weeks in Israel researching the Israeli technology sector and start-up scene, particularly with regards to cyber security. Stein is both an entrepreneur, having launched CyberSecurityPlan, and an award-winning student filmmaker.
Coming from a frigid, record-breaking winter in Waltham, nothing was more exciting to me than visiting the warm region in the Middle East...or so I thought. As my first meeting grew closer, news came that Jerusalem was expecting a major snow storm. Just my luck! Ethan's blog
Mirit Gendelman double-majored in International & Global Studies and Business. She used her award to study at Hebrew University, Spring 2014, in the Jerusalem Honors Program at the Rothberg International School. Gendelman appreciated the opportunity to immerse herself in Israeli society, and further her understanding of Israeli economic and business practices.
"Hierarchy systems in Israeli companies are for the most part pretty lax in comparison to the US. For instance, I was constantly having one-on-one meetings with the managing partner." Mirit's blog
Kochava Ayoun is double majoring in Psychology and International & Global Studies, with a minor in Film. The grant is funding her senior thesis research on the gap between the intentions and implementations of international treaties pertaining to women and children. While in Israel she will interview women, their children, judges, lawyers and social workers to gain insight into the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction as applied in Israeli courts. Kochava's blog
Viktoria Bedo majored in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. In Israel she interned as a research assistant in the Hartman Institute's iEngage program. Her impetus for working there was to narrow her research focus, and prepare for the rigor needed for graduate study in the field of modern Jewish studies.
"First, I worked on a preparing a source sheet for a lecture my mentor was giving on the value of compromise, with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Viki's blog
Eliezer Buechler majored in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. He assisted on an archaeological dig at Tel Abel Beth Maacah in Northern Israel. The excavation is a joint project between Azusa Pacific University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in collaboration with Cornell University.
"The archaeological dig at Abel Beth Maacah is entering its third week of excavations. I have worked for the past three weeks in Area ‘F’ unearthing the once powerful Aramean city in Northern Israel." Eliezer's blog
Catriona Stewart majored in English. She spent the summer of 2014 as a Resource Development intern for Kav LaOved, a non-profit organization that aims to protect and promote the rights of the most disadvantaged workers in Israel. Catriona's blog