October 2012 Newsletter

Dear PI Alumni,

Everyone’s attention is rightly focused on the impact and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Our neighbors in the Caribbean were again devastated by this storm and the destruction across the U.S. is mind-boggling. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this storm and we hope everyone is safe and well. We join everyone in thanking the first responders for their courageous service and rescue operations.

It is precisely these first responders that I had the privilege of accompanying for a week in Israel with the 10th annual Project Interchange delegation of senior American security and counter-terror experts and chiefs of police.

While Project Interchange develops and leads seminars for opinion leaders around the world, I wanted to share one participant’s comment in particular, as it reflects what we hear so often from PI participants and alumni.

Austin Texas Assistant Police Chief Brian Manley noted, “I really didn’t know what to expect coming to Israel. I think the way this seminar was organized gave respect to all of the issues. There was not an attempt to persuade us one way or the other on any side of the issues. Prior to this seminar, I was not very well versed on all the issues and challenges facing Israel. This seminar gave me a much better understanding of these challenges and I am impressed by the resiliency of this country and the Israeli people.”

Read on for more details about this and other Project Interchange seminars and activities. As always, feel free to forward this email to friends and colleagues.



Of Interest: Articles and Events in Israel

A new feature that we’re introducing in the Project Interchange update is a sampling of events in Israel, news articles covering Israeli society, politics, and issues of interest. Happy reading!

Events In Israel
Eilat-Eilot , Israel’s largest renewable energy conference: November 27-29
Tel Aviv Fashion Week: November 11-13
Hula Valley Bird Festival: November 11-18
TedX Jerusalem 2012: December 10

Articles of Interest
First flight in last Ethiopian aliya lands in Israel
Israel’s economy first in job creation and growth in West
Yachimovich calls for recognition of non-Orthodox Judaism
OpEd Analysis: Target in Sudan: Arms shipment

PI in the News

Several media outlets have run articles featuring Project Interchange and seminar alumni:

Project Interchange was prominently featured in a Haaretz piece about bilateral U.S.-Israeli agreements and major programs underway by Project Interchange alumni.  The article references the Cornell-Technion joint super science center planned for New York, the Ben-Gurion University-KUD international technology park in Israel, and bilateral university research and exchange programs.

Also, Project Interchange diplomatic seminar alumni were featured in a Chicago Jewish News article, including Austrian Consul General to Chicago Thomas Schnöll and Greek Consul General to ChicagoIoanna Efthymiadou.

10th Annual Security Specialists and Chiefs of Police Seminar

Project Interchange just completed its tenth seminar for counterterrorism officials, bringing a diverse delegation of U.S. police chiefs and intelligence specialists, commanders and senior analysts to Israel. The delegation included representatives from major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, and Oakland.

As reported in The Jerusalem Post, the week-long seminar focused on valuable exchanges between delegates and their Israeli counterparts, who showcased Israeli technological and operational advances in counterterrorism efforts and tactics.  Our participants took part in high-level discussions concerning Israeli and Palestinian politics and society, the peace process, and security cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian Authority defense forces. The seminar provided participants the unique opportunity to learn from and collaborate with their Israeli counterparts.

Captain Darren Allison, Oakland Police Department, stated, “This trip has been phenomenal. It far exceeded my expectations - the level of interactions, the folks we met with, the connections you got for us. It never would have occurred to me that an Israeli general would have been willing to give the Golan back for peace. It’s not about expansion, it’s not about land, it’s about peace. I had no idea about the level of collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian police.  The level of collaboration between Israelis and Palestinians sets a bar for us to strive to achieve back home.”

Media Coverage:

The Jerusalem Post
Shalom TV Daily News
Kol English Radio interviewed PI Executive Director Sam Witkin and an LAPD commander.

Alumni Spotlight: PI Alumni Fight Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial in Greece

While historians, economists and political scientists may debate the cause, expressions of Holocaust denial in Greece have become more frequent and more public, especially since the global economic downturn.  Project Interchange alumni have worked to combat Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism in important ways.

In May 2012, after the neo-Nazi leader of the Golden Dawn party denied the existence of gas chambers and of Auschwitz on Greek television, Dr.  Hagen Fleischer, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Athens quickly organized an event at the university during which three Holocaust survivors recounted their experiences to students. During the three-hour event, the packed auditorium of 400 students listened to each survivor’s story. For many students, this was the first time that they had heard such stories or met Holocaust survivors.

Dr. Fleischer participated in a Project Interchange seminar in Israel for Leaders of Greek Civil Society in 2011 and has spent the last 40 years working on Nazism, the Holocaust, and the German occupation of Greece. “As a historian who has spent 40 years working on this bleak period and its varied consequences to date, I felt I must act,” Dr. Fleischer said ahead of the talk.  He continued, “A first step in that effort is to listen to the survivors.”

The event was widely covered by the Greek media. English language coverage of the event can be found here:
The Athens News
Additional piece by The Athens News
European Jewish Congress
Dr. Fleischer returned to Israel for a second time in June 2012, as the guest of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Two other alumni from the Project Interchange 2011 trip for Leaders of Greek Civil Society have also acted to counter rising Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism in Greece.   Ms. Mary Michailidou, Honorary Director General of the Ministry of Culture sat on the international panel of judges which reviewed designs for Athens’ first Holocaust memorial. This memorial, which opened in January 2011, marks the devastating loss of 81% of Greece’s Jewish population during WWII.

A few days after returning from the same PI seminar, Secretary General of the Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs, Mr. Georgios Kalantzis gave a speech at the opening ceremony of a seminar called “Teaching the Holocaust in Greece” at the Jewish Museum in Athens. In his remarks, Mr. Kalantzis described his personal experience at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and stressed the importance of expanding Holocaust education in Greece.  More recently, he  issued apress release in response to the shooting at the Jewish school in Toulouse, France.

Argentine Project Interchange Alumni Produce Photo Exhibit

The recent PI delegation of Leaders of Argentine Civil Society created a photo exhibit reflecting their experience in Israel through Project Interchange/AJC.

The exhibit was launched on October 18th at AMIA (the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires and the site of a devastating suicide bombing attack in 1994). Israel’s Ambassador Dorit Shavit attended the event, which featured notable guests and Project Interchange alumni.

The PI seminar alumni have agreed to host the traveling photo exhibit in the headquarters of each of their organizations over the next year, with the Buenos Aires YMCA scheduled to next host the exhibit.

One alumnus, the Executive Director of the Argentine Network for International Cooperation(RACI) posted a description of the event and the trip on the front page of the RACI website.

To better view the photo exhibit, click here.

Upcoming Project Interchange Seminars and Events

Project Interchange has much more in store over the next sixty days. City, County, State Officials; Asian Strategic Leaders; Indian-American Media Leaders; Latino Leaders; California Student Leaders; and Student Media Leaders are all upcoming PI seminars.

For Washington, DC Area alumni, PI is co sponsoring a lunch with Rabbi David Rosen with the AJC Regional office.  Rabbi Rosen (pictured), 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.

The topic will be  “Religion, War and Peace in the Middle East” on November 7th. If you are interested in attending, please email Chris at townsendc@projectinterchange.org