Amb. Shapiro '91 hosts Lawrences, Israeli alums

Brandeis supporters at US ambassador's residence cheer end of Gaza fighting

Amb. Dan Shapiro's posting on his Facebook page of the Brandeis Alumni Club of Israel reception.

President Fred Lawrence, Dr. Kathy Lawrence and more than 200 alumni, parents and friends of Brandeis in Israel celebrated the special relationship between the university and the country last Wednesday, just as Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire that ended eight days of hostilities.

The long-scheduled Alumni Club of Israel reception in honor of the Lawrences turned into a joyous celebration of the peace, and no one seemed to mind that the host – U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro ’91, who helped forge the cease-fire – was late to his own party.

As Lawrence began to greet attendees at the Herzliya residence of the ambassador and his wife, Julie Fisher ’90, Shapiro arrived home after speaking by phone with U.S. President Barack Obama and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

“Well, Dan, there are two people whom you call ‘my president,’ ” a smiling Lawrence told Shapiro as the crowd laughed.

Lawrence spoke of the historic ties between Israel and Brandeis, both birthed by visionary leaders in 1948, and told the crowd about the burgeoning partnerships between Brandeis and Israel’s leading universities.

“Our students and faculty will be strengthened by our profoundly broad and sustained engagement with Israel's institutions of higher learning,” Lawrence said. “It’s a natural partnership given Brandeis’ identity as a nonsectarian, diverse university with deep roots in the Jewish community.”

This was Lawrence’s third visit to Israel since becoming president of Brandeis in January 2011. During his earlier visits, he met with leaders of all of the region’s major research universities (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Weizmann Institute of Science, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Al-Quds University) to discuss establishing faculty research partnerships and student exchange programs. Lawrence has also toured Israeli high schools and spoken with potential Brandeis students, and attended alumni events in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Shapiro had canceled all of last week’s events at the residence except one – the reception for the Lawrences – so he could focus on achieving a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

“We were determined to hold the Brandeis event as scheduled and even had a backup plan that I would deliver Dan’s speech if he was at the prime minister’s office,” Fisher said. “Happily, the timing worked out in our favor. Several people commented that they will remember the announcement and where they were at this particular point in history.”

Shapiro and Fisher were impressed with Lawrence and believe he is the right man to lead the university at this critical time in its history.

“It is clear that President Lawrence exemplifies the values that Brandeis holds dear,” Fisher said. “It was inspiring to hear him speak of Brandeis’ commitment to high-quality academic research in an environment that also values teaching; the social activism and commitment to social justice that continues to be a vibrant part of campus life; and the extensive ties between Brandeis and the people and academic institutions in Israel.”

After Lawrence spoke, Shapiro shared details of the journey that took him from Brandeis student – he majored in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies – to one of the world’s top diplomatic posts. Other speakers were Forsan Hussein ’00, CEO of the Jerusalem YMCA, and Galia Golan-Gild ’60, a professor at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and academic director of the government program at the institution’s Raphael Recanati International School.

“Especially coming on the evening that a cease-fire was reached, this event really underscored the unique nature of the Brandeis-Israel relationship,” said Glen Shear ’81, president of the Alumni Club of Israel. “We look forward to developing more exciting club programming for the more than 400 Brandeis alumni who call Israel home.”

Before the Lawrences traveled to Israel, they stopped in London for the Alumni Club of Great Britain’s Alumni-Student Thanksgiving Day Tea. They were welcomed by a large crowd at the 25th annual event, which was coordinated by club president Joan Givner Bovarnick, Ph.D.’69, and hosted by Alberta Gotthardt Strage ’56 and her husband, Henry.

Categories: Alumni, General

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