Grapevine January 8, 2022: Changing of the guard – on air

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 REICHMAN UNIVERSITY President Prof. Rafi Melnick (fourth right) with a delegation of Israeli academics living in the US.  (photo credit: OREN SHALEV)
REICHMAN UNIVERSITY President Prof. Rafi Melnick (fourth right) with a delegation of Israeli academics living in the US.
(photo credit: OREN SHALEV)

Veteran news anchor Rina Matzliach, whose broadcasting career spanned more than three decades, announced her resignation from Channel 12 in November fearing that the new government would curtail freedom of the press. Matzliach, who was known for asking sharp, controversial and even embarrassing questions of politicians, had withstood death threats and efforts to have her dismissed, but felt that she had gone as far as she could go. Her job no longer excited her, and she indicated that she was now moving in a different direction. That decision didn’t last for long. She went back to Reshet Bet, the station from which she had broadcast in the early years of her career, proving once again the importance of a public broadcasting network. 

Another veteran Reshet Bet broadcaster, Geula Even, who was probably better known for her television broadcasts, had a career problem because of the position of her husband, Gideon Sa’ar, in politics. In 2018, she temporarily quit broadcasting news. She later had a radio interview program, then returned to news, but resigned from KAN 11 when she was denied her position as news anchor, during the period in which her husband was justice minister. But she’s back on air now – not with KAN 11, but with Channel 13, where she is anchoring The World This Morning. Her first broadcast is actually this morning, January 8, 2023, a milestone date in her career. The program runs from 6 to 9.30 a.m. It’s almost like musical chairs, because Tali Moreno, another veteran news anchor, recently left Channel 13 and joined KAN 11.

MUCH HAS been said and written about the reforms that Justice Minister Yariv Levin is bent on introducing. But not enough has been stated about his choice of a director-general for the Justice Ministry. One would imagine that someone holding this position would be a person with proven managerial experience and a sound knowledge of the law. But Levin’s candidate, Itamar Donenfeld, has neither. What does that say about the way that Levin intends to run the Justice Ministry?

■ THERE IS nothing static about Reichman University, which continues to introduce new programs and projects. The university is currently working towards the establishment of an academic home for Israeli researchers from leading universities around the globe. Last week, the university hosted a preliminary delegation of researchers as part of its “Brain Sharing” project, the aim of which is to strengthen their connection to the university and create academic and research partnerships with them. The first delegation, as the project moves forward, will comprise a group of senior Israeli researchers from top-ranking universities such as Stanford, the University of Minnesota, Cornell and INSEAD.

According to Eliran Zered’s June 2020 report “Israelis with Academic Education Abroad and Steps Taken to Return Them to Israel,” which was presented to the Knesset in April 2021, the State of Israel is the largest exporter of academics to the US relative to its population, or in other words, a world leader in brain drain.

 Reichman University (credit: Dana Siman-tov) Reichman University (credit: Dana Siman-tov)

Zered’s findings led Reichman University President Prof. Rafi Melnick to initiate the project.

The delegation’s visit comes after a series of Zoom meetings held on various topics over the past year, led by Melnick and including researchers, deans of the various schools and representatives of the university administration. The visit is centered around the theme of “resilience” on the personal, social and national levels. During their time in Israel, the researchers will participate in two conferences – the first on “Entrepreneurial Resilience” and the second on “Resilience in Sports.” Among other things, the researchers will engage in a tour of communities bordering the Gaza Strip in cooperation with the Israel Trauma Coalition, during which they will meet with residents of the area, military officials dealing with resilience and resilience centers.

“Throughout my many years in academia, I have watched the ever-growing phenomenon of brain drain with concern, and wondered how I could help slow it down,” says Melnick. “In my role as president, I see the advancement of quality and groundbreaking research as a fundamental national mission, and I have set ourselves the goal of bringing back outstanding Israeli and Jewish researchers from the world’s top universities and offering them an academic home in Israel that will serve their needs. All parties involved will benefit from this.”

Delegation participant Prof. Guy Hoffman of Cornell University sees the Brain Sharing program as an original and beneficial initiative. “As an Israeli researcher living in the US, I’m always happy to maintain contact with Israeli academia, and this initiative provides a framework for this,” he said. “During the winter conference, I was able to renew my research relationship with the Media Innovation Lab at Reichman University, led by Prof. Oren Zuckerman. We began by jointly advising students, planning the editing of a book, and discussing innovative research methods. I look forward to continuing these joint efforts when I return to the US. Beyond that, I really enjoyed the conference held by the Adelson School of Entrepreneurship, which offered perspectives not only from the local research on entrepreneurship, but also from entrepreneurs and investors in the Israeli tech industry.”

Tri-state area

MORE THAN 40 people from Israel and the New York tri-state area, who were nearly all descendants of Harry and Jane Fischel, gathered in the Romema neighborhood of Jerusalem in December to dedicate three new lifesaving vehicles that were donated to United Hatzalah by the Harry and Jane Fischel Foundation. The vehicles, which are valued at more than $330,000, will be used in speedy response to medical emergencies, many of them life-saving missions, and will be active in the communities of Lod, Ashdod and across central Israel.

Debby Stepelman, a board member from Riverdale, New York, who is the oldest great-grandchild of Harry and Jane Fischel, expressed appreciation to New York regional director Jason Katz and Galit Sharon from the Israel office for their incredible effort and assistance in making this dedication possible. “We’re celebrating the foundation’s 90th anniversary with a donation to United Hatzalah of one advanced mobile intensive care ambulance and two advanced ambucycles. Harry Fischel’s life story is one of an immigrant climbing from rags to riches. But he added to it by being true to his faith, and began a tradition of being fired from his job every week due to keeping Shabbat, before he started developing irregularly shaped real estate properties that no one else wanted. The foundation grew out of his success and was founded in 1932 in order to establish and maintain the Machon Harry Fischel in Jerusalem. Additionally, the foundation supports and assists Orthodox Jewish educational and religious institutions worldwide. Harry Fischel also donated the land on which [Yeshiva University’s] Yeshiva College was built.”

Continuing the story, she said: “Harry Fischel was also involved in supporting various medical institutions, including Beth Israel Hospital in NYC. He didn’t only volunteer his time when it was convenient for him, but very much like the United Hatzalah volunteers, Harry devoted a major portion of his day to various community activities and even spent years without engaging in business. He only returned to his business endeavors after a break in order to support his charitable and community-based activities. For these reasons, the 90th-anniversary committee felt that he would have been a natural supporter of United Hatzalah, as its vision coincides with his lifelong service. Therefore, we are so proud to be here this afternoon to unveil these lifesaving vehicles.”

Rabbi Hillel Reichel, Harry and Jane’s great-grandson and a fellow board member of the foundation said, “I am very moved to be here, and I was very impressed with the presentation here by United Hatzalah. I myself am a beneficiary of their efforts as I was helped by two United Hatzalah volunteers a year ago. So it is no surprise that I am very much in favor of this donation by our family’s foundation.”

“I am very moved to be here, and I was very impressed with the presentation here by United Hatzalah. I myself am a beneficiary of their efforts as I was helped by two United Hatzalah volunteers a year ago."

Rabbi Hillel Reichel

Batsheva Stepelman, 16, a descendant of Harry and Jane Fischel who lives in Ramat Bet Shemesh and attended the dedication event, was very excited by the donation. “I feel honored to be connected to such a generous person,” she explained. “Now I need to follow the example of my great, great, great-grandfather and do more mitzvot.”

Levi Yitzchak Ofen, who serves as the chapter head of United Hatzalah in Lod and the Ben-Shemen area, is the recipient of one of the two ambucycles that were donated. Levi, who works in the hi-tech sector and is married with five children, spoke about what the donation means to him and to the people in his community.

“This new ambucycle will allow me to arrive at the scenes of emergencies that ambulances cannot get to. Over the years that I have been a volunteer, I have responded to many emergencies in the Ben-Shemen forest and on dirt roads. While I have used an older ambucycle to arrive, now I can get there even faster thanks to the speed and durability of this advanced-level vehicle. This vehicle will assist me in saving many lives in the future and it is thanks to the foundation for making this possible.”

There are other families whose forebears set a fine example that is being followed from generation to generation, and hopefully their stories will be told to inspire others to volunteer and to donate in either their time, their talents or their money – or all three – in the service of humanity, be it United Hatzalah or elsewhere.