June 2012 Newsletter

Dear Friend of Project Interchange,

The year is half over, but Project Interchange has 15 seminars scheduled over the next 6 months! We have some exciting updates below, ranging from the promotion of a new Deputy Director for Project Interchange, to our recent U.S. Energy Experts Seminar, to our upcoming flagship program: University Presidents.

I hope you’ll especially enjoy some recent news regarding Project Interchange Alumni.  Would you believe FOUR of last year’s French Leaders seminar participants of last year’s are now high ranking members of the new French government?  Amazingly enough, TWO alumni from Greece are high ranking officials of the government there as well. Please read more below to find out.

Proud of the impact Project Interchange has made connecting world leaders with Israel? We are too. Read on for more–and feel free to share this email.

Sam Witkin
Executive Director

Nisha Abkarian Promoted to Deputy Director

We are proud to announce the immediate promotion of Nisha Abkarian to Deputy Director of Project Interchange, In this capacity, Nisha will serve both as Deputy Director of Project Interchange and Director of International Seminars.

Nisha joined Project Interchange in 2006, when she was brought in to develop PI’s fledgling international seminars program, which now spans over 70 countries. Nisha has extensive overseas experience and has worked in government and Jewish communal affairs for most of her career, which has included positions with the New York State Legislature, AJC’s Office of Governmental Affairs, and US Embassies in China and Saudi Arabia.  She became Assistant Director of PI in 2011.

Nisha earned a BA in Political Science and a Certificate in International Relations from the University of Rochester, and a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

Please join me in congratulating Nisha on this well-deserved promotion.

U.S. Energy Experts Seminar

U.S. Energy Experts at Askelon Desalination PlantA delegation of some of the U.S. energy sector ‘s most prominent figures just wrapped up an intensive seminar on June 24th.  The delegation focused on Israeli best practices and potential collaboration in the field of renewable and alternative energy.

The energy specialists met with leaders of Israeli companies on the cutting edge of alternative and clean energy solutions, including solar, electric car, wave and renewable energy technologies. They also visited sites showcasing ground-breaking Israeli technologies, such as the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Sde Boker;  BrightSource Energy, Inc.’s Solar Thermal Development Center in the Negev Desert at Dimona; the water desalination plant at Ashkelon; and SDE Energy Ltd., developer of a technology that produces electricity from ocean waves.

Read the press release
Read the participants’ articles and blog posts
Media coverage

University Presidents

Next week, a delegation of University Presidents leaves for Israel on PI’s flagship seminar, from small liberal arts colleges to large public research institutions. The university presidents have indicated a key interest in exploring Israeli innovation and opportunities for academic cooperation. For more information, please read the press release here.

A seminar that regularly attracts media attention,  the San Antonio Business Journal has already published a story prior to their departure.  Please keep watching PI’s website and Facebook page for updates as the seminar progresses.

Project Interchange Impact

Over the last few months, Project Interchange alumni have been making headlines and building upon their seminar experience as they engage with Israel, AJC, and their local Jewish community.

In Greece, recent elections thrust two PI alumni into senior government positions:

Symeon (Simos) Kedikoglou - Governmental Spokesperson (Greek Journalists & Parliamentarians 2006)
Stavros Kalafatis - Deputy Minister Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change (Greek Leaders of Civil Society 2011)

The Socialist Party’s victory in the recent French presidential and legislative elections has propelled four alumni of the 2011 French Political Leaders seminar to power.

Manuel Valls - Minister of the Interior (French Political Leaders 2011)
Harold Hauzy - Chief Communications Advisor to the Minister of the Interior (French Political Leaders 2011)
--Arnaud Montebourg - Minister of Productive Recovery (formerly the Ministry of Industry) (French Political Leaders 2011)
Olivier Ferrand – Member of the National Assembly (French Political Leaders 2011)

We wish them much success in their new roles and responsibilities.

Alumni in India

Project Interchange sponsored several PI alumni events in New Delhi and Mumbai, India, in coordination with AJC’s Office of Government and International Affairs Director Jason Isaacson and AJC’s new Asia Pacific Institute Director Patty Marcus. These events served as a terrific opportunity to reconnect and brief Indian PI alumni as well as network with potential seminar participants. Project Interchange and AJC are jointly planning our next seminar from India, which will feature Members of Parliament.

Upcoming Seminars

Project Interchange has much more in store in the coming months. Civil rights leaders, diplomats, student groups and state elected officials are all headed to Israel before the end of the year. Look for a feature on the University Presidents Seminar in July’s update.