Two years ago, when Galit Agmon bumped into a former high school teacher of hers
and told her that she was pursuing a doctorate in brain sciences at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, the teacher was very surprised.
“She was shocked
because back then, I was going a totally different direction,” Agmon told The
Jerusalem Post. “All my matriculation exams were in humanities subjects except
“She asked me if I could come talk to girls at the school and
explain to them that taking five units [the maximum] of math is important and
that it opens options for the future,” she recalled.
Agmon fulfilled her
teacher’s request and the session was a success. So much so, in fact, that she
started holding such discussions at a second school in Jerusalem.
talked about inequality between men and women, not only in sciences but also in
politics or roles in the household,” she explained. “I asked students where they
think these come from. Do women want it this way? Is it imposed on them?” “The
intention is to show them how much the media – films, advertisements and other
things – shapes how we think about these issues,” she added.
little, Agmon’s initiative turned into a project titled “Common Denominator,” in
which she addressed girls in classrooms and talked to them about stereotypes
that may affect them and their professional aspirations.
Denominator has grown and expanded to workshops held once a year in over a dozen
of schools in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, designed to raise awareness of
stereotypes among high school students.
While the workshops were
originally targeted at girls, Agmon felt the need to expand them to the boys as
“Inequality is a social phenomenon and stereotypes exist about
girls and boys,” she explained, “We talk to them about stereotypes that
influence them and also the stereotypes they have about girls, we talk to them
about what masculinity is or about professions that are considered ‘girly,’ for
The expansion of the project was made possible after Agmon
enrolled in a special program as part of her studies: The Hoffman Leadership and
Responsibility Fellowship, which is aimed at providing doctoral candidates from
all Hebrew University faculties and fields of study with an opportunity to
“focus solely on their research, while honing their skills and developing their
commitment to social and community leadership.”
Agmon told the Post that
the program facilitated her project by providing her with a “favorable platform”
to develop it and many valuable connections with fellow participants, who helped
The program was established in 2006 by Harry and Sylvia
Hoffman of Australia.
Harry Hoffman was born in 1929 in Dubove,
He and his family were taken to Auschwitz in May 1944,
where he lost his mother and two sisters.
After surviving the Holocaust,
Harry migrated to Australia in 1949, where he met his wife.
In 1957, the
couple established Ardross Real Estate, the foundation of what was to become the
Ardross Group, which constructed and owned commercial, industrial and
The Hoffmans have engaged in many philanthropic
ventures throughout their careers. The most significant of these is perhaps
their involvement with the Carmel School, an Australian modern Orthodox day
school, which was renamed the H & S Hoffman and G Korsunski Carmel School in
With his 50 year of business experience, Harry Hoffman decided to
establish the fellowship at the Hebrew University with the stated aim of
“producing a future crop of Israeli leaders for Jewish society to look up to and
be proud of.” Each year, 12 carefully selected fellows like Agmon are accepted
into the program. They meet every other week for lectures, discussions and
The program also requires participants to “express their
personal responsibility” by contributing to society through volunteering for a
minimum of two hours a week, according to the program.
generally volunteer in areas related to youth, education, health care, peace
activism, environmental issues and policy change. Some also work with minorities
“I believe that leadership is something that comes from an
internal set of values and is associated with a strong conviction regarding
goals and beliefs,” program academic head Prof. Amalya Oliver-Lumerman said in a
statement. “Our Hoffman scholars share these qualities and are empowering each
other through their academic excellence and expressed dedication to contribute
“Each university should think about social responsibility,”
she added, “Good things can start with only one person.” The program will be
holding a graduation ceremony next week for its 2013 graduates. The event is
expected to take place in the presence of the Hoffmans, as well as Hebrew
University president Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson.