Grant recipients share experiences
Four recipients of the Frances Taylor Eizenstat ’65 Undergraduate Israel Travel Grant Program united at a reception on Thursday night to tell a group of more than 20 people of their experiences this past summer. The four students were Eliezer Buechler ’16, Viktoria Bedo ’15, Mirit Gendelman ’15 and Catie Stewart ’16.
In addition to serving as a forum at which grant recipients were given an opportunity to talk about their experiences, the reception was intended to encourage current students to apply for this year’s undergraduate grant, according to Ambassador to the European Union Stuart E. Eizenstat, who is responsible for the grant. Rivka Cohen ’17, who was in the crowd, told the Justice that she “definitely want[s] to apply for this grant.”
The grant, which awards a $2,500 travel stipend to students, was established and named in honor of Brandeis graduate Frances Taylor Eizenstat ’65, the late wife of the renowned ambassador.
Ambassador Eizenstat kicked off the evening by telling the crowd about his wife’s relationship with the State of Israel, and noted that she traveled to Israel during her junior year at Brandeis as part of the now-defunct Brandeis Hiatt Program, which brought dozens of Brandeis students to Israel for semesters abroad. He called his wife’s year abroad “a transformative experience for her.” He went on to say that her year abroad “infused [within her] a love of Israel and deepened her already deep Jewish faith.”
University President Frederick Lawrence made a brief appearance at the reception, noting that he was “delighted to have played some small part [in the establishment of] this program.” Later, President Lawrence was thanked for his patronage of the grant as the University’s president.
Prof. Ilan Troen (NEJS), who mentioned his own Israeli heritage, introduced last year’s grant recipients. Gendelman, who is majoring in Business and International and Global Studies, used her stipend to study business and international relations at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She also interned at HiTech Strategies, a management and consulting firm based in Tel Aviv, Israel.
She said that she was grateful to have had the opportunity take courses with Israelis and hear from renowned leaders as a student at Hebrew University. She told attendees that she “learned a lot about the differences between Israeli and American business cultures.”
Buechler, a Near Eastern and Judaic Studies major, assisted with an archeological dig at Tel Abel Beth Maacah in northern Israel. He told the crowd about the history of Tel Abel Beth Maacah, which is an ancient region mentioned in the Bible. Buechler said that the Tel Abel Beth Maacah region was attacked by Ben Pader of the Aramite nation in Biblical times. Later, he said, the city was destroyed. An Arab village was there until 1948, when many chose to flee after the State of Israel was declared. According to Buechler, the city was barren until 2012. Buechler showed a series of pictures of his findings, which included ancient farming tools, gold coins and pottery.
He said that he was “not sure what field [he] wanted to go into, but now archeology is definitely on the list.” Later, in an interview with the Justice, Buechler called his experiences “an excellent opportunity to actualize my passions.”
Stewart, an English major, interned at Kav LaOved, a workers’ rights organization based in Tel Aviv, Israel. She said that the organization serves every faction of Israeli society—everyone from new immigrants to agricultural workers to Arab-Israelis—by advocating for their equal treatment and protection under Israeli law.
Stewart said that she worked with a lot of migrant caregivers and underrepresented Palestinian workers. In an interview with the Justice, Stewart said, “With the grant, I was able to pursue my passions. I was able to work with social justice organizations...that informed things I’m going to do going moving forward in America but also my relationship with Israel.” Stewart said that she hopes to continue to advocate for workers’ rights here in the United States.
Bedo, also a Near Eastern and Judaic Studies major, interned as a research assistant in the Jerusalem-based Hartman Institute’s iEngage program, which brings six diaspora Jews to the institute as workers, interns and research assistants. Bedo said the she had the opportunity to help write a syllabus for a course in Israeli-American relations in addition to working on a revised version of The Zionist Idea, which is an anthology of writings by leading Zionist thinkers with renowned historian Gil Troy. Bedo said that she read several Zionists texts and even many writings that contest Zionism for her work on the book.
Troen praised the grant recipients, saying, “They not only take away from Israel but give to Israel. So, as an Israeli, I thank you.”