November 2012 Newsletter

Update from the Executive Director

Dear Project Interchange Alumni,

Just two weeks ago, as Americans were busily preparing for their annual Thanksgiving dinners, missiles were flying into Israel from Gaza, at the rate of roughly eight per hour. We, like you, are relieved that a ceasefire was negotiated, and hope that it leads to a meaningful and sustained quiet.

At the same time, Project Interchange had a delegation of American city, county, and state officials in Israel at the time. While the situation required some adjustments to the schedule, as one participant noted, “I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything … The reality is so much more than what we ever could have just read about or been told. I thank the Israeli and Palestinian people with whom we met for that. Project Interchange is terrific.”

Read on for more details about this and other Project Interchange seminars and activities.

In completely unrelated but interesting news, a recent survey of leading brands by the world’s largest database of consumer behavior asked 13,000 Americans to choose their favorite trademarks. Tel Aviv - known for its nightlife, culture, creativity, beaches and lifestyle - was ranked alongside Twitter, Nintendo,  Apple and YouTube. Certainly  PI alumni can concur with Tel Aviv’s appeal. Tel Aviv, by the way, beat out such brands as Prada, Audi, and The Wall Street Journal.

As always, feel free to forward this email to friends and colleagues.



7th Annual City, County, State-Elected Officials Seminar

Project Interchange completed its seventh seminar for state and local elected officials, bringing a diverse, bipartisan delegation of city, county and state officials to Israel.

The seminar was an opportunity for these important leaders to meet with their Israeli counterparts, as well as hear from both Israeli and Palestinian leaders while learning about the intricate history and situation in the region.

Coincidentally, during the group’s time in Israel, tensions rose and the Israeli operation “Pillar of Defense” was initiated after barrages of Hamas rockets from the Gaza strip were sent into Israel, reportedly in retaliation for the assassination of Hamas’ chief military officer, though hundreds of rockets had been launched at Israel throughout the year by Hamas.

Senator Mike Frerichs noted “We were actually in a meeting with a (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu spokesman who said that ‘about 20 minutes ago we took out the military head of Hamas,’” Frerichs related. “And we all looked at each other and he said, ‘I understand that tomorrow you’re supposed to go down to Sderot. You might want to re-evaluate your plans because we anticipate reprisals.’ So it was an exciting time.” Frerichs said “I never felt like I was in danger, but I definitely heard air raid sirens or rocket sirens.”

Senator Jeremy Nordquist stated in World Herald Bureau“It’s very much like ‘life goes on,’ ” he said. “It’s fascinating. Here, it’s what they’ve come to live with.”

Read the press release and more participant impressions here.

Join Project Interchange on LinkedIn

We recently launched the Project Interchange LinkedIn profile (Project Interchange Team) and we’ve already connected with nearly 300 people, including 200 American and international alumni. Request to Connect with us and tap into our ever-growing network of influential alumni!

Alumni will be invited to join our exclusive PI Alumni group.

One alumna wrote about the PI LinkedIn profile: “I would love to reconnect with the group that I went with. This gives an opportunity to do that. Thanks.”

Another alumnus also commented, “I had a fascinating and rich learning experience on my PI trip. [I] am not one of those on Facebook, so [I] hope this group has some spark and we may connect and discuss.”

Please join us on LinkedIn. We look forward to Connecting with you!

And while we’re at it, if you like Project Interchange, LIKE US on Facebook!

Of Interest: Articles and Events in Israel

Articles of Interest

Israeli App Waze Helped Manage Post-Sandy Gas Shortages

Close to 30 million mobile app users turn to Waze to tap its crowd-sourced data for car directions. The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the White House saw an opportunity to use the app in a new way, following widespread gas shortages due to Hurricane Sandy.

Opening a World of Opportunity for Israel’s Disabled

Flip the Switch on Heating and Lighting Costs
A sensor system from Israel monitors energy use throughout commercial spaces to slash expenses and keep users comfortable.

Events in Israel

Festival of Festivals: an annual festival in Haifa’s Wadi Nisnas neighborhood, a mix of Arab and Jewish communities. The festival promotes peace, understanding and good relations with one’s neighbors. There are a variety of artistic and cultural events celebrating Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

TedX Jerusalem 2012: December 10

Hamshushalayim: Jerusalem’s cultural institutions and tourism sites are open to the public, free of charge, for four weekends of cultural festivals in December

Annual Veolia Desert Challenge at the Dead Sea: a sports festival for mountain bikers and runners

Christmas Events in Nazareth

PI in the News

As rockets fly, delegation of visiting US officials gets some unexpected insights

Tom Kacich: Frerichs enjoyed Israeli trip, despite sudden hostilities

NE: Omaha senator in Israel during recent conflict

Trip to Middle  East Increased Awareness of Challenges
OpEd by Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston

Nebraska lawmaker describes ’surreal day’ in Israel

Phillips Gets An Up Close Look at Crisis in the Middle East

Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, a 2011 PI alumnus from Georgia, penned an OpEd on his perspective.

PI Mini-Reunion at the White House

Leaders from a variety of organizations were recently invited to the White House East Room for President Obama’s speech on next steps regarding the economy, with the event turning into an impromptu mini-reunion of sorts for several Project Interchange alumni. Richard Foltin, AJC Director of National and Legislative Affairs, who has accompanied several PI delegations, facilitated the reunion photo.

Pictured left to right are Mark Perriello, President and CEO, The American Association for People with Disabilities; Priscilla Ouchida, National Executive Director, Japanese American Citizens League; Richard Foltin, AJC;  and Chanelle Hardy, Senior Vice President for Policy, National Urban League, Executive Director, National Urban League Policy Council.

Project Interchange Conducts “Israel Unwrapped” Briefing on the Situation in Israel and Gaza

Within 24 hours, Project Interchange coordinated an exclusive “Israel Unwrapped” briefing on the “Situation in Israel and Gaza,” for PI alumni, which featured Dr. Jonathan Spyer, Senior Research Fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya. Dr. Spyer is also a columnist and feature writer at the Jerusalem Post newspaper, and is the author of “The Transforming Fire: the Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict”.  Dr. Spyer is a frequent briefer for PI delegates in Israel.

The call was moderated by Jason Isaacson, AJC’s AJC Director of Government and International Affairs, and included participants from several countries as well as participants from across the U.S.

PI Alum Wade Henderson was Keynote Speaker at “America’s Table” Thanksiving Luncheon in DC

On November 19, AJC Washington hosted its annual America’s Table Thanksgiving Luncheon at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Washington, DC. Following an invocation from Rev. Scott Ickert, a Project Interchange alumnus and participant in the Washington Lutheran-Jewish Dialogue, guests heard passages from the America’s Table ReaderThe Reader was first published following 9/11 by AJC’s Belfer Center for American Pluralism to tell the stories of individuals that demonstrate the great diversity of American citizens. Passages were recited by Sindy Benavides, Civic Engagement Director at the League of United Latin American Citizens( and a PI alumna from our2010 Latino Leaders Seminar); Dr. Larry Goleman, Executive Director of the Washington Theological Consortium; Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, President of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington; Jay Kansara, Associate Director of the Hindu American Foundation; and Dr. Hedieh Miramahdi, President of the World Organization for Resource Development & Education.

After enjoying delicious traditional Thanksgiving fare, Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Project Interchange alumnus, provided a powerful description on the legacy and importance of ensuring voting rights and the history of the fight for them, in which AJC played an important role. In addition to Mr. Henderson and Rev. Ickert, eight Project Interchange alumni were in attendance.

The America’s Table Luncheon provides an excellent opportunity for leaders from throughout the community to come together to celebrate American diversity.

Rabbi David Rosen addresses PI Alumni: “Religion, War and Peace in the Middle East”

PI co-sponsored a briefing with AJC for PI alumni in the Washington, DC area that featured Rabbi David Rosen with the AJC Regional office.  Rabbi Rosen, Director of the Robert and Harriet Heilbrun Institute for International and Interreligious Understanding, a frequent speaker to PI groups, is an internationally recognized leader in interfaith relations and in advancing peace through dialogue in Israel and around the Middle East.

Upcoming Seminars and Events

Project Interchange has much more in store over the next month, with a delegation ofIndian-American Media and Foreign Policy Leaders, currently in Israel, and three seminars taking place in as many weeks for National Latino LeadersCalifornia Student Leaders,  and Student Media Leaders.

For those in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, PI alummus Sohrab Ahmari, a journalist for The Wall Street JournalNew Republic, and other publications, will be a featured speaker at an event commemorating 25 years since the modern-day exodus of over 1.5 million Jews from the former Soviet Union.