Director of International Programs

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

POSITION:   Director of International Programs - Project Interchange

LOCATION: Washington, DC

AJC Overview:
Founded in 1906, AJC seeks to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world. In addition to its New York headquarters and Washington, DC Office of Government & International Affairs, AJC has regional offices and affiliates across the U.S. and overseas in addition to a multitude of global partnerships.

Project Interchange Overview:
Project Interchange, an educational institute of AJC, develops and conducts educational seminars in Israel for current and emerging United States and international leaders. Participants include diplomats, elected officials, journalists, media opinion leaders, civic leaders, university presidents, administrators and student leaders.

Since 1982, Project Interchange has equipped over 6,000 seminar participants from more than 89 countries and all 50 states with a balanced foundation for understanding Israel’s history, diverse makeup, and strategic objectives. PI seminars are highly apolitical, interactive and promote dialogue on a wide array of complex issues.

Position Overview:
The Director of International Programs will oversee the International Programs in accordance with AJC priorities including country focus. This position will collaborate with the Director of US Programs to maximize impact and ensure shared models of efficiency and will work with the Director of Alumni Engagement to ensure effective follow up and the Director of Measurement and Evaluation to develop and monitor appropriate metrics for international programs.
The individual does all this while adhering to AJC’s core values: Respect, Teamwork, Integrity, Excellence, and Accountability.

Major Functions:

  • Program development and implementation
  • Interdepartmental collaboration within PI and OGIA
  • Management/Budgetary Oversight
  • Supervision of International Programs Team
  • Specific Responsibilities
    Program Development and Implementation:

  • Oversees the successful management of international seminars on time and within budget.
  • Articulates and conveys AJC/PI mission, goals and priorities clearly, concisely and effectively. Effectively utilize a range of mediums to address diverse audiences including public speaking and written correspondence. 
  • Vets proposals for seminars, identifying those most aligned with PI and AJC priorities, mission and fundraising feasibility. Establishes clear goals and outcomes with the AJC Region or relevant partner.
  • Launches and manages a holistic approach to each international seminar including: developing effective recruitment processes; engaging the AJC system in the overall process, mobilizing AJC regional resources to recruit effectively, managing the research process to determine participant eligibility, establishing solid communications with invitees to ensure submission of complete applications.
  • Collaborates with relevant colleagues to strategically plan customized itineraries incorporating the unique PI philosophy, reflecting AJC/PI priorities, and integrating Aspen Institute recommendations.
  • Fully prepares participants and staffer for their experience by conducting educational sessions and briefings prior to each seminar, with expert resources on Israel and the region.
  • Recruits, trains and places highly skilled staffers in the delicate and complex facilitator role that a PI seminar commands. Educates and trains seminar staff to understand their role and maximize their effectiveness.
  • Interdepartmental Collaboration

  • Partners with Director of Alumni Engagement to ensure a smooth hand-off to alumni and regional apparatus and develop a solid follow up mechanism.
  • Collaborates with PI Development and Communications staff to ensure donor expectations are met. Prepares materials for donors in a timely fashion throughout the recruitment and seminar phases.
  • Collaborates with Communications staff to create new collateral materials, ensures that international seminars are fully and accurately represented in Project Interchange/AJC marketing campaigns, and ensures materials reflect the perspectives and interests of diverse audiences from potential donors to alumni.
  • Works with Director of Measurement and Evaluation to develop, organize and share appropriately qualitative and quantitative markers of performance and impact.
  • Management/Budgetary Oversight:

  • Recruits, trains and supervises international programs team, including the Assistant Director and Program Assistant. Proves ongoing mentoring, managerial support, and growth opportunities. Supervises other PI staff as requested.
  • Advances PI/AJC programmatic, development, and operational goals on multiple projects with minimal supervision, seeking advice where needed.
  • Exhibits excellent interpersonal and communication skills in interactions across, within and outside the organization, showing capacity to both lead and take direction.
  • Develops new program and operational improvements to reflect the recommendations of the 2013 Aspen institute evaluation of Project Interchange.
  • Personal Qualifications and Core Competencies:

  • BA required, Master’s degree preferred
  • A minimum of 8-10 years’ experience in Jewish communal service or related non-profit organizational work.
    Budget management experience, including the development of accurate budget projections and oversight of relevant program expenditures.
  • Ability to motivate, supervise, manage and mentor.
  • Proven ability to employ diplomacy skills and sensitivity in interactions with diplomats, elected officials, journalists, high level university administrators and ethnic and religious leaders. 
  • In-depth knowledge of Israel and regional issues.
  • Strong work ethic, organizational skills, detail oriented nature and exceptional follow through.
  • Ability to meet deadlines and complete assignments in a timely and accurate fashion.
  • Demonstrated capacity to produce high quality materials, events and programs for diverse audiences.
  • Creative self-starter with ability to work well independently and in team settings.
  • Excellent oral, written, interpersonal and persuasive communication skills, engaging telephone persona and ability to employ tact and discretion in delicate conversations and situations.
  • Strong commitment to the AJC/PI mission.
  • Proven ability to work in a fast-paced, collaborative work environment, exhibiting a capacity for effective cross-cultural communication.
  • Please submit cover letter, resume, and salary history here.

    Friday, August 21st, 2015

    POSITION:   Associate Director of International Programs - Project Interchange

    LOCATION: Washington, DC

    AJC seeks an Associate Director of International Programs for Project Interchange based in Washington, DC. This is a demanding position in a fast-paced and complex environment that requires high-level logistical and interpersonal skills and the ability to advance program development across multiple areas.

    Program Development and Implementation

  • Key staff contact with responsibility for participant recruitment, outreach and communication with prospective participants;
  • Serve as primary point of contact for AJC overseas offices and Jewish community partners;
  • Design and implement seminar itineraries in coordination with the Israel office;
  • Obtain and circulate new speaker & location ideas for seminar programs;
  • Prepare proposed seminar budgets; initiate budget review and reconciliation process;
  • Responsible for all seminar related travel arrangements for participants and staff;
  • Update and refine pre-departure assessment for seminar participants;
  • Prepare pre-departure materials and seminar evaluation forms for participants;
  • Provide detailed orientation for each delegation before departure; arrange additional pre-departure briefings as requested:
  • Provide detailed pre-departure orientation training for seminar staffers before each seminar; primary point of contact during seminar;
  • Maintain contact with participants, Israel office and staff on seminar outcomes and effectiveness;
  • Implement and refine quantitative evaluation/ratings of speakers & activities for impact reports;
  • Oversee systematic recording and translation of participant highlight quotations for impact reports;
  • Translate and edit seminar program booklets as needed
  • Alumni Programs and Outreach

  • Provide for smooth transition of European, Asian and Latin American participants to Director of Alumni Engagement;
  • Primary point person on alumni program fund allocation requests;
  • Maintain regular correspondence with alumni; provide content for alumni newsletter;
  • Assist PI/AJC colleagues in connecting with alumni for communications, impact evaluation, or alumni follow-up purposes;
  • Oversee updates to international alumni database and other records;
  • Solicit “evidence of impact” for each alumni program, review outcomes;
  • Represent Project Interchange on international seminars and other events.
  • Organizational and Administrative/Financial Affairs

  • Maintain administrative databases and budgetary records;
  • Revise and maintain efficient budget review processes;
  • Support Program Director in development of program-wide standards for managing information;
  • Prepare updates on international programming for AJC/PI websites, donors, foundations, and board members;
  • Assist Program Director in management of intern program;
  • Support management of full-time Senior Program Associate, fellows and interns;
  • Assist in all Foundation outreach and report requests.
  • Requirements:

  • Master’s degree in political science or international affairs;
  • 5 to 7 years of relevant experience
  • Proven track record of knowledge and experience regarding Israel;
  • General knowledge and interest in international affairs and current events;
  • Fluency in one or more European languages and/or Hebrew;
  • Experience living or working overseas;
  • Ability to multi-task, problem solve and synthesize large amounts of information, understanding and reconciling diverse program objectives;
  • Ability to work both independently and as member of a diverse team in a fast paced office;
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills;
  • Excellent verbal, written and presentation skills; interpersonal ability to communicate effectively with broad range of lay, alumni, organizational colleagues and partner agencies around the world;
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office, Outlook, Excel and Access; willingness to learn other systems, if necessary.
  • To Apply: please contact Nisha Abkarian at abkariann@projectinterchange.org.

    Elite African Business Leaders in Israel to Meet with Counterparts in Finance, Technology and Energy Industries

    Monday, July 20th, 2015

    For Immediate Release
    Contact: Myra Clark-Siegel, clarksiegelm@projectinterchange.org
    Avital Leibovich: leibovicha@ajc.org

    Elite African Business Leaders in Israel to Meet with Counterparts in Finance, Technology and Energy Industries

    (Jerusalem) – A delegation of influential African business leaders is in Israel with AJC’s Project Interchange (PI) and Africa Institute to learn about the country’s information and communications technologies, high-tech innovation, and infrastructure development and financing. Members of the delegation include CEOs and entrepreneurs from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, and Nigeria.

    The delegation marks Project Interchange’s eighth delegation from Africa since 2009, and the first from Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To date, AJC’s Project Interchange and Africa Institute have proudly brought leaders to Israel from 16 African countries.

    This week-long program will introduce these business leaders to Israel’s innovative start-up ecosystem and provide them with opportunities to expand their networks by developing a wide array of business connections. Participants will also visit sites of historic and religious significance. A major focus of the delegation’s experience will be introductions to leaders and start-ups in Israel’s globally-recognized technology and innovation sector and exploring concrete business opportunities through meetings with leading Israeli companies in the participants’ fields. The business aspects of the program were developed in collaboration with the Israel Africa Chamber of Commerce.

    Africa is experiencing tremendous economic growth and global business investment, and many Israeli entrepreneurs and conglomerates have been operating on the continent for decades. Connecting African business leaders and entrepreneurs with their Israeli counterparts provides a platform to continue strengthening the ties between Africa and Israel and open a dialogue for future collaboration.

    As with all Project Interchange delegations, the participants will meet with influential figures across the political, business and social spectrum, and will learn about Israel’s history, challenges and accomplishments.

    Robin Levenston, Executive Director of AJC’s Project Interchange, stated, “As the relationship between Israel and African countries continues to develop, our hope is that these important business leaders, representing diverse countries and constituencies, will find commonalities with Israel and develop partnerships to benefit their communities through high-tech innovation and job creation, which are also key priorities for Israel.”

    # # #

    For over 30 years, Project Interchange, an educational institute of AJC (American Jewish Committee) has brought over 6,000 influential figures to Israel from 85 countries and all 50 U.S. states, offering them broad exposure and firsthand understanding of the complex issues facing Israel and the region. projectinterchange.org

    Senior Program Associate

    Monday, June 1st, 2015

    POSITION:   Senior Program Associate - Project Interchange

    LOCATION: Washington, DC

    Founded in 1906, AJC seeks to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world. Among Jewish advocacy organizations, AJC is the leader in the global arena. We are known for our unparalleled access to diplomats, government officials, and faith leaders in more than 100 countries. In addition to our New York headquarters and Office of Government and International Affairs in Washington, D.C., AJC has offices across the United States and around the globe, and maintains partnerships with Jewish communities worldwide.

    Since 1982, Project Interchange (PI), an educational institute of AJC, has brought over 6,000 of the world’s most influential voices to Israel from 85 countries and all 50 US states. Through its weeklong delegations, PI exposes political leaders, students, university presidents, journalists and interfaith leaders to the complex issues facing Israeli society, building knowledge and connections between Israel and global leaders.

    The Senior Program Associate is a new, one-year project position based in Washington, DC that will allow PI to expand its seminar capacity, in alignment with the capacity building efforts currently underway. Research is a critical component of this role to ensure the implementation of new recruitment and follow up strategies. As a key member of our program team, the senior program associate will ensure smooth coordination amongst program, alumni engagement and analytic staff, enabling PI to implement structural changes and innovations necessary to advance its mission and build upon its history of success.

    The Senior Program Associate’s duties will be carried out in close collaboration with the Directors and Associate/Assistant Directors of the US and International Programs. S/he will report to the Assistant Director of US Programs, who is responsible in turn to the Deputy Director. His/her responsibilities will include, but not limited to the following:

    Program Coordination:
    In collaboration with the US and International Program Teams:

  • Organize and implement PI’s annual slate of seminars from pre-seminar to the post-seminar transition.
  • Assist the Assistant Director in coordinating and leading pre-seminar training and orientation briefings for seminar participants, ensuring content, style, timing and topics are culturally appropriate, support seminar goals, and reflect participant questions and priorities.
  • Support the Assistant Director in organizing and leading post – seminar debriefings with seminar staff person, ensuring evaluative and diagnostic materials are properly recorded and shared appropriately.
  • Responsible, in coordination with the Assistant Director, for developing a recruitment plan and timetable to support each seminar. Each recruitment plan will identify target groups of potential participants to support focused and strategic outreach as well as a follow up plan, including target dates and responsible parties at each stage.
  • Expand the professional impact of each seminar through personal, pre-seminar interviews with participants, the results of which shape highly focused, and intensely individualized program “tracks” for participants.
  • Establish new communication platforms and practices to expand information exchange with AJC institutes and partner organizations in support of recruitment, program development and follow up goals.
    Research topics, identify speakers and help organize regular topical educational briefings for potential participants and alumni.
  • Responsible, in coordination with Director and Assistant Director of US Programs, for implementation of major research initiative to support campus recruitment. Associate will conduct extensive research into target universities to support recruitment plan for each delegation. Research will include mapping of institutional contacts at respective universities, allowing PI and AJC to better identify professional connections in support of PI’s recruitment and follow up activities.
  • Information Management and Training:

  • Develop and implement new systems of information management for PI’s program team, ensuring that all routine outgoing documents, impact reports and evaluations have been completed properly, ensuring compliance with record keeping and confidentiality agreements.
  • Resolve unusual logistical and travel related issues for seminar participants, in close communication with AJC Jerusalem and PI travel vendor. Serve as first “line of defense” on logistical matters for the program assistant and program associate, referring most complex issues to the Associate or Program Director.
  • Ensure PI seminar materials, news, or successes are directed as appropriate to relevant PI or AJC staff person.
  • Produce or update all seminar related financial records, ensuring accessibility across variety of platforms including Raiser’s Edge, AJC Cloud and others in coordination with PI’s program, communication and alumni engagement team.
  • Accurately and efficiently process large amounts of information, extract, summarize convey information as appropriate for various stakeholders including donors, AJC/PI staff, Board members, alumni or prospective participants.
  • Qualifications:

  • BA/BS degree
  • Experience living or working in a multi-cultural, multinational environment
  • Discretion, good judgment and excellent problem solving skills
  • Excellent written, interpersonal and intercultural communication skills
  • Excellent time & project management skills
  • Strong work ethic and attention to detail
  • Event or travel planning experience a plus
  • Ability to attend meetings and programs outside standard working hours as needed.
  • Self-motivated, with the ability to work well independently and in team settings
  • Experience with ACCESS, Raiser’s Edge database and Excel a plus
  • Foreign Language ability, and experience living or working outside the US
  • Commitment to PI’s mission and objectives
  • To Apply:
    Please submit your application on https://ajchr.wufoo.com/forms/sr-program-associate-pi-dc-2015-z4y56pk0celpcy/

    AJC is an Equal Opportunity Employer

    Reflections on Project Interchange

    Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

    Over the past six months since becoming PI Executive Director, I have had the good fortune to meet with a diverse cross-section of PI alumni, around the United States and abroad, and I have been truly inspired as they shared powerful reactions represented in the word cloud below:

    What words come to mind when you think about your Project Interchange Israel seminar experience?

    Word Cloud

    This impact has been echoed by alumni across all sectors: Diplomats; University Presidents, Chancellors, Provosts, Rhodes Scholars, and student leaders; journalists and media opinion leaders; City, County and State Officials; Latino leaders, interfaith leaders, and even Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is one of our most prominent PI alumni.

    This Tweet from a PI alumnus says it all…

    Castro Tweet

    At AJC’s Global Forum in May, several alumni ranging from a Turkish journalist to a leading analyst from India spoke publicly, to over two thousand in attendance, about their understanding and connection to Israel through Project Interchange. In June, PI  and AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute hosted the inaugural National Latino Leaders Alumni Reunion in Washington, DC, with over 60 Latino alumni leaders from across the country going back as far as PI’s first-ever seminar in 1983. Please watch the reunion video.

    Smiley face Of course, the summer was particularly intense, during which our seminars continued in Israel without pause. Our three most recent PI seminars: Diplomatic Leadership, University Presidents and Chancellors, and AJC Regional Directors and Senior Management, all afforded participants insight into the stark reality of the challenges facing Israel, as the kidnapping and murder of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach and the brutal death of Palestinian teen Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir unfolded. During Operation Protective Edge, participants experienced the reality of Israel’s security challenges, and saw first-hand examples of Israel’s accomplishments and contributions to the world. The AJC/PI delegation, which recently returned, blogged their experiences daily.

    With the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and anti-Israel protests and pronouncements around the world, we face a defining moment for Israel and the Jewish community. We are uniquely poised to amplify our seminar docket over the next several months to address these issues head-on.

    Thank you for your critical support of Project Interchange, which continues to position us as the premier address to significantly enhance global opinion leaders’ understanding and connection to Israel. With your endorsement and involvement, PI will foster the long-term, dramatic impact that emerges from our seminars: the expression of public support, media articles, bilateral agreements and collaborations that create strong, enduring ties with Israel while contributing to the world we live in.

    We recently received news from an anonymous private foundation that Project Interchange has been presented with a NEW Challenge Grant! This is a unique opportunity to actively make a difference, and not to sit idly by watching the disturbing “news” emanating from various media outlets each and every day, and to say “Hineini!” (Here I am!)  By taking advantage of this challenge grant, for every $2 you contribute between today and November 1, 2014, an additional $1 may be realized by Project Interchange up to $1 million.  We invite your philanthropic participation to enable PI to secure critical resources to make an exponential impact. To take action,please click here.

    Your annual support reflects our shared values and beliefs. Your investment today in Project Interchange will enable us to significantly increase the number of important global decision-makers able to see Israel through the objective lens of Project Interchange.

    Thank you for your invaluable partnership with Project Interchange – for the future of the State and People of Israel.

    On behalf of the entire Project Interchange team, I wish you your loved ones a Shana Tovah U’metukah and G’mar Chatimah Tova. May the year 5775 bring health, happiness, and peace.


    Robin S. Levenston, MPA

    Executive Director
    AJC’s Project Interchange

    Measurement and Evaluation Analyst

    Friday, August 1st, 2014

    POSITION:     Measurement and Evaluation Analyst-Project Interchange

    LOCATION:    Washington, DC

    The Measurement and Evaluation Analyst will help Project Interchange develop new mechanisms to continually improve organizational performance, measure our effectiveness and enhance our capacity for quantitative analysis and evaluation. S/he will report to the Deputy Director of Project Interchange (PI).

    Founded in 1906, AJC seeks to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world. In addition to its New York headquarters and Washington DC Office of Government & International Affairs., AJC has regional offices and affiliates across the U.S. and overseas in addition to a multitude of global partnerships.

    Project Interchange, an educational institute of AJC, develops and conducts educational seminars in Israel for current and emerging United States and international leaders. Participants include diplomats, elected officials, journalists, media opinion leaders, civic leaders, university presidents, administrators and student leaders.

    Since 1982, Project Interchange has equipped over 6,000 seminar participants from more than 85 countries and all 50 states with a balanced foundation for understanding Israel’s history, diverse makeup, and strategic objectives. PI seminars are apolitical, highly interactive and promote dialogue on a wide array of complex issues.

    Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

    • Develop quantitative performance tools to help Project Interchange evaluate its impact and communicate its organizational effectiveness and impact to diverse stakeholders (for seminars, leadership engagement and alumni engagement).
    • Apply analytical tools to complement anecdotal materials and analysis with data-driven insights.
    • Develop and update PI’s data collection, data-driven reports and analysis, and help establish performance benchmarks for individual participants, seminar groups and PI as a whole. Develop, test and track responses to a range ofevaluative measures and surveys to continually assess PI’s efficacy and impact over time and across various programs.
    • Develop and staff Strategic Assessment Committee of PI’s board and work in partnership with talented lay leadership.
    • In partnership with key PI staff, develop promotional, informational and analytical materials for AJC staff, lay leaders, donors and alumni; building familiarity with outcomes-based measures and enhancing the flow of information and the sharing of success stories throughout the organization.
    • Spearhead production of “impact dashboards” which address:
      • how each seminar program expresses AJC’s annual or ongoing objectives,
      • the goals or projected outcomes of each program,
      • the gaps-if any-between organizational performance and goals,
      • our success in reaching targeted outcomes, recommendations for further improvement.


    • Excellent written, oral and interpersonal communication skills.
    • Proven ability to work well independently and in small teams settings on a variety of programs, projects and activities.
    • While formal statistical training is not a prerequisite for the position, 3-5 years’ experience in analytics and/or the nonprofit sector is preferred.
    • Facility using and/or developing databases, website design, and/or other communication tools.
    • Proficiency in use of Microsoft Office applications including Excel, Access and PowerPoint).
    • Effective communicator with the ability to translate organizational objectives into operational requirements, processes and outcomes.
    • Ability to convey and interpret information and outcomes from multiple sources to diverse audiences.

    To Apply:

    Please submit your application on https://ajchr.wufoo.com/forms/measurement-evaluation-analyst-2014/

    AJC is an Equal Opportunity Employer

    Project Interchange Alumni

    Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


    • David Skorton, President, Cornell University
    • Mark Schlissel, President, University of Michigan
    • Debora Spar, President, Barnard College
    • Donna Shalala, President University of Miami, former U.S. Secretary, Health & Human Services
    • Marilyn Brown, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
    • Beverly Tatum, President, Spelman College
    • Yiyi Chen, Director of the Institute for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Peking University, China
    • Dr. Arda Batu, Professor, Yeditepe University, Istanbul, Turkey
    • Roland Freudenstein, Deputy Director and Head of Research, Centre for European Studies, Belgium

    Political, Government, and Diplomatic Leaders

    • Sonia Sotomayor, Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
    • Kathleen Sebelius, Former U.S. Secretary, Health & Human Services
    • Rep. Eric Cantor, Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives
    • Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. House of Representatives
    • Arnaud Montebourg, Minister of the Economy, France
    • François Fillon, Former Prime Minister of France
    • Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor, India
    • Emanuel Mori, President, Federated States of Micronesia
    • Karl Hood, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Grenada
    • Nicolas Lloreda, Ambassador of Colombia to Canada
    • Barry White, Ambassador of the United States to Norway
    • Kyriakos Amiridis, Ambassador and Chief of the Minister’s Cabinet, Ministry of Citizen’s Protection, Greece
    • Patricio Arturo Walker Prieto, Senator, former President, Chamber of Deputies, Chile
    • Ian Lesser, Executive Director of the Transatlantic Center, German Marshall Fund
    • Fredrik Malm, Member of Parliament, Swedish Liberal Party, Sweden
    • Harold Hauzy, Chief Communications Advisor, Ministry of the Interior, France
    • Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cyprus
    • Georgios Kalantzis, General Secretary of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs, Greece

    Civic Leaders

    • Mark Perriello, President and CEO, The American Association of People with Disabilities
    • Wade Henderson, President, The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights
    • Martha Smith, President and CEO, US-Mexico Foundation
    • Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, Founder and President, All India Organization of Imams and Mosques, India
    • Janet Murguía, President and CEO, National Council of La Raza
    • Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President, The Interfaith Alliance


    • Anthony Cordesman, National Security Analyst, ABC News
    • Leslie Sanchez, Analyst, CNN, FOX, BBC, PBS
    • Bongani Siqoko, Editor-in-Chief, The Daily Dispatch, South Africa
    • Endy Bayuni, Editor-in-Chief, The Jakarta Post, Indonesia
    • David Judson, Editor-in-Chief, Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey
    • Jorge Marirrodriga Giron, Deputy Editor, El Pais, Spain
    • Paula Escobar, Editor-in-Chief, El Mercurio, Chile
    • Jaime De Aguirre Hoffa, Executive Director, Chilevisión Television Network, Chile

    Trip Blog: Day Four

    Friday, January 10th, 2014

    Editor’s Note:  Cathy Bezozo, AJC’s National Associate Director of Development, is in Israel with AJC’s Project Interchange Seminar for University Provosts and is blogging about the delegation’s experiences.

    The PI delegation was welcomed by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah at his office in Ramallah. Given the particular interests of our group, the Prime Minister focused his remarks on education as a means of survival. He noted that, “Women are our best achievers.”

    Prime Minister Hamdallah noted that he hopes Mr. Kerry will succeed for without American intervention, there can be hope for peace. He trusts Mr. Kerry’s initiatives and prays that he will succeed. The Prime Minister concluded our meeting by stating, “It’s time we reach a settlement. This is our destiny to live together.”

    Dr. Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, discussed the issues that drive Palestinian and Israeli thinking and, therefore, their perspectives during negotiations. His center conducts studies with Hebrew University to ascertain information on traditionalists, nationalists, and secularists. He has found that the primary driver of Palestinian politics is the role of religion in politics.

    Like the Prime Minister, Dr. Shikaki said that the two societies don’t trust each other and, therefore, the Americans should navigate the process.

    Returning to Beit Moses, the AJC office in Jerusalem, the participants met with Dr. Tal Becker of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who is leading the negotiations of behalf of Israel. He explained that a zero sum mentality is prevalent. Each side is waiting for the other to understand and transcend their trauma. Dr. Becker talked about leaders who have taken personal and professional risks during the negotiation process. They argue with themselves. Most the time it is difficult to succeed without understanding the other side. This is a process to reconcile interests when there are obstacles to reaching agreement. He suggested that a space must be created for consensus to emerge.

    Voicing similar perspectives as the previous two speakers, Dr. Becker said that there will be a role for the international community in any agreement.

    We were then treated to a meeting at the Supreme Court with Justice (ret.) Yitzhak Englard. He explained that in Israel, there is one judiciary system. The Knesset is subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court. The Court is very independent and any citizen can petition the court.

    We were treated to two special experiences during the day. One was a tour of the Israel Museum, where we were met by Israel Museum Director James Snyder, and the other was an incredible and inspiring night-time tour of the Western Wall tunnels.

    One provost commented that the seminar has been “useful and enlightening.” It has been transformative in helping her to understand the multiple dimensions in Israel. She plans to pursue student study abroad opportunities in Israel and cooperative ventures with Israeli faculty using technological advancements.

    Article featuring Tamika Butler in Haaretz

    Thursday, October 31st, 2013

    Editor’s note:  Tamika Butler participated in a Project Interchange Seminar for Water Management Experts  and was featured in an article on Haaretz.com To view this article on the Haaretz website, please click here. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Project Interchange.

    Visiting LGBT leadership group gets a blunt Israeli welcome

    One American delegate here with the high-powered group says that being in Israel is sort of like being back in Nebraska - random people aren’t afraid to talk to you.

    By Judy Maltz | Oct. 30, 2013 | 7:55 PM

    Project Interchange Leadership Group delegates at the Gan Meir gay center in Tel Aviv (courtesy photo)

    Project Interchange Leadership Group delegates at the Gan Meir gay center in Tel Aviv (courtesy photo)

    Tamika Butler

    Tamika Butler

    Tamika Butler has been “extremely out,” as she puts it, ever since middle school, and as she herself acknowledges,

    “Most people know that I’m gay just from looking at me.”

    Still, when she landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport the other day, as part of a high-powered delegation of American LGBT leaders, she was in for a bit of a shock. “There was this nice gentleman standing there holding a big sign that said ‘LGBT’ on it in big bold letters. I looked around and it was this crazy thing like I was taken aback. I was like ‘Whoa, people are gonna know what we’re here for.’”

    Not that anyone would have tried to hide who they were had this been America, says Butler, but in an airport there, the sign would most likely have been more subtle. “It might have said something like “Project Interchange Leadership Group’ or ‘Diversity Seminar’ - not straight out LGBT. But you know what? Being direct and blunt and to the point - that is so Israeli, as I’ve learned in the past few days.”

    Butler, a Stanford-educated lawyer, is the California director of Young Invincibles, an advocacy organization that encourages young adults to make their voices heard on domestic policy issues. Also co-chair of the National Center for Lesbian Rights board of directors, she is participating this week in the first-ever seminar organized for American LGBT leaders by Project Interchange, an institute run by the American Jewish Committee that brings opinion leaders and policy-makers from around the world to Israel for a week of travel and exchanges with their local counterparts. Since its establishment more than 30 years ago, Project Interchange has brought more than 6,000 influential figures to Israel from 77 different countries.

    The nine-person LGBT delegation is headed by Malcolm Lazin, the executive director of Equality Forum, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization. Other members include Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, America’s largest organization of gay conservatives; Kevin Naff, editor and co-owner of Washington Blade, America’s oldest LGBT news publication; John Campbell, treasurer of the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Andrew Sacher, the founder and executive director of The Lavender Effect, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that promotes LGBT culture.

    Midwest in the Mideast

    During their week-long visit, the delegation members will be meeting with representatives of Israeli LGBT organizations and leaders of the local gay community, as well as senior government officials, academics and civil society leaders. The group will also spend a day in the West Bank meeting with Palestinian leaders.

    As a military brat, Butler says she is particularly interested in how the Israeli army views homosexuality. “I thought about our ‘Don’t Ask - Don’t Tell’ policy back in the states, and we were told that here in Israel, once it was acknowledged that there was this issue, and you guys were gonna change it, it went very quickly,” she says. “That was really surprising to me. I guess it’s part of the startup nation culture. People just feel empowered here to push for change and get things done.”

    Israel is often accused of “pink-washing” its treatment of the Palestinians by flaunting its record on gay rights. Do you agree with that?

    “Since we’ve had only one day of sessions so far, it would be hard for me to really address that.”

    And what do you say about those organizations that call on people like you to boycott Israel?

    “You know, I run an organization that works with young adults, and one of the things we’re always stressing is not to make generalizations, and what’s very clear is that people here are very diverse.”

    Butler spent her early years in Okinawa, Japan, where her father was stationed with the U.S. Air Force. When her family moved back to the United States, they settled in Omaha, Nebraska, where she says, “It was really tough being a black, gay woman.”

    Only when she moved west to California after graduating college, she says, did she realize that she would remain a Midwesterner at heart. This is her second trip to Israel, having been here a year ago, to attend the wedding of a law school classmate, and in certain ways, she says, Israel reminds her of the Midwest.

    The Midwest? Really?

    “Yes. People here, like in the Midwest, aren’t afraid to talk to you in the street even if they don’t know you. Like just yesterday, we were standing in the street, and someone comes up to us and says ‘Why are you here?’ So we tell him that we’re here for this leadership program. ‘Tell me more about it,’ he says. I could see that exchange taking place in Nebraska, too.”

    ATP Dedication

    Monday, September 9th, 2013

    In early September 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu traveled to Be’er Sheva with three Cabinet members for the ribbon-cutting inauguration ceremony for the new Advanced Technologies Park at Ben-Gurion University.

    This incredible new 20-building high tech center, being built on 150 acres and to have 2 million square feet of office and lab space, was designed by KUD International LLC, a subsidiary of Japan-based Kajima Corporation, one of the world’s largest development and construction firms.

    The connection to Project Interchange?

    Marvin Suomi, President and CEO of KUD, traveled to Israel on an AJC Project Interchange seminar in 2005. The trip was the brainchild of Bob Peckar, PI’s National Chair. That’s where Mr. Suomi got the inspiration for this path-breaking initiative. And he said so in the presence of Israel’s top leadership, when he connected the massive project directly to his Project Interchange-sponsored trip. Listen to him here:

    For more information, please go here.