An online exhibition highlights the Jacob Hiatt Institute in Jerusalem (1961-1983)

February 2, 2024

In celebration of Brandeis University's 75th anniversary, the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies presents "The Jacob Hiatt Institute in Jerusalem, 1961-1983."

This online exhibition illuminates a little-known chapter in the university’s history, and the enduring legacy of the university's pioneering program, which launched when both Israel and Brandeis were just 13 years old.

The Hiatt Institute revolutionized study abroad, introducing a thrilling new pedagogical concept: the country as classroom. Experiential learning complemented and transcended traditional classroom learning. Field trips, site visits, meetings with various experts and public figures –among them Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion – gave participants an intimate understanding of the land, its history, culture, and people.

The exhibition takes viewers inside the participant experience with archival materials, photos, and first-hand alumni accounts. The crown jewel is a rare 13-minute film that recent Brandeis graduate Wintana Sium ’23, who developed the exhibition, discovered during her extensive research in the Brandeis archives. This living artifact transports viewers back in time, embedding them in the 1967 cohort and offering a vivid taste of the Hiatt Institute student experience.

In its 22 years, the Hiatt Institute gave hundreds of students from Brandeis and other prestigious American universities a unique and sometimes life-altering educational experience, while laying the groundwork for partnerships between American and Israeli institutions of higher learning.

The program’s success inspired other institutions and organizations, which emulated the Hiatt Institute model. This chapter in Brandeisian history exemplifies the University’s innovative character, its leadership and impact in the world of higher education.

Philanthropist Jacob Hiatt (1905-2001), a visionary Lithuanian Jewish immigrant, endowed the Institute, as well as the University’s Hiatt Career Development Center. He funded numerous educational programs beyond Brandeis, donating millions and advancing global literacy and scholarship in the US and Israel. His daughter Myra Kraft ’64 (1942-2011) and son-in-law Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, carry on his legacy, funding many educational initiatives over the years, among them the Myra Kraft Seminar in Israel, an integral component of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis.