Erez Podoly

Erez Podoly ‘08 was introduced to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) as a young man. “I remember a beautiful, black and white photo of my mom, next to the National Library of Israel and her stories about student life on HU’s Givat Ram campus and in Jerusalem.” His mother’s experiences left a big impression on him, and Erez hoped one day he too would attend HU and have his own stories to tell.

Erez more than fulfilled those plans by receiving his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees at HU. A gifted student, Erez received several awards and scholarships including the Kaye Innovation Prize and the Israeli Ministry of Science Eshkol Ph.D. fellowship. While working on his Ph.D., Erez served as the Assistant Executive Director of BioJerusalem, an initiative of the Jerusalem Development Authority where he helped bring biotech opportunities to the city.

After receiving his Ph.D., Erez began a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University with Nobel Laureate and HU Visiting Professor Roger Kornberg. During his academic career, Erez co-authored many peer-reviewed papers and book chapters.

He is an experienced entrepreneur who integrates the lessons he learned at HU into everything he works on. He is the founder and former CEO of ArcheroMetric and his current venture is Slive Inc., a start-up impacting healthcare through technologies that monitor signals of diseases and other physiological conditions.

Erez believes HU played a key role in his entrepreneurial life – it expanded his knowledge base and offered different perspectives. He said, “Today, I am able to turn ideas into start-ups and contribute to shaping our future society.”

Erez is excited to give back to HU as the chair of the HU Alumni Association’s Pacific Northwest Region. He is thrilled to support the university through volunteerism and to build and strengthen the alumni community in the area.


Keenan Davis

By the end of his first year at the University of Virginia (UVA), Keenan Davis ’11 made two decisions that changed his life. He decided to double major in Jewish Studies and Biology (with a focus in neuroscience) and to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU).

Shortly thereafter, Keenan was accepted into the Honors Program at HU’s Rothberg International School. At HU he studied the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides and took classes on Orthodox Judaism in modernity and the history of Judaism and Christianity in late antiquity.

Keenan enjoyed all of his courses. However, his favorite class was Archaeology of Jerusalem. Stories of ancient historical sites came to life as he traveled with his class throughout the city of Jerusalem. Experiencing Israel and Jewish history in such a personal way, alongside the perspectives of academic and traditional study, profoundly shaped Keenan.

Keenan with his father and grandfather at Masada

Upon returning to UVA, Keenan became very involved in the campus community and assumed several leadership roles including president of the Hoos for Israel (HFI) student organization. As HFI’s president, he helped organize programs to educate students on Israeli culture and politics and hosted a variety of speakers from across the political spectrum.

After graduation, Keenan served as a corps member of Teach For America and for three years he taught high school chemistry, physics, biology, and math. He completed his M.A. in bioethics through Emory University’s Center for Ethics with a thesis analyzing the impact of biotechnology with respect to human dignity.

Today, Keenan has returned to his hometown in Georgia, where he is happily married and a proud father of two children. He is currently a candidate for his M.D. and Ph.D. in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion, as a fellow of the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies. His work primarily focuses on bioethics, theology, and ethnography.

Keenan on a HU trip exploring Roman-era caves

Years have passed since Keenan first stepped foot on HU’s campus, but the memories he gained there and the lessons he learned remain with him. He said, “My time in Israel was essential to my developing identity and goals. I am who I am in large part because of my experience at Hebrew University.”




Howard Kaplan

The story of how Howard Kaplan came to Hebrew University (HU) is far from usual. In the summer of 1970 at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, he attended a lecture featuring the prominent Jewish-American scholar Arthur Hertzberg. After the lecture, Hertzberg approached him.

“He was told I was a troublemaker, which wasn’t entirely untrue. He asked me what I did and then offered to walk with me,” Howard said. To Howard’s surprise, Hertzberg asked him to return with him to HU, where he would teach in the fall. Howard excitedly agreed, prepared his luggage, and 10 days later, arrived in Jerusalem.

While studying at HU, Howard participated in numerous university-arranged tours to historical sites. Hiking the Sinai Desert was his favorite excursion. One morning he sat at the Santa Katerina Monastery to admire the cascading sunrise above the beautiful mountains.

Studying in Israel during the height of the Cold War added a layer of adventure for Howard. He befriended students on campus who were eager to help Jews escape the Soviet Union and gain Israeli citizenship. He met with students weekly to learn basic information about USSR politics and the Refusenik community–Soviet citizens, especially Jews, who were denied permission to emigrate.

Howard at Wadi Qelt on an HU trip

At the end of his year abroad, the leaders of the community sent Howard on a mission to the Soviet Union to smuggle a dissident’s manuscript on microfilm to London. “I went to London because I was connected with people there who were helping Soviet Jews, and from London, I went into Moscow to meet with the Hebrew teachers and some of the underground leaders,” Howard added.

After a successful first trip, on his second trip, he transferred a manuscript to the Dutch Ambassador inside his embassy in Moscow. A week later, he was arrested in Khartiv in Ukraine and interrogated for two days there followed by another two days in Moscow, before being expelled from the USSR.

Living in the Middle East and becoming a spy were two things Howard never imagined he’d one day do. For years, he ruminated over his unique experiences abroad in Israel, London, and the USSR. Finally, while studying for his M.A. in philosophy at the University of California in Los Angeles, he grabbed a pen and began to write.

“I thought I’d pursue a Ph.D. next, and perhaps work in the community, but after I graduated with my M.A., I sold my first novel Damascus Cover to a major U.S. publisher, so off I went into another direction.” Now an award-winning author, Howard has written four additional novels: The Chopin Express, Bullets of Palestine, The Spy’s Gamble, and his most recent publication To Destroy Jerusalem. His novel Damascus Cover is a major motion picture starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Sir John Hurt, and Olivia Thirlby. Selling his book to Hollywood, going to Casablanca to watch it being filmed, and seeing his novel come to life on the big screen are all highlights of his career.

Howard in the Negev desert on an HU outing.

While his extensive travel throughout the Middle East informs much of his writing, his first trip to Israel is the major source of his inspiration. Howard said, “If it weren’t for my study abroad experience at Hebrew University, I might not have become a writer. Most of my writing is about the Middle East. I wouldn’t have been in that region, and I have an insufficient imagination to grasp what I might have done instead.”



Robert Duke

In 2000, Robert (Bobby) R. Duke received a Rotary Ambassadorial scholarship to attend the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU). The opportunity to work with top Dead Sea Scrolls scholars and being part of Rotary in Jerusalem was an experience he couldn’t find elsewhere. Studying in Israel was the stepping stone for him to attend UCLA for his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Culture, followed by a fellowship at the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in 2005.


Today, Bobby is Dean of the School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University and is an authority on ancient Jewish texts including Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Second Temple Judaism. From 2009-2012, Bobby chaired the Service-Learning and Biblical Studies workshop at the annual Society of Biblical Literature meeting.

Bobby is also a prolific researcher of pedagogy and experiential learning in biblical studies. He enjoys investigating how service-learning and community-engaged teaching can improve student retention of religious studies course material. His university has also partnered with HU at the archaeological site at Abel Beth Maacah.

In addition to his scholarly work, Bobby is a champion for foster children and has been a foster parent since 2011. He’s served on the Director’s Council for the Department of Children and Family Services in Los Angeles County, which aids the largest community of foster children in the nation. In 2014, he received grant funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to organize an interfaith foster care summit for clergy in Los Angeles County.

An accomplished academic, Bobby knows that his year at Hebrew University was integral to his future. He said, “The professors I was able to work with at Hebrew University are the most recognized experts in the fields of Hebrew Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls. Having been shaped by their expertise still bears fruit today. I am also a Rotarian, so the year impacted not just my scholarly career, but also my desire to use it for the good of the community.”

To view Bobby’s Tedx Talk on foster care, click here.


Robert Mullins

Robert (Bob) Mullins caught the “archaeology bug” in 1972 while working on his first field dig at Tel Qasile in northern Tel Aviv. Amihai Mazar, a young Ph.D. student from Hebrew University (HU), directed the dig and years later, Professor Mazar became Bob’s dissertation supervisor at HU.

That summer, Bob was among the first to find evidence for the now famous Stratum X Philistine temple at Tel Qasile. Gazing upon the temple’s twin pillars, Bob was reminded of the story of Samson in a similar Philistine temple.

It was at this moment he realized that the Bible stories were more than what he learned on Sunday mornings, but a cohesive history of people who lived thousands of years ago. This led to his decision to return to the United States to study archaeology in college and obtain his Ph.D. in Israel.

Bob’s studies at Hebrew University began the summer of 1985 and finished in 2003 when he received his Ph.D. in Archaeology. While at HU, Bob participated in several digs, served as a research assistant to Professor Mazar, and taught courses in archaeology, history, and geography at Jerusalem University College. He even taught a course on the archaeology of Israel for HU’s Rothberg International School. 

In addition to his numerous publications and books, Bob is a member of the editorial board of the Antigue Oriente (Ancient Near East) Journal and has served as an expert for several TV series including Modern Marvels, Bible Secrets Revealed, Ancient Aliens, and The Universe.

Bob’s experiences at HU were transformative. He said, “It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I could have studied archaeology only in the U.S., but I wanted to experience the land of Israel as my classroom, to walk its length and breadth, to know the ancient artifacts firsthand, and to achieve a measure of fluency in the Hebrew language. Moreover, growing up as a Christian, studying at the Hebrew University gave me access to the best in Jewish scholarship. To this day, in my role as professor and chair in the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies at Azusa Pacific University (APU), I continue to pass on the Hebrew University tradition of “close reading” of the biblical text to my students.” 

In addition to his role as professor and chair of the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies at APU, Bob has served as the co-director of the archeological dig at Tel Abel Beth Maacah since 2012. The dig is a joint project between HU and APU.

Bob’s love for archaeology and HU is so infectious that several of his students have completed summer programs and M.A. degrees through the Rothberg International School.

In the summer of 2018, a ninth-century B.C. faience head that may represent an important figure in the Iron Age—a dignitary, elite person, or even a king—was discovered at Tel Abel Beth Maccah. The head, which is now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, was uncovered by one of Professor Mullins’s APU students. After this discovery, Bob was filled with pride. He said, “my students have caught the ‘archaeology bug’ just as I did four decades ago.”


Avi Loeb

Born in 1962, Abraham (Avi) Loeb was raised on his family farm in Beit Hanan, located in central Israel. A precocious young man, Avi was fascinated by philosophy and the world surrounding him. On weekends he would drive a tractor into the hills and spend hours reading books by existential philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre or Albert Camus and dreamed of becoming like them.

Avi was accepted into the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF) elite Talpiot program when he was 18. The prestigious program only accepts two dozen recruits annually to complete intellectual work in defense-related research.

While in Talpiot, Avi studied physics and mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) for three years while simultaneously undergoing military training. After completing his IDF service, he entered HU’s joint M.S. and Ph.D. degree program in plasma physics and conducted research at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center.

Equipped with a solid foundation in scientific methodology and advanced knowledge of physics, Avi pursued a career as a scientist. Today, he is the Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science at Harvard University. He has published four books and over 700 papers on a wide range of topics including black holes, the first stars, the future of the universe, and the search for extraterrestrial life.

No stranger to the media, major news outlets including Forbes, NPR, The Times, and The Guardian have featured Avi’s predictions of Earth’s future and research on alien civilizations. Avi and his team are researching ways to potentially employ the help of extraterrestrial beings to locate another earth-like planet or conduct an archaeological dig on an alien planet in outer space.

As the chair of the Advisory Committee for Breakthrough Starshot Initiative – the first significantly funded project to visit another planetary system – he has worked with world renown scientists and public figures including the late Stephen Hawking and Facebook CEO/Founder Mark Zuckerberg, to help develop nanotechnology to locate other habitable planets in our nearest star system.

Additionally, Avi serves as Chair of Harvard’s Department of Astronomy, is a Founding Director of Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative, and is the Director of the Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC) in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He is the Science Theory Director for all Initiatives of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and the Chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. In 2012, Time Magazine named him as one of the 25 most influential people in space.

Grateful for the education that he received at Hebrew University, Avi said, “Without the knowledge I gained at HU, none of these accomplishments would have been possible. I grew up on a farm and would have probably worked there until today.” The Hebrew University is what motivated him to shoot for the stars.

You can learn more about Avi and his work in this video.


Jennifer Weintraub

A true California girl, Jen Weintraub ’17 decided to take a break from the Golden State for the land of milk and honey to study at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University (HU) in the spring of 2016. As an International Studies major with a passion for Israel and Judaism, Jen was attracted to HU’s Thrive program – an immersive, elective course for students studying at Rothberg.

The Thrive program added an extra challenge to Jen’s experience in Israel. In addition to her standard courses, Jen learned an incredible amount about the Middle East. She said, “My professors had been diplomats all around the world and had first-hand experience about creating peace. It was fascinating to learn from their experiences. Studying at Hebrew University gave me a better understanding of Israeli culture. After the school semester was over, I didn’t want to leave.” Her love for Israel was so strong that Jen ended up staying an extra three months to work in the Knesset for MK Michael Oren. She described those three months as an unforgettable experience.

After returning to the U.S. and graduating from Manhattanville College in New York City, Jen’s passion for Judaism and Israel translated into a career as an Israel educator, first at StandWithUs, and now as the Engagement Associate at the University of North Texas Hillel in Denton. At Hillel, Jen can share her love for Israel and will even get to take her students to Israel on Birthright.


Beth Kissileff

When Beth Kissileff was a sophomore in college, she took a ‘Bible in Literature’ class. Due to her limited knowledge of Hebrew, she assumed she was likely the least knowledgeable person in the room. She realized that to know more about Judaism and Jewish texts, she needed a better grasp on Hebrew and the best way to learn a language is through immersion where the language is spoken. After she graduated with her B.A. in 1990, she and her husband enrolled in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU).

Beth loved her classes and teachers at HU and enjoyed studying abroad with a diverse group of students who were equally engaged and highly educated. As she traveled and studied in Israel, she realized that being in the place where biblical stories occurred adds such a richness and dimension that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else. The highlight of Beth’s year abroad was the university’s Bible department tiyul (trips) to sites that were described in various sacred texts.

When she returned to the U.S., she earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Today, Beth is an accomplished writer and journalist who seeks to capture the liveliness and excitement of Bible study through her writing. She edited the anthology Reading Genesis: Beginning (2016) and is the editor of the forthcoming anthology Reading Exodus (2019). The origins of her books Questioning Return (2016) and I’m Not Here for Myself (coming in spring 2019) date to the time she spent traveling in Israel and studying at HU. She shared, “In my book Questioning Return, the main character enrolls into HU’s ulpan program. There are a few scenes where she meets with her advisor, studies in the library, and eats in the meat cafeteria with the incredible view of Mount Scopus. The book is an armchair travel to HU and Jerusalem!” Beth is also working on a volume of linked short stories, They Truly Loved Us and a second novel, The Life I was Supposed to Have. She has been particularly thrilled to write for the English version of the 929 website, where her work can be found along with her former Hebrew University professors Yair Zakovitch and Avigdor Shinan.

Beth’s writing has appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Religion News Service,,, the New York Times, The Tower, the Jewish Review of Books, Tablet, the Forward, the Jerusalem Report, the Jerusalem Post, and the New York Jewish Week among others. She has taught Hebrew Bible, Jewish studies, English literature and writing at the University of Pittsburgh, Carleton College, the University of Minnesota, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and Shaw University. She has received fellowships from the Corporation of Yaddo, the Ragdale Foundation, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Beth currently lives in Pittsburgh with her family, but her heart is set on Israel and her experiences at Hebrew University. Beth exclaimed, “My husband and I decided that when we retire we want to come back to Jerusalem and again, sit in on classes at the Hebrew University, as well as the many other places to learn around town!”

Visit her online at


Shay Bialik

As the former chairwoman of Israel’s National Student and Youth Council as a high school student, Shay Bialik ’14 was used to fighting for what she felt was right. During the eventful 2011 summer, Shay met some of the people who would later provide her with a warm welcome when she started studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

“Attending Hebrew University (HU) wasn’t my top choice”, she said. “It was my only choice.” For Shay, HU is the top university in Israel, one of the best schools globally for international relations and history, and is in her favorite city in the world.

After learning of her arrival, leaders of the Labor Party’s university organization (who had heard about the fiery young woman from other Hebrew University students) immediately recruited her to their cause – where she became the spokeswoman for the organization, as well as the coordinator for the Knesset internship program. Along with her work in the Labor Party and her studies, Shay also worked for public figures including Jerusalem City Councilwoman Merav Cohen and Mayor Nir Barkat, as well as in the Knesset.

In addition to getting a university education, Shay’s international career began at Hebrew University. She founded the university’s Hasbara Operations room during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, where she fought against false news stories.

Shay later went to study in Paris as an exchange student at the prestigious Sciences Po University. Upon completing her studies, she began working as an advisor to the Israeli ambassador at the Israeli Mission to the Council of Europe, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and UNESCO in Paris – a role she held for almost three years.

In 2017 Shay relocated to New York, where she works for the Israeli Mission to the United Nations as a policy advisor. She is also currently studying for a master’s degree in International Relations at the New School.

Currently living with her husband in New York, Shay still dreams of returning to Jerusalem. Shay notes “My time at the Hebrew University and in Jerusalem provided me with everything I could have ever wanted and wished. It was life, it was liberty, and it was happiness at the palm of my hands. And even if I barely had time to eat, I still keep in close contact with faculty and friends whom I now consider my Jerusalem family.”


Dr. Efrat Daskal

Efrat Daskal earned her Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2015 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Crown Center for Jewish and Israel Studies at Northwestern University.

Since 2010, she has dedicated her professional and academic training to the research and study of traditional and digital media policy while focusing on three main questions: (a) How social actors who are in charge of constructing media policy can be held accountable for their conduct; (b) how citizens (aim to) influence media policy as constructed by the powerful social actors; and (c) the outcome of the dialogue constructed between the sides.

Efrat explored these questions, in her dissertation which focused on the case study of public complaints sent by Israeli viewers to media organizations in Israel. She completed her Ph.D. in 2015 in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University, under the supervision of Professor Tamar Liebes and Professor Zohar Kampf.

She began specializing in the field of internet policy as a visiting scholar at the Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and continued to work in this area as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Open University in Israel (2015-2016), at the Hebrew University (2016-2017), and currently at Northwestern University.

In her post-doc projects, Efrat explores the following issues: digital rights advocacy, youth involvement in the Internet Governance Forum, and the work of computer security incident response teams (CERT/CSIRT). Her work so far has been published in several journals such as: Information, Communication and Society, International Journal of Communication and Media, Culture and Society.


Making the right call: HU technology KEY to Thai soccer team rescue

By Diane Hess

Mobile communications technology developed by a former student of the Hebrew University played a crucial role in the rescue of the Thai youth soccer team and their coach from a flooded cave in July.

Uzi Hanuni, the chief executive of Yavne-based Maxtech Networks, is the man behind the radio technology that allowed the responders to communicate with one another during the rescue operation in Thailand. He was a student at the Hebrew University from 1990 to 1992, while in the Elite Technology Unit of the Israel Defense Forces.


Uzi Hanuni

On June 25th Mr. Hanuni got a call from Thai authorities, two days after the 12 boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach entered the Tham Luang Non cave in Chiang Rai following a soccer game.


Immediately, Mr. Hanuni put one of his employees on a plane with a suitcase filled with 19 Maxtech Network radios, the number of devices necessary to complete a link to the boys. The handheld radios, which resemble walkie-talkies, do not require a direct line of sight and can be used in complex environments without infrastructure.

“I thought about nothing other than saving the boys’ lives,” said Mr. Hanuni, who donated the devices, which cost a total of $100,000.

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Mr. Hanuni was determined to build a communications network that did not lean on infrastructure. He and his team spent four years creating a software algorithm for Maxtech Networks, founded in 2004.

“My experience at the Hebrew University gave me the confidence to develop the algorithm for Maxtech Networks,” said Mr. Hanuni. “The university is a place where you can grow ideas.”


Dori Weinstein

When asked why she loves the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, award-winning author Dori Weinstein says it’s because of three things. “The university emboldened my connection to Judaism, deepened my love for Israel, and opened the door to life-long friendships, including, (albeit through a roundabout way), meeting my husband.” She and her husband, Gary, were both students in the Rothberg School for Overseas Students on the same program at the same time, but they never met. Her husband saw her in an HU play, but didn’t notice her in the show, which she says is likely because she was dressed as a ghost under a sheet!  They met a year and a half after college graduation through mutual HU friends.

Dori with her husband visiting HU in 2017.


However, Dori’s HU journey began several years before her theater debut. In 1984, Dori received a Zionist Organization of America high school student scholarship to travel to Israel, which included a visit to Hebrew University. Filled with excitement once there, she and her friend, Emily, made a pact to study abroad at the university during their junior year of college. Four years later, their pact became a realization and they both attended Hebrew University.

Dori with friends at HU

At HU, Dori’s passion for Judaism became evident as she was exposed to Israeli culture. For Dori, “Jewish holidays came to life on the streets of Jerusalem.” Throughout her time in Israel, whether touring the country or on campus, Israel left a strong impression on her. These experiences motivated her to become a Jewish educator, and further encouraged her to become a Jewish children’s book author.


As the author of the YaYa & YoYo book series, Dori has written three books and is currently working on the fourth. With fond memories of her time at HU, she has included numerous references to the university in her stories. “I even named two of my characters after the HU dorms, Resnick and Idelson!”

When Dori isn’t writing, she travels throughout the U.S. for book signings, readings, and school visits. “I feel so lucky that I get to do what I love! I write stories and then have the opportunity to share my books and my passion with YaYa & YoYo fans!”

Dori and her husband have traveled to Israel with their three children. They are both highly involved in the Minneapolis Jewish community, and are major HU supporters. Their enthusiasm for HU continues with their family. “Our son attended the Hebrew University during his junior year of college so you can imagine how proud and excited we were to share that experience with him!”

To learn more about the YaYa & YoYo series visit Dori’s website:





Joan West Johnson

After winning a 1962 New York City Hebrew competition prize, Joan West left the familiarity of her childhood home in Queens, New York, where she had many family and friends, to study thousands of miles away at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Upon her enrollment, she became the first African American co-ed to attend the university.

Joan came to Israel when it was an emerging nation. She shared with amusement, “I was in Israel before Coca-Cola had even arrived. I had to ask a diplomat to ‘smuggle’ drinks for my party. Of course, it wasn’t really illegal; just not available in Israel, yet.”

Joan’s passion for people and life blossomed and thrived at the Hebrew University. The campus was full of staff and students from diverse cultures and was educated on tolerance, acceptance, and self-development. Joan said, “It was just like New York, but then again not, because I felt like an integral part of the community, and yet, I was in an entirely different country.”

One of her favorite memories as a student is of her encounter with Hebrew University President Pinchas Rosen. Joan says, “He wanted to speak with me, and I couldn’t figure out why. Why me? I felt like a middle school student in the principal’s office-absolutely afraid!” Her fear quickly faded, however, upon learning the reason for her meeting. Joan would be featured in the Jerusalem Post, Ebony Magazine, the New York Times, and other major newspapers as the university’s first African American student. “I was floored,” says Joan. 

Fifty-five years have passed, and Joan recently retired from the New York City public school system. She now splits her time between Queens and Boca Raton, Florida. During her last visit to Israel, she returned to HU. While there, she recalled that Israel was where she taught her first students and developed a love for education. Nostalgia bubbled over into deep gratitude, and as Joan said, “I couldn’t believe I was there. The place where I had become a woman, an individual. It was dream-like, and yet so real.” 


Amy Applebaum

Amy Applebaum’s journey to Israel was nothing short of serendipitous.

The year was 1991, and after participating in rush week at Chico State University (part of the California State University system), Amy didn’t receive a sorority bid.

“I was devastated and really didn’t know what to do,” Amy said. “Then I spoke with one of my professors at Chico, Dr. Sam Edelman, and he pointed me towards Jerusalem.”

Dr. Edelman helped arrange for Amy to receive a scholarship and a stipend to attend the Hebrew University, and that was all she needed. Amy packed her bags and made the spontaneous decision to study in Israel.

“That decision boosted my self-confidence,” Amy said. “I was in an entirely different country, exploring unique cultures, and not only was I surviving, I was seizing each opportunity life presented!”

The Hebrew University – where Amy studied communications – cultivated her intellect; expanded her sense of the world (she not only befriended people from all over the world, but traveled to Turkey, Cyprus, and Africa); and laid the foundation for her expertise in intercultural and interpersonal relationships.

Today, Amy is as an entrepreneur, business coach, author, media personality, wife, and mom of a precocious 5-year-old. Over the past decade, she’s helped tens of thousands of women achieve their personal and professional goals, and she’s been featured on ABC, CNN, TLC, Dr. Drew’s LifeChangers, and Martha Stewart Radio, as well as in the pages of Teen, Shape, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s World, and The New York Times. Plus, Amy became a certified hypnotherapist because she believes that success is just as much about “how you think” as it is “what you do.”

“The Hebrew University changed my life,” Amy said. “It was the impetus for everything I’ve ever done. It really shaped my future.”


Aviva Lev-Ari

Aviva Lev-Ari (nee Abraham) began her studies at Hebrew University in 1970 in geography and history, and later received her master’s degree in the Urban Studies program. She found her academic interests melded with her passions for music and poetry, cherry blossoms in pictures, harp music, fashion design, and Bob Dylan.

Her admiration for Bob Dylan and his poetic expression within the great American song tradition was just as strong as her desire to master the art of scientific and technical oral and written communication. Hebrew University helped her to do so. She attributes the skills she learned as a student at HU for her great success as a Research Associate at the Technion and as a Doctoral Candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, earning a Ph.D. in 1983.

Her professors at HU were also instrumental in helping her achieve her aspirations. They wrote letters of recommendations for her, and she still remains in touch with many of them.  “I remained in contact with them till some passed away, including Professor Louis Guttman and Professor Shalom Reichman. I am still in contact with Professor Ruth Kark and Dr. Sara Hershkovits. On my annual visit in Israel, I meet with both of them.” Her professors were her teachers but have also became her close friends.

Since leaving Hebrew University, she has helped numerous people. She worked in applied research in the U.S. with start-ups and Fortune 100 companies as a management consultant and as an Executive for 25 years. Following a career reinvention at Northeastern University in Biological Sciences, Nursing and Pharmacology, 2005-2007, she received a degree in Nursing and conducted research in Pharmacology at Northeastern University. Aviva worked in the healthcare sector till 2012.

She also worked in the publishing industry first as the Director of Research at McGraw-Hill/CTB and currently as the Editor-in-Chief of the LBPI Group’s Open Access Scientific Journal and as the Editor-in-Chief of the LPBI’s BioMed e-series.

Now, when Aviva looks back at the last twenty years of her career, the motivation and energy to start a new career in health care and another one in electronic scientific publishing, she never forgets where it all began – in a small lecture hall in Jerusalem at Hebrew University.


Andre Friedman

Throughout his life, Andre Friedman has forged his own path, seizing opportunities and never letting adversity stop his progress on the path to success.

Andre was born in 1928 in Salgotarjan, a small Hungarian town. Salgotarjan had a Jewish community of approximately 300 families out of a total population of 15,000. He grew up as an observant Jew, attending a state-run school in the mornings followed by Hebrew school in the afternoons. Anti-Semitism was already heavily prevalent during Andre’s childhood.

As a young teenager, his parents sent him to Budapest to continue his education when the continued rise of anti-Semitism barred Jews from attending the local state-run school. When the Germans occupied Hungary in March 1944, Andre returned to Salgotarjan to be with his mother. His father had been sent to a forced labor camp the previous year. The Salgotarjan Jews were soon forced into a ghetto, and at 16, Andre was sent to a forced labor camp along with other men ranging in age from 16-50. Those remaining in the ghetto were sent to Auschwitz, where most perished, including his mother.

Miraculously, Andre and his father survived. After the war, Andre returned to Budapest to finish high school. Following graduation, he enrolled in a university there to study economics, but left after one year when the Communists seized control.

Andre knew he’d have to leave Hungary to find opportunity, but emigration was declared illegal. Following a circuitous journey through several countries, Andre connected with an outpost run by the new Israeli government, and arrived in Israel in April 1949.

In Israel, Andre joined the Israeli armed forces, serving two years in the Air Force. His time in the military afforded him the opportunity to learn Hebrew and Israeli culture, and focused his interest in the field of law, which led him to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU).

In 1951, Andre matriculated at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law, then housed in an old French monastery in Jerusalem. He was a member of the Faculty’s fourth class and graduated in 1956.

At the time, there were no fees for attending HU, but most students still needed to work to cover the cost of living. Recognizing this, the university held classes in the late afternoon and evenings. Andre’s first job was in the Israeli Ministry of Commerce. Rising quickly through the ranks, he subsequently joined the State Controller’s office where he oversaw activities within the Foreign Exchange Division of the Treasury.

After completing his degree, Andre received a scholarship for post-graduate studies in France. He returned to Israel for a short time before leaving for another educational opportunity, this time in the United States. Andre had been accepted by Baruch College’s Business School in New York City.

Andre worked a variety of jobs to support himself when he came to New York. He worked as a file clerk in an export company, working his way up to become an assistant trader. His plan was to stay in New York for two years to earn his MBA and return to Israel, but frequent business travel to the Far East made it impossible for him to continue his studies at Baruch. But there was something else keeping him in New York.

In 1960, Andre met his wife, Rita, and called New York home. At the time, American regulations didn’t allow graduates of foreign law schools to practice law, so in 1964 Andre married Rita and launched his own export business exporting construction materials around the world.

During the 1980s, law practice regulations changed; Andre took the bar exam and could finally practice law in the U.S. At age 56, he sold his export firm-which by then had a presence in over 10 countries-and began his international law career.

With decades of experience in international trading, Andre went on to lead a successful legal career that took him all over the world, including back to Israel and Hungary. He represented many high-profile clients, and served as Regional General Counsel of Teva Pharmaceutical Company in Eastern Europe.

Andre retired in 2016, and in March 2018 he celebrated his 90th birthday in Israel. He recently completed his memoirs, which he wrote because “I felt that I represent a generation in history who survived the depths of an inferno, experienced the heights of grandeur, and still lived an ordinary life. Sharing my story is also a tribute to my fellow contemporaries who prevailed and an honor to those that succumbed.”

Andre’s story is indeed one worthy of note, filled with courage, tenacity, and a love of life. The Hebrew University is proud to be part of his remarkable life journey.


Mazal Yehezkely

Mazal Yehezkely was born in Tel Aviv and grew up in the city of Rishon Le Zion. She always dreamed of becoming a medical doctor and pursued her love for biology in high school. In the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Mazal served as a Sergeant in the Medical Corps, teaching soldiers to become paramedics and perform urgent surgeries in the field. She continued this path working for Magen David Adom as an instructor during her undergraduate studies.

After the IDF, Mazal went after another passion of hers, business and the markets, and enrolled in the Hebrew University for a BA degree in Business Administration and Economics.

(L-R) Gabriel Brahka, Mazal and Ori Mazal Yehezkely

The three years she spent on Mount Scopus were absolutely beautiful. Mazal met her future husband, Oren, on campus. The life in the dorms, acquiring best friends, and the city’s greatness contributed to her happiness and the decision to stay in Jerusalem for an additional seven years. One of her best memories from the time she was a student was the snowy winter in 1991. The blanket of snow that covered the university was magnificent and rare.



In 2006, Mazal and her family moved to Florida. In 2010, Mazal co-founded and managed the first Israeli Ladies group, Forum Nashim, in Aventura. The Forum provides social and intellectual enrichment to its Hebrew speaking members. As part of the Hebrew University alumni committee, Mazal is helping by expanding the audience at lectures, introduce new donors, and host events.


Currently, Mazal is a Senior Wealth Director at BNY Mellon Wealth Management, a firm that has more than two centuries of experience in providing services to clients who today include financially successful individuals and families, their business enterprises, planned giving programs, and endowments and foundations.

As a Senior Wealth Director in the Miami office, she matches prospective clients with financial solutions using her background in economics to help her clients understand macro and micro trends.


Mazal at the 2018 ALEF Conference


Mazal is also co-leading the Israeli Business Group in Florida. This organization has members who are Israeli-American business owners and executives and its mission is to promote and strengthen the relationships in the Israeli American business community and to become the primary contact choice for Israeli companies who look to grow in the U.S.


Israel Prize in literature to be awarded to David Grossman

Author David Grossman will be awarded the Israel Prize for Hebrew literature and poetry, the Education Ministry announced on Monday.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett approved the recommendation of the prize committee headed by Prof. Avner Holtzman and congratulated Grossman.

“Since the early 1980’s, David Grossman has taken his place at the center of Israeli culture and he is one of the most profound, moving, and influential voices in our literature,” the prize committee wrote in its decision.

In his novels, books, essays, documentary writing, in his extensive creations for children, he presented a series of masterpieces that excel in rich imagination, deep wisdom, human sensitivity, a poignant moral stand and a unique and resonant language,” the prize committee wrote.

The committee added that Grossman is one of the most “famous, admired, and beloved” Israeli writers in the world and that his books have been translated into dozens of languages.

Bennett defended giving the prize to an author who has been outspoken in his opposition to construction in Israeli settlements and has even backed the European labeling of products from over the Green Line. He told The Jerusalem Post that he has faced criticism from the Right for the decision but that he had no regrets.

“There are issues on which I disagree with him, but no dispute will remove from the magic of his books,” Bennett said. “He is an Israeli patriot who gave the dearest of all to Israel (his son, Staff Sgt. Uri Grossman, 20,  was killed in the 2006 Second Lebanon War). He is not an author of the Left and I am not the education minister of the Right. Hezbollah didn’t ask who is Right and Left and secular and religious when boys with different views were killed in the same tank.”

Grossman, born in Jerusalem, has written countless novels and children’s books including To the End of the Land, A Horse Walks into a Bar, The Book of Intimate Grammar and Someone to Run With.

On Sunday evening, the Education Ministry also announced the Israel Prize winners for research in physics and in psychology.

Prof. Shlomo Havlin, of Bar Ilan University, will receive the prize for his research in the field of physics.

“Prof. Havlin is one of the pioneers of a number of fields in statistical physics and its implications for complex systems in different areas,” the prize committee wrote in its decision. “Prof. Havlin deals with the generalization of knowledge in physical fields to the broadest areas, such as social networks, technological networks, economic networks, political systems, physiological systems and DNA function.”

The committee added that of all Israeli scientists, Prof. Havlin is the most cited by scientists around the world.
“He devotes his time and energies to imparting contemporary science to youth and contributes greatly to the creation of scientific ties between Israel and the world,” it wrote.

Prof. Yitzhak Shlesinger, of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was awarded the Israel Prize for his research in psychology.

In its decision, the prize committee wrote that Shlesinger is one of the most important scientists in the field of psycholinguistics, contributing to the study of language processing and language development in children.

“He was a pioneer in the documentation and conceptualization of sign language in Israel. His work in the field of Talmudic argumentation, in connections with general issues in linguistic expression, is a unique contribution. His innovations are deeply entwined in Hebrew culture and language,” the prize committee wrote.

The Israel Prize is largely regarded as the state’s highest honor. It is presented annually on Independence Day in a state ceremony in Jerusalem in the presence of the president, the prime minister, the Knesset speaker and the Supreme Court president.

Read the source article at Jpost


Boaz Keysar

A Jerusalem native, Boaz Keysar spent a large part of his childhood on the Edmond J. Safra Givat Ram campus with his father, who was an engineer at the Hebrew University (HU). Having spent so much time exploring the halls of HU as a young boy, there was no question about where he would attend school for college – it was always going to be Hebrew University.

Today, Boaz Keysar is a Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Cognition Program at the University of Chicago. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Psychology from Hebrew University in 1984, and in 1989 he received his Ph.D. from Princeton University.

The focus of Professor Keysar’s research is on the relationship between thinking, decision making, and communication. His work has been published in major scientific journals including Psychological Review, Psychological Science, and Cognition. His research has also received substantial interest in the media, both domestic and international. A renowned professor, Dr. Keysar’s classes on The Psychology of Decision Making, and The Psychology of Negotiation are favorites of many University of Chicago students.

Professor Keysar has received numerous awards and honors including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and a Fulbright Scholarship. Professor Keysar’s research has been supported by grants from federal agencies and private foundations including the National Institute of Health. In 2000, he was awarded the President’s Service award by President Clinton for his non-profit work.

When reflecting on his career in academia, Boaz said, “Being a student at Hebrew University taught me how to think critically and showed me how I might fit in an academic track. I also believe that the support of my professors paved the way for me to get into a Ph.D. program in Princeton.”

Click here to learn more about Professor Keysar’s research.



Rabbi Michael Beals

Rabbi Michael Beals was born in San Francisco, California. After studying as an undergrad at U. C. Berkeley, he moved to Washington, D.C. to study at the School of International Studies at The American University (AU). During his studies at AU, Rabbi Beals’ parents worried about his commitment to Israel and wanted to send their only son there for two weeks to ‘fix’ him. Michael claimed he would need an ENTIRE YEAR to ‘be repaired.’

OYP 87-88 with (L-R) Jon Boyer and Susie (Ugent) Berg


Celebrating his 25th birthday with friends

With the help of the Rothberg School for International Students’ Dov Friedlander, who was making his first Hebrew University recruitment trip to AU, Michael applied and received a 1987-88 Raoul Wallenberg Scholarship for an entire year at Hebrew University. The scholarship was funded by philanthropist Fred Schwartz, z”l, who hoped to give students, like Rabbi Beals, an aspiring diplomat, a year to truly absorb Israel and gain valuable leadership skills.

Rabbi Beals studied history and politics, and fell in love with campus life at Hebrew University, the Hebrew language, his Jewish heritage, the land and people of Israel, and his fellow students at Hebrew University. Several of his fellow students later served as groomsmen in his wedding party (Jon Boyer-best man, Marc Krell, Jonathan Wernick, Rabbi Mark Robbins). Two of these classmates (Rabbi Mark Robbins and Jewish educator Marc Krell) also helped pave his way to rabbinical school. Dr. Eric Berger, through a wedding invitation in Philadelphia, put Beals on a path to become the rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom in Wilmington, Delaware, where he has served for the past 13 years of his 20-year rabbinate. (In his capacity as rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom, Rabbi Beals is able to assist his congregant and friend, Seth Bloom, in his important work as the new Director of the Philadelphia Office of American Friends of the Hebrew University).

With Andrew Singer at Hebrew U 87-88 reunion

Rabbi Beals learned many, many important things during his year in the Wallenberg Program at Hebrew University.  One of lessons was that it is crucial, as a Jew, to serve on Israel’s unofficial “hasbara” team, providing fellow Americans a more complete, nuanced explanation of Zionist history and Israel’s current political situation, especially as it involves Palestinians and the challenging peace process. Had Beals NOT attended Hebrew University, it is highly unlikely that he would have changed careers from a government service/international relations track to passionately pursuing the rabbinate as a Conservative rabbi, serving both the Jewish people in the United States and in the State of Israel as a passionate advocate and educator.

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