Brandeis hosts scholarly look at the Balfour Declaration on the eve of its centenary

In hosting the 33rd annual meeting of the Association for Israel Studies, Brandeis drew hundreds of scholars to campus

Leon Wieseltier, American writer, critic, amateur philosopher and magazine editor, speaks with Ilan Troen '63, founding director of the Schusterman Center and president of the Association for Israel Studies at the AIS

Leon Wieseltier, keynote speaker at the 33rd annual Association for Israel Studies conference at Brandeis, in discussion with Ilan Troen '63, founding director of Brandeis' Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and AIS president. Wiesltier received an honorary degree from Brandeis in 2013.

Brandeis hosted the 33rd annual meeting of the Association for Israel Studies (AIS) from June 12-14, 2017. The premiere setting for the sharing of Israel studies scholarship each year, the conference drew 450 participants who traveled from China, India, Israel, South America and Europe, as well as North America, to Brandeis. The conference was organized by Brandeis’ Schusterman Center for Israel Studies for the second time since 2011.

The theme of the multidisciplinary conference, "A Century After Balfour: Vision and Reality," provided a lens for scholars to examine topics such as Israel in the context of the Middle East; relations among Diaspora Jews, the Zionist movement and the State of Israel; the meaning of a Jewish homeland; the imperative to secure the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities, and the role of international institutions in implementing the declaration.  

The Balfour Declaration, a letter issued by British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild on Nov. 2, 1917 endorsed “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” and was the first political recognition of the Zionists’ aims by a foreign government.

Over the course of the three-day conference, participants presented and discussed the latest Israel studies scholarship in 99 panels and several roundtable discussions. Key events included plenary sessions reflecting on “Fifty Years since 1967,” and examining the “Role of NGO’s Inside/Outside of Israel.”

After opening remarks from Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz, Leon Wieseltier, Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at the Brookings Institution, gave the keynote address and second annual Ilan Troen Lecture on Contemporary Israel Affairs, “Reflections on the Balfour Declaration." Wieseltier discussed the the seminal document's impact on the Zionist Movement and on world politics over the last 100 years.

More than 50 years ago, Brandeis, under the legendary Ben Halpern, was the first American university to offer a continuing program in Israel Studies. Former Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz later played a fundamental role in the expansion of Israel Studies at the University.

As the founding director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, AIS President Ilan Troen ’63, who retires this month as Karl, Harry and Helen Stoll Professor of Israel Studies, was instrumental in the shaping and growth of the field of Israel Studies at Brandeis and throughout the world. The Schusterman Center, now under the direction of David Ellenson, runs the Summer Institute for Israel Studies, which over its first 13 years has prepared nearly 300 faculty members from institutions worldwide to teach about Israel in the social sciences and humanities. Nearly 70 Summer Institute alumni returned to Brandeis for the AIS conference, which was made by possible through the support of the Israel Institute, the Schusterman Family Foundation, the Ruderman Foundation, and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston.

Categories: International Affairs

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