Bar-Ilan honors Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Philanthropist and former Mossad chief among those receiving honorary doctorates.

Bar Ilan University Ceremony (photo credit: Yoni Reif)
Bar Ilan University Ceremony
(photo credit: Yoni Reif)
Former Mossad director Efraim Halevy and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra were among those who received honorary doctorates from Bar- Ilan University on Tuesday night, as was South African immigrant, venture capitalist and philanthropist Morris Kahn.
Also honored in the conferment ceremony on the lawns of the Dahan Family Unity Park were Nobel laureates Prof.
Dan Shechtman and Prof. Edward C. Prescott, organic farming pioneer Mario Moshe Levy, philanthropists Selim Yehoshua Salti and Susanne Czuker, and actor Shmuel Atzmon- Wircer.
Kahn – who was recognized for making “an indelible mark on Israel, creating a global software leader and catalyzing a hi-tech explosion” – received special thanks from BIU president Prof. Moshe Kaveh for his contribution to the university’s Nanotechnology Institute and School of Medicine in the Galilee.
Kaveh, who is stepping down in October after 18 years at the university’s helm, also congratulated former science and technology minister Daniel Herschkowitz, a mathematician and rabbi whose appointment as the next president was approved by the board of trustees at its 58th general meeting on Monday.
“I wish much success to my successor, Prof. Daniel Herschkowitz, in fulfilling this important role,” Kaveh said. “I am completely satisfied, and thank the Almighty for the privilege I’ve had in advancing the great work of Bar-Ilan University.”
Kaveh praised Halevy – who was born in London in 1934 – “for his lifelong dedication to Israel’s security.”
“As the ninth Mossad director, he worked to thwart threats to Israel and rescue Jews from hostile lands,” the university president said.
For his part, Halevy said that receiving an honorary doctorate represented “the closing of a circle.”
“I am the great-grandson of Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, the Netziv, the father of Chaim Berlin, who was the rabbi of Jerusalem during the Ottoman period, and the younger brother of Rabbi Meir Berlin Bar-Ilan, for whom this university was named,” Halevy said. “The Netziv was not only a great Torah sage, but also a serious scholar of subjects such as the security of the people of Israel. That’s why standing in front of you today has a special meaning for me.”
Kahn, founder of international communications provider the Aurec Group and Israeli software giant Amdocs, is helping to reverse “the brain drain” by drawing Israeli scientists back from abroad and equipping them with state-ofthe- art laboratories here.
“His support of frontier research by returning scientists is strengthening Israel’s competitive edge in the global scientific arena,” BIU said.
Kahn expressed similar sentiments about the university, saying, “I think that one of the contributions that Bar-Ilan is making toward Israel’s future is bringing back our promising scientists. They will make a tremendous contribution to Israel’s economy. The future of Israel depends on its hi-tech, and these are the people who will do the job.”
Born in Benoni in 1930, he first visited Israel in 1955. He discovered “a strange country, a foreign language, different food – but a feeling of being at home with my people,” he said. The following year, he returned, this time to stay.
His current focus is on philanthropy.
Through the Kahn Foundation, he seeks to better the lives of thousands through a broad spectrum of projects in science, medicine, health, education, leadership and the environment.
“I have been successful in business, and this has given me the ability to do things that are satisfying and meaningful.
This is the underpinning of why I do what I do,” he said. “Philanthropy requires work; it’s not just writing checks.”
Shechtman, the 2011 Nobel laureate in chemistry, was born in Tel Aviv in 1941 and now lives in Haifa. He received an honorary doctorate “for his groundbreaking discovery which has changed the conception of solid matter,” the university said.
“His findings of ‘quasicrystals’ – revealing that atoms in a crystal can be packed in asymmetrical patterns – has opened up a new research field and positioned Israel at the scientific forefront,” BIU said.
Prescott – who was born in 1940, won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Economics and lives in Arizona during the winter – was honored for his seminal works in macroeconomics, “which have changed the way we manage our financial institutions and make policy decisions in an ever-more complex world.”
Prescott remarked that he thought the Israeli economy should be faring much better than it is.
“Given the talents of the Israeli people, Israel should be catching up and even surpassing the leading industrial countries in terms of per capita output and income,” he said. “It is true that over the last five years, Israel has improved relative to the EU and the US, but this is because the EU and US economies have been doing badly, not that the Israeli economy has been doing particularly well.”
Levy, who was born in Italy in 1924 and lives on Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, was recognized for being “a pioneer in organic farming and founder of the Israel Bio-Organic Agriculture Association.”
Atzmon-Wircer, artistic director and founder of the Yiddishpiel Theater, was born in Poland in 1929 and received his honorary doctorate for “his lead role in preserving and disseminating the Yiddish language,” according to BIU. Supreme Court Judge Elyakim Rubinstein and fellow Yiddishpiel actor Sassi Keshet were among those who placed the ceremonial hood on Atzmon- Wircer’s shoulders.
Salti, who was born in Turkey in 1935, was hailed for “his monumental contribution to preserving Judeo-Spanish heritage and the Ladino language.”
Recalling how his father would ask him if Ladino would exist in the 21st century, Salti said he had established the Yehoshua and Naime Salti Center for Ladino Studies at Bar-Ilan in order to preserve the historic language for future generations.
Czuker was recognized for “her profound commitment to Jewish education, continuity and heritage, as well as for her deep devotion to the State of Israel, demonstrated through her support of educational and Zionist enterprises.”
Born in Hungary, Czuker lives in the US, where she and her husband, Jan, a Holocaust survivor who died in 2010, developed a successful real estate business and interior design company.
In a moving ceremony on campus Wednesday, she dedicated the Jan & Susanne Czuker and Family Main Lobby and Auditorium in the Jim Joseph Education Building.
At the ceremony, the university paid tribute to Aharon Dahan, “a trusted friend, mentor and dedicated visionary” who passed away earlier this year.
“Mr. Dahan’s generosity was largely responsible for changing the face of Bar-Ilan University – both physically and academically – over the past 20 years,” BIU said.
Finally, the university conferred an honorary doctorate on the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra – which was founded in 1936 – for its “instrumental role in enriching Israeli culture.”
“A focal point for international musical talent, the IPO provides an exemplary model for generations of musicians and music devotees,” BIU said.
“Performing throughout the world, it serves as Israel’s goodwill ambassador, carrying a message of peace and harmony.”
The colorful ceremony concluded with the IPO’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture, conducted by Yoel Levi, and the singing of Hatikva.