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Center for Israel Studies | 2008-2010 News Notes


Center for Israel Studies
Battelle Tompkins, Room T39

Center for Israel Studies
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016

News & Events Briefs

Alli Gold

President's Award Winner

AU President Dr. Neil Kerwin presented Allison “Alli” Gold with the President’s Award at commencement exercises in May 2010.  The President’s Award is the highest award presented to undergraduate students and is presented to the senior (or seniors) whose accomplishments over the course of his or her undergraduate years are truly exceptional and reflect the highest ideals of American University.

Ms. Gold is a magna cum laude graduate majoring in political science, with minors in Environmental Studies and Israel Studies. Her interests and interdisciplinary coursework led to an internship with the Environmental Protection Agency, travel to Israel’s Negev desert to study rainwater harvesting and wastewater management, and internships with the U.S. State Department and the Embassy of Israel. Her contributions on campus include serving as vice president of the Jewish Student Association, coordinating the Freshman Service Experience, and serving as a mentor and teacher in SPA’s Leadership Program. After graduation, Alli was awarded an Oakridge Fellowship at the Environmental Protection Agency and is working in the EPA Office of Water.


Conference: "Israel in a Time of Global Change"

May 17, 2010

American University’s Center for Israel Studies hosted the second annual academic conference cosponsored with The American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), “Israel in a Time of Global Change.” The all-day conference featured twelve of Israel’s leading scholars, all part of AICE’s Visiting Israeli Scholars Program, who addressed topics such as

  • “Complexities of Israeli Citizenship: The Jewish and Democratic Nature of the State”
  • “Are Images from Israel ‘Jewish’?–A Filmmaker’s Perspective”
  • “Maintaining Jewish Identity in an Era of Globalization.”

Download Program with schedule, speaker bios, registration info.


Reading and Discussion Group

Monday April 26, 2010, 7 p.m.

This scholar-led discussion of Israeli author Savyon Leibrecht's stories was part of the popular AU Library Reading and Discussion Group "Cartographies of Upheaval: Fiction About World Jewry in the Twentieth Century." The lecturer/moderator was Lauren Strauss and the series was cosponsored by The Center for Israel Studies and Jewish Studies program.  


The Future of Human Rights in Israel

March 22, 4-6 pm  
On March 22, from 4-6 p.m., the Washington College of Law hosted a roundtable discussion on the future of human rights in Israel in honor of the 25th anniversary of the US-Israel Civil Liberties Law Fellows Program.  Spearheaded by CIS Faculty Advisor and WCL Professor Herman Schwartz, the Program has been instrumental in creating a human rights bar in Israel.


"Change in Israeli Politics: Why Has the Left Weakened? Are Ethnic Influences Growing – Russians, Arabs, Mizrahim?"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Dr. Maurice Roumani, Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Visiting Professor of Israeli Studies, moderated a fascinating conversation about the current state of Israeli politics with panelists Dr. Yoram Peri, Kay Chair in Israel Studies, University of Maryland and Dr. Sammy Smooha, Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Dr. Peri spoke to the issue of the decline of the Labor Party. He said this decline is not a new phenomenon, but has been occurring since 1967, before which the right wing was irrelevant.  Over time the Labor Party (which had been in existence even before the State) experienced a lack of innovation and inability to attract major ethnic and minority groups, in particular, Mizrahim, Russians and Millenials.  Dr. Smooha spoke on the impact of minority groups on the political and social systems within the country, including the continuing social divide between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, and the situation of Israeli Arabs, whose parties have not been part of any governing coalition, creating a sense of disenfranchisement from the system. Following their discussion, the speakers held a lively question and answer session with the audience. Topics included whether the political system in Israel needs reform and where the various parties stand on the issue of the "democratic" and "Jewish" nature of the state.  

The event was co-sponsored by the Center for Israel Studies, the School of International Service, and Middle East Studies @ AU.


Hadag Nahash
at AU

March 3
We were thrilled to welcome superstar Israeli hip hop-funk band, Hadag Nahash to AU on March 3 for a "master class." Using video, the band walked the audience through the creation of some of their most popular songs like "The Sticker Song," as well as the stories behind their music included in the Adam Sandler movie, You Don't Mess With the Zohan. Lead singer Sha'anan Street and the rest of the band answered questions from the audience about their music and life as Israeli musicians. The highlight was a jam session with the band and AU student singers and musicians. The event was cosponsored by Center for Israel Studies, AUSFI, and Hillel.


Dancing Israeli Identity: Looking Backward, Looking Forward

Celebrated Israeli dance choreographer, Idan Cohen led a discussion and demonstation on February 18 about how dance can provide a window in Israeli life and culture. American Today wrote an article about the event.


Israel: A Mosaic of Peoples, Part 2 Panel Discussion

February 23, 2010

Following the success of a similar panel in October, The Center for Israel Studies cosponsored a student initiative to bring a cultural panel to AU to speak about the experience of the Soviet, Ethiopian and Indian minorities in Israel.  The fascinating panel included Dr. Rakefet Zalashik, Berman Visiting professor at the University of Virginia, Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein, an Ethiopian Israeli and post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education and Mr. Solomon Saul, an Indian-Israeli who works in the hi-tech sector. 

Dr. Maina Chawla Singh and colleagues

Being Indian,
Being Israeli:
Migration, Culture, & Identity in the Jewish Homeland

On November 17, 2009 over 100 guests attended a Center for Israel Studies hosted book talk at American University featuring Dr. Maina Chawla Singh, author of Being Indian, Being Israeli: Migration, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Jewish Homeland (New Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 2009). The ground-breaking book, about Israel’s large Indian immigrant population, is based on ethnographic research and over 150 interviews with members of Israel's Indian Jewish community. Dr. Singh teaches at the University of Delhi and is currently American University Patrick Clendenen Scholar-in-Residence. Dr. Singh is married to Ambassador Arun Singh, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of India to the United States. Ambassador and Doctor Singh lived in Israel from 2005-2008 when Ambassador Singh served as India's Ambassador to Israel. 

Following her lecture, Dr. Singh was joined by Sally Oren, wife of the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, and herself an immigrant to Israel. Together Dr. Singh and Mrs. Oren discussed ethnicity and the immigrant experience in Israel. They are pictured above with Laura Cutler (CIS), Ambassador Michael Oren, Ambassador Arun Singh, and Russell Stone (CIS).

The event was co-sponsored by AJC, AU Center for Israel Studies, AU Jewish Studies Program, AU School of International Service, AU Students for Israel, and AU South Asian Students Association. See more Event Photos.

Screening of Israeli TV Show, A Touch Away

October 27, 2009 and January 21, 2010

In October the Center for Israel Studies and AU Students for Israel hosted a screening of Episode 2 of A Touch Away, an award-winning 8-part TV series in Israel. The setting is the Orthodox community of B'nei Brak and interactions between two Jewish Israeli households there—one, an established Orthodox family; the other, recent Russian secular immigrants. This forbidden love story between two young neighbors provides a realistic reflection of the social challenges facing today's increasingly diverse Israeli society. The post-screening discussion was so lively that on January 21 we rescreened an early episode of the series and then showed the final episode, followed by a fascinating discussion on the issue of pluralism in Israel. 

Israel: A Mosaic of Peoples Panel Discussion

October, 1, 2009
The Center for Israel Studies cosponsored a student initiative to bring a cultural panel to AU to speak about the experience of ethnic minorities in Israel. The panel included American University Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Visiting Professor, Dr. Maurice Roumani, Dr. Salman Elbedour of Howard University, and Shaden Badan, a private attorney. The three guests spoke to a packed audience in the SIS Lounge about their experiences respectively as a Libyan Jew, Israeli Bedouin, and Christian Arab-Israeli. Dr. Elbedour and Ms. Badan spoke about the possibliity of their minority groups being an important bridge for peace in the region. In an animated and entertaining exchange, all three agreed their groups, each with Middle Eastern roots, had much in common, including their influence on the current rage for Middle Eastern food in Israel.

Interview with David Makovsky

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
See Recap

The AU Center for Israel Studies presented an interview with David Makovsky, Ziegler Distinguished Fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, discussing his groundbreaking new book, coauthored with Dennis Ross, Myths, Illusions, & Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East. Mr. Makovsky was interviewed by Hisham Melham, Washington bureau chief of Al-Arabiya, the Dubai based satellite channel. The event was cosponsored by AU's School of International Service.

Israel at a Crossroads Conference, May 12

Israel at a Crossroads Academic Conference

May 12, 2009
The Center for Israel Studies hosted a sold-out all-day academic conference, “Israel at a Crossroads,” with presentations by 12 visiting Israeli professors from around the country. The professors spoke in three different panels on the subjects of “Which Road to Peace,” “The Cultural Crossroad,” and “The Political Crossroad.” Dr. Yoram Peri, the AU Dollye and Wolford Berman Visiting Professor, gave an insightful and entertaining perspective on the 2009 Israeli elections—see the video: Part 1 (9:39) and Part 2 (5:55). The keynote address, on the challenges of Israel Studies on campus, was given by Dr. Mitchell Bard, the president of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, which cosponsored the conference and administers the visiting professor program. Please see the Conference Program for speaker bios and more information.

"This was so smoothly run and at such a high level that I hesitate to make any comments at all. The Center for Israel Studies is becoming a star at American University. Bravo!"—written survey comment from attendee at "Israel at a Crossroads" conference


Performance and Discussion with Idan Raichel

March 26, 2009
The Center for Israel Studies hosted Israeli singing sensations Idan Raichel and Kabra Kasai of the Idan Raichel Project in an intimate “unplugged” musical performance and discussion. Idan showed a clip from and discussed his new documentary film, Black Over White: On the Road to Ethiopia. The film, "part lighthearted road trip, part examination of multiculturalism in Israel, is a close-up ride with the young Israeli-Ethiopian-Yemenite band members, who muse on the loss of their heritage and on their excitement as tourists embracing roots in Africa." Idan and Kabra took questions from the enthusiastic audience of one hundred (at 8:30 am!), many focused on what it means to be a minority in Israel. The event was cosponsored by AU Hillel, the Embassy of Israel, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Israel in DC and TEEV Events. 


Discussion with Journalist Khaled Abu Toameh

March 4, 2009
The Center for Israel Studies cosponsored a student-led initiative to bring Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affairs reporter Khaled Abu Toameh to campus. He spoke to a mostly student audience about his experiences and outlook as an Israeli Arab observing developments in the Palestinian Authority and the rise of Hamas in Gaza. Students were fascinated to hear from an Israeli Arab, well connected in international journalism, talking about his experiences explaining Israel to foreign journalists.


Obama Administration and the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict

Jan. 28, 2009
The Center for Israel Studies's first program of the semester was a panel on the Obama Administration and the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, cosponsored with the AU School of International Service. The panel was organized and chaired by our colleague, Professor Boaz Atzili, and featured three distinguished speakers:

  • Amjad Atallah, Director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation
  • Aaron David Miller, Woodrow Wilson Center and former advisor on Arab-Israeli negotiations from 1978 to 2003
  • Yoram Peri, the Dollye and I. Wolford Berman Visiting Professor at the Center for Israel Studies.


Media & Politics: Yoram Peri

November 20, 2008
Former political advisor to Yitzhak Rabin and past editor of Israel’s daily, Davar, communications and media expert Yoram Peri delivered a post-election lecture entitled “Telepopulism: Media and Politics in Israel and the U.S.” Peri is the Dollye and Wolford Berman Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at American University. See video of Peri's insightful and entertaining perspective on the 2009 Israeli elections:
Part 1 (9:39)
Part 2 (5:55)


David Grossman Visits AU

Oct. 29, 2008
Acclaimed Novelist David Grossman Visits AU,
from American Today, October 31, 2008
Israeli novelist David Grossman shared insights on writing and the state of Israel at a lecture sponsored by American University’s Center for Israel Studies and the MFA Program in Creative Writing’s Visiting Writers Series.


Gil Shohat and Bavat Marom

September 18, 2008
World renowned Israeli pianist, conductor and composer Gil Ghohat and talented opera singer Bavat Marom presented A Concert of Great Romantic Masterpieces. The event and reception was cosponsored by the American-Israel Cultural Foundation.

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Ambassador Michael Oren

Photo: Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren

Ambassador discusses Israeli-U.S. relations in appearance sponsored by Center for Israel Studies

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Migration of Indian Jews

Photo: Maina Singh

Scholar in residence Maina Singh explores the plight of Israel’s 70,000 Indian Jews.

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