January 2013 Update

Dear PI Alumni,

As I write this, the dramatic results from Israel’s elections last week continue to reverberate. Prime Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu’sLikud party won the majority of votes, but the surprise was the surprising come-from-nowhere, second-place showing by the newcomer Yesh Atid party headed by former news anchor Yair Lapid (pictured here with National Chair Bob Peckar, Board Members Tracy Stein, Larry and Lois Frank who met with Lapid last May). Much has been written and speculated about the makeup and players of the next coalition government with a whopping 53 new members of Knesset (Parliament) (see “Of Interest: Articles About Israel” section below for more insights).

In the wildly complex Israeli system, President Shimon Peres must turn to the person he thinks can best cobble together a coalition to form the next government. Those steps will only begin at the end of this week, once President Peres returns from the World Economic Forum in Davos. While no one can predict the next government, one can only respect the democracy that is Israel: fully 34 (!) parties were on the ballot (competing for 120 seats), with 67.5% of the population voting (up 4% from the last election), women were at the helm of three parties that were elected to the Knesset, with 11 members elected from Arab political parties (including three female Arab Knesset members). In an interesting trend reflected across the electorate, Arab voter turnout increased this election (to 56%) for the first time since 2000.

Opinion leaders and decision-makers continue to see Israel’s complex vibrancy up-close and in-person through numerous Project Interchange seminars that reach across the globe. Read more below about recent PI seminars and recent PI alumni activity. We’re very excited about our upcomingSouth African seminar, a first for Project Interchange.

As always, feel free to share this email with interested friends or colleagues.  We’d love to hear from you, too. You can email me by clicking on my name below with any news, questions, or thoughts in general.



Of Interest: Articles about Israel

Articles on the recent election in Israel:

Next Knesset to Receive Boost in Female Power

Israel’s Elections – What Just Happened

Elecciones israelíes: lo que queda claro y lo que noSpanish language article on Israeli elections

General interest articles:

35 Million Facebook users ‘like’ Israeli PhotoMania app

Israel’s favorite gay soldier returns to the big screen

Israel’s IDE to design largest desalination plant in US

Noted economist Stanley Fischer who navigated Israel through world recession resigns as Bank of Israel head

Hamas leader Mashaal seeking presidency of PLO

Upcoming Seminars and Events

Recruitment is complete and program development is in full swing for PI’s first-ever delegation of South African Journalists, to be followed by PI’s ninth seminar for Rhodes Scholars, the second time it will include students from outside the US.

For PI Latino alumni in the Washington, DC area, please contact usfor more information for an upcoming reunion/Shabbat dinner.

Indian American Media Leaders

PI hosted a delegation of Indian-American Media and Foreign Policy Leaders from November 24 – December 2. In collaboration with AJC’s Asia-Pacific Institute, PI hosted representatives from the Huffington Post, Hindustan Times, and the Indo-Asian News Service, among other esteemed organizations. Participants returned with a more nuanced understanding of the region, with Seema Sirohia Columnist for FirstPost.com and Gateway House Indian Council on Global Relations noting, “[My participation] will help me in my analysis and writing.  It has broadened my understanding.”

Many of the participants published articles both during and since their seminar. In early January, DC-based seminar alumni gathered for a reunion (pictured) where they reflected on their experiences.

19th Delegation of Latino Leaders to Israel!

A delegation of influential Latino leaders from across the United States visited Israel with Project Interchange in December, marking Project Interchange’s 19th pioneering initiative for Latino leaders, proudly conducted in collaboration with AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute (LLAI).

The delegation met with top leaders on models for educating dispersed populations about their cultural and religious heritage - a challenge similarly faced by Latino and Jewish communities.

The delegation included leaders from the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, National Latina Business Women Association, US-Mexico Foundation, and Latin American Association, TV Azteca, Azteca America and The Azteca America Foundation, among others.

Suzanna Sanchez. National President, National Latino Business Women Association, noted, “I plan to extend my reach and participation with other organizations of Jewish decent, and foster a closer partnership based on similar issues.” Martha Smith, President and CEO, US-Mexico Foundation, stated, “I truly feel that my knowledge about political, social, and religious issues have increased substantially thanks to this seminar. I believe that a partnership with the AJC is something I will look to now as well as with the Jewish community in Mexico.”

Jeffrey Tapia of the Latin American Association recently published her impressions in theorganization’s newsletter.

PI and AJC’s LLAI are planning a  reunion for PI Latino alumni from the Washington, DC area. For more information, please email us.

Scandinavian Students of Journalism 2013 Seminar

Braving Israel’s most severe storm in several decades, a delegation of 14 journalism students from Denmark, Norway, and Finlandtraveled to Israel with Project Interchange and Thanks To Scandinavia (TTS).  Meetings with academics, a Member of Knesset, civilian security officials, scientists, rabbis, and social justice activists provided an intense introduction to Israel’s ethnic, religious, and political diversity, the challenge of reporting on and from Israel, Israel’s geopolitical environment and Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The delegation also enjoyed a wide-ranging discussion with students at Tel Aviv University. Visiting just before before Israeli national and parliamentary elections, participants experienced the dynamism of Israeli democracy, a topic they explored via conference call with renown Professor Reuven Hazan before their trip. The participants left Israel with a much greater understanding of Israel’s diversity and the factors complicating peace negotiations. PI looks forward to building upon this experience and is working with TTS and local contacts on plans for an alumni reunion and other follow up events.

Alumni Updates

AJC Chicago’s Channukah celebration featured PI alumni includingState Senator Michael Frerichs (’12), pictured here and National Museum of Mexican Art Executive Director Carlos Tortolero(’10).

PI alumnus Javier Salas (’11), has accepted a position as Senior Advisor to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, where is foccusing on Latino relations, immigration, health and education.

Cecilia Pérez (’12) was recently appointed to be the Spokesperson for the President of Chile (a ministerial position in the Chilean government).

Polish alumnus Michał Sznajder (’10) traveled to Israel after Operation Pillar of Defense and produced several stories, broadcast on Poland’s TVN24: “The First 24 Hours of Truce” and “The Normalcy of War.” Mr. Sznajder relays the sense of “almost” normalcy Israelis experienced after the end of the war, and follows an Israeli civilian into the bomb shelter in the basement of her apartment building. Other Israeli civilians interviewed convey their sense of resilience, while Moty Cristal, whom Mr. Sznajder met on his PI seminar, analyzes the political consequences of the war for Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

Eight out of the 12 German Opinion and Civic Leaders alumni (’12), accompanied by their guide from Israel, Udi Stern, attended a mini-reunion and tour of the villa where the infamous Wannsee Conference of 1942 was held - - now a memorial and museum.

AJC’s Berlin Office - Ramer Institute Director Deidre Berger received the Role Model for Societal Integration 2012 Award, an honor for which she was nominated by PI alumnus Ramazan Salman (’06), Mr. Salman is the Director of the Hanover-based Ethno-Medical Center Association.

In Memoriam

PI alumnus and veteran journalist and columnist for the Hürriyet Daily News, Ümit Enginsoy (’07) , passed away at the age of 52.

With his passing, AJC/PI has a friend, and the world has lost the insights of a talented and perceptive journalist. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this difficult time. May his memory be a blessing.