Fellowship to bring Israeli parliamentarians to U.S.

Jay Ruderman '88 instrumental in helping Knesset members learn about American Jewry

Jay Ruderman '88

While much time and money has been devoted to strengthening the connection that Jews in the United States feel toward Israel, Jay Ruderman '88 worries about the bond between the Israeli political leadership and the American Jewish community.

In hopes of helping political leaders in Israel develop a deeper understanding about the Jewish community in the U.S., the Ruderman Family Foundation has partnered with Brandeis to bring Knesset members to this country for a week of meetings with leading scholars, community leaders, and professionals.

"As I have gotten to know ministers and members of the Knesset, I saw the need to educate them about the American Jewish diaspora," says Ruderman, the president of his family foundation. "A surprisingly large number of elected officials in Israel don't have a strong understanding of what makes the American Jewish community tick -- its influence, complexity, cultural richness, and connections to the political and business communities. This program is designed to address that and to build deeper relationships between our two communities."

The inaugural class of Ruderman Fellows -- Finance Committee chair Carmel Shama and Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Avi Dichter and Ronit Tirosh (Kadima), and Eitan Cabel and Danny Ben Simon (Labor) -- will visit Waltham, Boston and New York from April 3-8. The Fellows were chosen by an Advisory Committee that included Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan (Likud), former Minister of Welfare Isaac Herzog (Labor), and former Minister of Internal Security Avi Dichter (Kadima).

"As these Ruderman Fellows represent the spectrum of Israeli political leadership," Ruderman says, "we hope that this program will enhance their knowledge and decision-making in the Knesset and the government."

While in Waltham, the Ruderman Fellows will participate in sessions with several Brandeis scholars, including Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History; Leonard Saxe, the Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies and director of the Steinhardt Social Research Institute; and Ilan Troen '64, the Karl, Harry and Helen Stoll Professor of Israel Studies and director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies.

Ruderman Fellows will also meet leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Federations of North America, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, representatives from the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox streams; and officials from various Jewish federations, philanthropies, educational institutions, and media.

Ruderman's involvement in politics extends back to his days at Brandeis, when he was active in the Student Senate. He served as a freshman senator, then became treasurer before being elected president at the end of his sophomore year.

"Politics has always been a passion of mine," Ruderman says. "I've always thought politics was an avenue to help people and improve society."

During his one-year term as president, the Student Senate pushed the Brandeis administration to divest its holdings in companies doing business in South Africa to protest apartheid.

"We had sit-downs and shanty towns," Ruderman remembers. "It was an exciting time and an important issue, not just at Brandeis but on campuses everywhere. I had my battles with (then-president) Evelyn Handler."

At Brandeis, Ruderman developed a close relationship with longtime politics professor Ruth Morgenthau, a noted expert on aid to Africa who served as an adviser to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter. Ruderman served as her field manager during Morgenthau's unsuccessful race for Congress in Rhode Island in 1988.

After graduating with honors from Brandeis, Ruderman earned a degree from the Boston University School of Law. He worked as an assistant district attorney in Essex County (north of Boston) before joining AIPAC as New England deputy director.

Ruderman made aliyah to Israel with his family in 2005 and enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), where he served as liaison between the IDF and the Jewish diaspora. He later rejoined AIPAC, in Jerusalem, before taking over as president of his family foundation 2 1-2 years ago.

Categories: International Affairs

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