Portraits of Bar-Ilan University

Bar-Ilan strengthens Jewish and Zionist values, and it is the people of Bar-Ilan that reflect these values in their lives.

Learn how Bar-Ilan makes a meaningful impact in Israel and worldwide through our profiles of its students, alumni and donors.

American Friends Associated with
Young Israel of Scarsdale Help Strengthen
Israeli Society by Supporting Doctoral Scholarships

What do the founding principal of an Israeli high school for immigrant girls, a young chemist working on a project to prevent a biological imbalance that causes painful swelling in the bones, and a professor bringing greater insights into Biblical Studies and Jewish history have in common?

They are among the many recipients of Doctoral Fellowships of Excellence scholarships funded by members of Young Israel of Scarsdale in New York who are associated with the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University.

Among the American Friends associated with Young Israel of Scarsdale are,  from left, Steve Gelles, Carole Daman, Joseph Rackman, Steve Fredman and  Gerald Adler.

A group of these individuals recently came together at the home of Steve and Caron Gelles in Scarsdale to discuss why they believe supporters of Doctoral Fellowships of Excellence scholarships at Bar-Ilan University are contributing to further strengthening all aspects of Israeli society. In addition, they spoke about how these scholarships help provide the country's future leaders with a deeper understanding of Jewish and Zionist values.

"Bar-Ilan students at all levels learn things that are not taught in the Israeli public school system – why they are Jewish, religious values, and why the Land of Israel is so important to the Jewish People…For many of these students, it is the first time in their lives that they take Jewish Studies courses that give them a greater appreciation for their heritage. It has a salutatory effect on Israeli society across the board," said Steve Gelles while explaining why he feels strongly about funding scholarships at Bar-Ilan.

BIU encourages Israelis of all backgrounds, religious and secular, to come together in an atmosphere of respect and understanding

For Gerry Adler, Bar-Ilan reflects the "best of Torah U'Madah in Israel." He said, "It is a University that encourages Israelis of all backgrounds, religious and secular, to come together in an atmosphere of respect and understanding. I like the fact that Doctoral students are encouraged to give back to Israeli society through community service."

Agreeing that Bar-Ilan reduces divisions between religious and secular Israelis, Joseph Rackman said, "When students come together on campus to discuss issues of mutual concern, they find that the distances between them aren't that great…This was the vision of my late father, Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, who as President and Chancellor of Bar-Ilan always reinforced its mission to graduate religious and secular Israeli students who would then go into society with enhanced respect for each other. Over time, this will change the tone of Israeli society. Dad was proud that Bar-Ilan sends more of these people into society than any other Israeli university."

One of the aspects of Bar-Ilan that draws Steve Fredman to support it is that religious students have a University in Israel where they can feel totally comfortable while receiving a world-class education. He said, "At many other Israeli universities, religious students sometimes feel uneasy about being a small minority of the student population. At Bar-Ilan, with its 50-50 secular, religious mix, they have the best of both worlds. They are part of an institution that values religion and is committed to academic excellence."

Agreeing with Steve, Carole Daman said, "It's important for Israelis to have the option of going to a University where religious values and teachings are incorporated into every academic field of endeavor…I am particularly impressed that these values guide the University's Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women, which advances the rights of Israeli women in all segments of society."

Among the Doctoral students supported by this group are Haim Cohen, who is in the Bible Department at Lander Institute, Prof. Ehud Gazit, with the Research Group at Tel Aviv University, Lisa Fredman, principal of YTA (Yerushalayim Torah Academy) Girls School in Jerusalem; Navit Dorin, who earned his PhD in Brain Science, and Alon Sayer, who earned his PhD in Chemistry.

"These students reflect Bar-Ilan's unique mix of excellence in both the sciences and Jewish Studies. This is among the reasons that Bar-Ilan is such an academically dominant university in Israel," said Steve Gelles.

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