Greetings By Fellows

Hoffman Program Graduation Ceremony - Class of 2014

2017 Speech on behalf of the fellows

Itay Sisso

 

Good evening,

I was asked to say a few words about the program, the journey we took together if you will, "and make it personal" they added, "and not too long… you are not the only speaker". "You should be fine" I thought to myself, "you're a Hoffman. Hoffmans like to talk… Right?", well, maybe I myself am not such a good example for that. But Hoffmans do like to talk, argue even. Sometimes it even seems that's most of what we do – argue, preferably using fancy words. I mean don't get me wrong, people here ARE doing some amazing stuff, socially, academically… We are academics at the end of the day, so criticism is in our blood. We understand it. John Wooden, a famous American Basketball coach, once said – "Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who'll argue with you". So sounds we are doing it right right place then.

But Hoffman is much more than that of course. As Mishi said yesterday – Hoffman is a clear outlier when it comes to reducing the other to mere stereotypes. Hoffman is a celebration of diversity - cultural/national/theological/sexual/recial and what have you. Muslim, Christian, Jew, Atheist, Sefaradic or Ashkenaz, Straight or Gay, Male or Female, Black, White, Brown, Purple – we welcome all. Well, as long as you're not right-wing.

Participants' diversity is not the only place where Hoffman makes alleged opposites work together.

Hoffman is receiving a generous support, and giving to society.

Hoffman is condescending ivory tower academy, with mother Teresa's empathy and compassion.

Hoffman is throwing accusations in inflammatory discussions, and apologizing on the Sunday evening e-mail.

Hoffman is mathematical rational rigor, and abstract philosophical contemplations.

Hoffman is a James Joyce's Ulysses, along Albert Einstein's General theory of relativity.

In two words - Complementary Opposites.

I tried to capture another two opposites of the Hoffman experience in the following free verse poem I wrote. Now, it might sound harsh and cynical at the beginning, but please wait till the end, there's a catch ;)


 

 

The only thing people do in Hoffman is argue.

So don’t try to tell me that

We are the proof that people from various backgrounds can truly listen to each other

Because at the end of the day

"You can never make two ends meet".

It's naïve to believe that

We can make a difference. That we are all future leaders, respectful, kind and peace loving.

After three years in Hoffman, I truly think that

Nothing really changed, and tomorrow morning we wake up to the same cynical reality

And even if

There IS hope,

It won't come from us because it takes true leaders.

It's not true that

It's all in our heads

Because

True peace and wellbeing can be attained

Only among similar people.

It's not true that mutual respect exists

I'm sure you can agree that

The reality

Creates

Our attitude -

Violence.

We should give up on

Peace and harmony.

Embrace this state of mind -

We all have an aggressive nature.

Always remember this, and don't try to convince me

We can make a change.

 

And now – read from bottom to top…

 


-Hoffman Program Graduation Ceremony - Class of 2014

2017 Speech on behalf of the fellows

Roni Mikel

 

I would like to welcome Professor Menahem Ben Sasson, president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Sue Hoffman, who honored us with her presence here today; Harry and Sylvia back home in Australia; members of the academic management of the Harry and Sylvia Hoffman Leadership and Responsibility Program; program fellows; friends; and families.

Good evening.

In the summer of 2013, twelve of us received the exciting call from Lital, who told us that we were accepted to the three-year Hoffman Leadership and Responsibility Fellowship program. It was at the end of my first and very lonely year of my PhD, and it made a big change for me. I arrived at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem after spending the previous five years at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where I studied for my undergraduate and graduate degrees in politics and government. The transition to Jerusalem was not easy. Going from a very small and nurturing department to a strange and unknown place was a great challenge, and I spent most of my first year of research traveling between the Mount Scopus Library and the South African archives. However, my situation completely changed in October 2014, when I became part of a great and unique community—the Hoffman’s.

As in any community, even in our small one, we shared many moments of happiness and joy along with moments of personal sadness and pain. Many of us got married and established families over the last three years, and unfortunately, some of us have lost loved ones. As a community, we were there for each other in the celebrations as well as the difficult moments. Additionally, we closely followed the professional academic successes of our fellows, and there were many.

During the past three years, we all worked very hard to become doctoral-educated scholars. We have accomplished a great deal because of the people who have supported us financially, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. Of course, we are referring to our family and friends back home, but we are also referring to our Hoffman family—Harry, Silvia, Sue, and Joshua—and to the academic management of the program—Professor Amalia Oliver-Lumerman, Professor Hanoch Gutfreund, Professor Roi Baer, Dr. Yosepha Tabib-Calif, and the wonderful Lital Myers, who provided us with this home in which to grow.

The program gave us an opportunity for social involvement in addition to our academic activities. Our group sessions were not easy but nevertheless important. They were a mirror of the complex reality of the Israeli society, and we had some very heated discussions over issues of social justice, which most of the time were not over as the sessions ended. Most of the sessions left us with questions regarding our own identities, aspirations, and roles regarding social change, and it enriched us with a mixture of insight and aptitude.

Being an Historian, I was fascinated by the ways in which the issue of history and memory came up again and again during our sessions of the past three years. When we talked about the history of the Ethiopian Jews in Israel, or about the Yemenite Children Affair; when we talked about the disengagement from Gush Katif; when we talked about politics in the academia; even when we talked about the memory of the Holocaust, different and sometime conflicting narratives emerged from the speaker's stories, but also from our own discussions and experiences. This preoccupation with opposing narratives emerged in almost every discussion, is not a coincidence. As an Israeli, and even more so as a historian of South Africa, I learned in first-hand the importance of providing tangible evidence of memory for individuals, communities, and states.

In September 2014, a research report titled "Nation Formation and Social Cohesion: An Enquiry into the Hopes and Aspirations of South Africa," was launched by the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The report stated that the greatest challenges facing South African society is the eradication of historical and emerging inequalities and contended that the attainment of social cohesion depends critically on a sense of belonging that is related to material conditions of life and an overarching common identity that recognizes diversity.

Post-apartheid South Africa is in a particular moment of rapid change and as a result, many hegemonic concepts, including the idea of history and of factuality, are being questioned. While Colonial and apartheid era historical sources are situated under constant critique, the newly freed memories seek not just to be recorded, but also to be honored or commemorated. I chose to be a historian because I believe that the essence of social justice lies in acknowledging different narratives and memories.  The post-apartheid challenge is not only to give an authentic voice to non-white segments of the South African society, but also to give back the control over their own histories. This is relevant not only to South Africa, but also to all individuals, communities and nations, and to Israel in particular. The Program gave us a unique and rare opportunity to give voice to neglected parts and silenced narratives within the Israeli society, and although we have not always been able to give a platform to the various sides of every issue, dealing with these complexities has played a significant part in promoting social justice in our own community. 

In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela stated, "I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” 

I would like to thank the Hoffman family for providing us with a community and a platform to actively promote social justice in our own ways. We will be forever grateful for this amazing experience.

Amalya, Roe, Ysepha, Hanoch and Lital, thank you all for believing in us. Your support and inspiration will be cherished in our hearts forever.

As for my fellow PhD students from the Hoffman Fellowship, I wish us all good luck on our academic paths. Our long walk is not ended; it is only the beginning. Let us continue to work for a better and just society.

          Good luck to us all.

Roni

 


Hoffman Program Graduation Ceremony - Class of 2013

Speech on behalf of the fellows

Saleh Khawaled, 2016

 

Good evening

Well, I wasn’t quite sure of what should I say to you today, and I figure that the best thing to do is to tell you a Hoffman story, my story and the story of each one of us during the last 3 years.

4 years ago, I got an invitation to come to an interview for this program: The Harry and Sylvia Hoffman Leadership and Responsibility Program. I did know at that time that the focus of this program is unique and different from the other PhD fellowship programs. Instead of just looking into our grades and academic achievements, we were asked to talk about our contribution to the society we live in, and our real life beyond the academic world. Do not get me wrong, our academic achievements were not neglected at all.

At that interview, I met Amalya for the first time (among the other interview committee members), asking me about my work, research and volunteering. To tell you the truth, I came to the interview already doing some volunteering that might be called a project, though I was not sure that I really fit the program requirements or not.

A few weeks later, I got a phone call from Lital, telling me the good news: you are in, congratulations. You will be receiving an email with the details about the next year meetings, and I was like …. O.K. …. Meetings ….. Schedule (will see about it). At that point, I did not know what to expect, what are these meetings about and mostly who are the people that I will be meeting with.

 

Coming from Hadassah (The Hebrew University medical campus) all I had in mind is everything about the human body, structure, physiology and diseases (especially cancer – my main research). Fast enough I realized that this is not the dictionary I will need around here, another dictionary is needed: the Har Hatsofeem dictionary (to be honest with you sometimes I did not even understand the words, גנטרפקציה, would be a great example).

For me this was already an achievement, meeting other people, discussing new stuff, not mentioning any more DNA, proteins or even cancer. Instead, we talked about daily issues in the Israeli society in quiet and non-quiet days as well.

Too fast, I found myself waiting for these Sundays on which I moved to Har Hatsofeem, flipped the CD inside my brain and did not talk any more molecular biology.

Life was not that bright all the time, as we had our conflicts inside the group, while dealing with hot topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the structure of the Israeli society or even dealing with problematic guests. These conflicts did not tear us apart (as we are a highly heterogeneous group), instead we became stronger and more united, as we learned together how to listen, respect, argue and put some limits when needed.

For me these 3 years can be divided into 3 main steps: the first step was to understand what leadership and responsibility means, the second was looking for such leaders in our society and having them to tell us the story of their success. Finally, becoming one and dealing with the highly complex issues of our close environment.

 

Meanwhile each one of us did his part of making this world a better place, by volunteering in different places, by building new programs or by looking for answers along with others for problems around us. We had successful moments, but faced some failure as well. We learned from each other and listened to each other stories to improve our own work and experience.

I feel grateful, for getting the opportunity to be a member of this community.

I feel grateful for a unique PhD experience, way beyond just doing research

I feel really grateful for meeting you guys and mostly for being a Hoffman

As Amalya said to us: once a Hoffman, always a Hoffman

 

Thank you Amalya, Hanoch, Roi Yosepha and Lital for believing in me and in each one of us

Thank you Dear Harry, Sylvia and the Hoffman family for making it possible for all of this to happen

Thank You all 

 


Hoffman Program Graduation Ceremony - Class of 2013

Speech on behalf of the fellows

Nachumi Yaffe, 2016

 

Thank you all for coming and celebrating with us today. Thank you Menechem Ben Sassuen the current president and Menechem megidor the former President for honor us with your presence. (and stress  me :-)

 A few weeks ago I was with Shulamit Pinchkover, an Hoffman alumni  in N.Y., we were at a Shabbos table and she had other Israeli guest, and one of them said something on Moroan Machol. I commented something in return [I don’t even remember what  ] so he gave me a nasty look and asked, Are you truly an Ultra-orthodox woman? I said “yes of course, born & raised,” so he asked me, “for g-d sakes what do you have to do with Moroan Machol, how do you even know about him at all?” Than Shlumit and I looked at each other and said, “Hoffman”.

I grow up in a Hassidic family and lived in Yerushlyim almost all my life. When I decide to go to university I managed to reduce my anxiety by telling myself that it is not going to such a strange world after all, Jerusalem is a mixed city, I meet secular people in the street and at the mall. I thought of myself as a very open minded, well rounded person. I read literature, sneaked in some movies & even knew ABBA, I thought I was  well acquainted with the secular culture, oh, little did I know.   

 And … I arrived to the mountain hit reality and realized I don’t even have the same l language as the other students. I was literally missing words to explain my world to people. They all spoke israelit, and it turns out I was speaking Haredit, close but not the same. I felt lost.

 And I was very fortunate, very very fortunate to get in to Hoffman. Hoffman was my chance to understand the Israeli society, and more than that, a chance to feel part of it.

I realize that I am describing my own personal journey, but from talking to people I know that a lot of us feel very much the same. In many ways, we all are strangers to each other. The Israeli society is divided, communities are separate and stigmatized so we tell our self that we knew them but this is an illusion, and normally we don't get a chance to discover we were wrong. University was an opportunity for me to realize that I don't know. And Hoffman was my chance to do something about it.

 In my native terminology Hoffman is a Yeshiva, it's a beit midersh. Harri and Selvia, I know you have a school in Perth, Carmel, but you also have a yeshiva, small one on one of the mountain of Yerushlym. 

If I try to compere this Yeshiva to other Yeshivot, one similar example comes to mind this is the yeshiva of Shem Vever, Yeshivat shem Vever was the yeshiva that Avraham Avino want to learn and the place to which Rievka wend to consult when she had an inner struggle and the yeshiva in which Yaakov studies for 14 years. There is a historical debate where this Yeshiva was located and what they were learning but what's stuck with me is the name of the Yeshiva, Shem Vever, which their literate meaning is Sham- name. and Ever- oppose, or across like מעבר לנהר ישבו אבותינו.

To call something by its name is to relate to it, and to identify it. I think that in many ways this corresponds to what we were doing in Yeshivet Hoffman, we were trying to call  reality & things by their name, and to understand what's Ever, what is the price of being across the street  , the Ever, to try monthly cross the street and see how it looks like from there.

In Yeshivat Hoffman we tearing apart the alienation we have to the other Israeli citizens and communities, and to ourselves. In Hoffman we call it by name, we argue, we care, we really care

I feel privileged to had this great opportunity. A place where I can get closer to other Israeli segments and communities. An opportunity to get to know people like Moroan Machol, Ziva Noy, Harv Rimon and many many more that I didn't even know I don't know.

 I want to thank Harry and Sylvia for this rare opportunity to get close and to be part of the Israeli society,and to get to know myself better. I want to wish you lots of נחת from your family, and from your Yeshiva graduate.

I want to thank to Hanoch for the inspiration you give us. The special stories and insights you shared with us, and the young spirit you bring along. It's really something to live up to. אויף אונז געזאגט

Amalya, for the endless thought and time you put in this program, for the wisdom and sensitivity you lead this ship, always keeping a balance. Embracing us all as children  

To Yosefa, for the graceful way you handle us. For the great ideas you have, and personal touch that you relate to every single one of us.

Lital the a truly אשת חיל how she makes everything happen, smoothly, never miss a detail Making sure each of us is happy and visible.

Finally, my colleges in the present and the past for being such an important part of my personal journey. I want to wish us lots of luck, may we publish many articles, they should all get into AAA journal, and may we all continue to care, My we will continue to fight the alienation the inner and the outer  May we have the courage to call  reality by name.

 


 

Hoffman Program Graduation Ceremony - Class of 2012

Speech on behalf of the fellows

Galit Agmon, 2015

 

The Hoffman family, Hoffman directors and administration, Hoffman fellows, dear guests, How would one summarize three years? The last three years were very intense, and the Hoffman program was definitely one of the foundations to be remembered from this period. I still remember the first meeting I came to I was shocked. The people around me seemed so impressive, smart, menacing even. What am I doing here? How do I fit in? As time went by I felt less and less out of place. The people here became part of my personal and social journey. The social journey relates naturally to running Common Ground, an organization to raise awareness to gender stereotypes in
education system. Founding and running Common Ground was one of the most significant and fulfilling things I have ever done. When I came to the Hoffman program, I had already started to plant the seeds, and the Hoffman program was a supportive and inspiring environment that helped the seeds grow to what they are today. I am proud of the place Common Ground stands in now with over 60 volunteers in two cities, a nonprofit organization approved by the ministry of education, taking its place as a leading educational organization in Israel. I thank the Common Ground team and cofounders, some of whom are sitting here today, and I thank my fellows at the
Hoffman program for believing in me and in Common Ground. And when I talk about a social journey, I am not speaking only about myself and on my behalf, but about each and every one of us, who found the Hoffman program to be the supporting pivot in our volunteering experience be it tutoring children, broadcasting Israeli stories, assisting new immigrants, or caring for the welfare of cows.
 
As a personal journey, I learned that I belonged, which is not a trivial thing to learn at all. It took me time to realize that the smart impressive people whom I remembered from .that first meeting I am actually part of them. We all belong. Thank you for that as well
 
But other than this journey, there are two fundamental values that I felt were prominent and stressed out in this program and I will take with me criticism and empathy. Sometimes it seems like the two are contradictory. Showing empathy means perhaps being less judgemental, while criticizing means perhaps alienating oneself from the emotional drive or state of the other. But this is not true, because both empathy and critical thinking complement each other as an integral part of compassion. Being compassionate is feeling for others with an active move to help. Without casting doubt and being critical, change to a better place can never be made. Without empathy
one cannot feel for the other or appreciate what has already been achieved by others. Being compassionate means both things.
 
I learned that there are many good people in the world, trying to make a change. Sometimes it works well, sometimes less. We should never take for granted our privilege to discuss and digest ideas, to have the time to consult, point at flaws and learn from mistakes. This is indeed a privilege which not all social entrepreneurs out there have, and it doesn't alienate us or make us less empathetic. Appreciating the good with the bad and learning from both that's a merit of being compassionate.
 
Another thing I take from here is the personal connections. The fellows of the program are truly wonderful people and wonderful friends. I do hope we keep in touch and meet again in future paths in life. And of course the heads of the program. Amalya, Roi, Hanoch, Yosepha and Lital it's not just the sensitivity and professional care in which you run this program, it's also the personal touch that will not be forgotten phone
calls, personal meetings with each and every one of you, emails, and generally simply caring in the most basic and personal level, outside the biweekly hours. Thank you. The Hoffman family Harry, Sylvia, Sue and Josh (and David who is not here) without you all this would not have been possible. You are the basis of this group of people, empathetic people who care and feel for others, critical people who strive to make a change. Compassionate people. Thank you very much.
 

 

Hoffman Program Graduation Ceremony - Class of 2012

Speech on behalf of the fellows

Sheli Friedman, 2015

 

This year we have decided to honor you with gifts and souvenirs in the spirit of the program, the spirit of giving, helping the other and being social responsible persons and leaders for the weak, for the strong, for our country and in general.

 

To you, Harry and Sylvia, the initiators and inspiration of the program, we chose to give this Chanukia/ Menora – a symbol of light and miracles, shaped with Jerusalem most special landmarks.

 

The Menora, or Chanukia is composed of 8 branches and one "shamash". In accordance to the Hoffman program, the body and soul of this program are 8 magnificent people – Sylvia, Sue, Josh, David, Hanoch, Amalya, Roi, and Lital, all lit (up?) by the main  "shamash" – Harry, that made this all possible.    

 

This Chanukia, was purchased from the voluntary association "yad lakashish", "lifeline for the old", a non- profit organization empowering and supporting the elderly Jerusalem residents on a daily basis, as a donation from us, and was hand-made by them.

 

On the behalf of the Israeli leaders of the Hoffman program and our alternative mentors - Hanoch, Amalya, Roi, Lital and Yosefa – we gave a donation to the voluntary association for immediate help for holocaust survivors, a subject close to all our hearts.

 

For you - Sue, Josh, Hanoch, Amalya, Roi and Lital – we give special wines from Tulip Winery that is situated on the grounds of Kfar Tikva. The Winery integrates the production of quality wines with social responsibility and aspires to enable members of the community to develop and realize their potential. Kfar Tikva, “the village of the hope” is a kibbutz-like community, represents an innovative program for adults with developmental and emotional disabilities.

 

Kfar Tikva believes that each and every individual should be given the opportunity to achieve their potential, regardless of their limitation. Tulip Winery helps Kfar Tikva achieve its mission by employing adult residents with special needs and providing them the opportunity for inclusion in the mainstream workforce.

The residents take an active part in harvesting the grapes, bottling and packaging of the wine, and welcoming and receiving guests at Tulip Winery Visitor Center.

 

As Tulip Winery says “We label wines, not people”


“White franc” wine is an exciting wine recently released by the Tulip Winery under the sign of “It not depends on how you look externally, or on how you are perceived, but on what you actually do”.

The wine contains Cabernet Franc grapes, which are classically used to produce red wine. Intelligently combined with Sauvignon Blanc grapes, which are white, the result is a fine wine with a pinkish tone and a sweet, appealing flavor. 

 

And last but not least a small souvenir from us- is a picture of our 2012 class with a big thank you to all of you!   

 

 

Hoffman Program Graduation Ceremony - Class of 2010

Speech on behalf of the fellows

Yosepha Tabib Calif, 2013

 

Professor Menachem Ben Sasson, Harry and Sylvia Hoffman, their daughter Susan and her son Josh; Mr. David Lansky, head of the Ardross Group; Directors of the Hoffman Leadership and Responsibility Program, Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, Prof Roi Baer, Prof. Amalya Oliver-Lumerman; Coordinator of the program Ms. Lital Myers; Dear fellows, graduates and families, Hoffman family guests,

--

In recent decades we are witnessing the establishment and growth of socially-oriented fellowship programs in different academic institutions. The interest in such program is on the rise. In a report published this year by the Council for Higher Education, Professor Manuel Trajtenberg wrote: "In fact, we reached the stage in which academia, beyond its classic role of producing, preserving and disseminating knowledge, must cultivate its third role: promoting social action and positively influencing our community."

The prioritization of social engagement in academia is a result of several factors: some are related to social-economic-political processes such as the collapse of the welfare state, deepening social gaps, and increased awareness and involvement of citizens in different public arenas; other factors are related to processes within university campuses and pertain to issues such as knowledge creation, teaching and learning methods, and the place and purposes of academia; for example, the diminishing dominance of the "ivory tower" approach alongside the consolidation of new paradigms that encourage leaving the traditional classroom. Knowledge is no longer confined exclusively in one place; knowledge is now everywhere. Often there is a feeling that the "field" is ahead of the theories in terms of the knowledge and insights it generates.

As recently written, the interaction of academia with the community of which it is a part is essential to the intellectual process; it is no less important than experiments in a lab or accumulation of knowledge from the library.

The fellowship programs I mentioned are fairly common at the undergraduate level. There are less of them for students studying towards a master's degree, and only a few are offered for those pursuing a PhD. This logic is based on the assumption that as you climb up the academic ladder, the time you must devote to your research and career is more intense. In this context, the Harry and Sylvia Hoffman Leadership and Responsibility Program is unique. It provides a platform to combine learning and doing, research and community at a time when the academic eros is in its peak. And, surprisingly, the time left for excellent academic research is not affected. As Professor Amalya Oliver says: "when you're swamped, you have more time."

The fact that the program is offered during the pursuit of a PhD is not the only thing that makes it unique. In fact, it has something to do with the great, wide windows that surround us in this place. I'll get to it in a minute.

In one of our "little" meetings, the Hoffman fellows were asked to point out what distinguishes this program. Some focused on the fact that the program brings together students from academic fields not often associated with social action. Others claimed that the program has no specific profile or agenda; these are defined by the students in each cycle. The meetings with some of the most prominent figures in Israeli society were of course mentioned as well. But all agreed that modesty is one very distinct characteristic of the program. And now to the windows -

--

In the Talmud, in tractate Brachot, it says: "A person must not pray in a house with no windows". The duty to pray in a house with windows is explained in three ways: windows strengthen a person's commitment as he looks towards the skies; the light coming through the windows settles one down; and a house with windows is a house filled with great and fresh air. But some have stressed that when a person is praying, while it is an internal endeavor, the ability to look outside, out the window, encourages him to be aware of those around him – people, community, society.

--

As it was in those days, so it is today at Hoffman. The place we're in today is teeming with windows from which we see Jerusalem's great and complex landscape. At a time of intense learning, we look outside – literally and symbolically – at the society in which we live and act, explore the communities around us, and allow the great challenges of Israeli society to penetrate from the outside and encourage us to go out and take action. So we might not be the first to go out to protest at the city square, but we surely won't remain secluded in the ivory tower. I want to stress that, for us, the past three years are not ending with a certificate; this is not another degree or a diploma to add to our collection; it is not another paper sitting on the bookshelf. It is learning translated into action, and the action permeates from us towards the outside, and vice versa.

--

Dear Harry and Sylvia Hoffman and family members, directors and coordinator of the program,

We would like to thank you today for the great privilege of allowing us to be a part of the Hoffman Beit Midrash. Not only did we gain knowledge and improved ourselves as human beings, but we were equipped with tools that enable us to serve as shlichei tzibur. On behalf of all my colleagues I want to thank each and every one of you for exciting, fascinating, and fulfilling three years.

First I want to thank the wonderful Lital Myers. With your great smile and modesty you've became amud hatevech of the program. There is no question unanswered; there is no need that is not addressed. I know that you feel privileged to be a part of the program, but you should know: we feel even more privileged to have you here with us.

Professor Hanoch Gutfreund, the spiritual father of the Hoffman Program,

A man of science and letters, and, no less, a man of action, and of heart.  You are an inspiration to us all. Perhaps because we didn't meet very often, each and every meeting with you was unique and empowering.

Professor Roi Baer, who joined us only two years ago, but it seems you found your natural place. We got to know a warm man, with kind heart, and a great sense of humor. It was interesting to encounter the perspective of the exact sciences in the context of social change, and there was much to learn from it.

Professor Amalya Oliver, the spiritual and actual mother of the Hoffman program. Your guidance and wisdom is evident in each and every part of the program. Your commitment to us, and the human connection to each of us, is truly moving and is not to be taken for granted.

And lastly, my fellow graduates. We convened from virtually all disciplines. Where else would it be possible to seat together, a law student, biologist, mathematician, chemist, neuro-biologist, sociologist, veterinarian, students of public policy, Hebrew literature, philosophy and the cognitive sciences. And we didn't just convene, we connected. They say loneliness is the young researcher's main state of mind, but as our Amalya says: We became, with the years, a community of practice. And I add we became friends as well.

 

And let me finish with another transition to the ancient beit midrash. The Mishna tells us about Rabbi Nehunia Ben Ha-Kaneh, the rabbi of rabbi Akiva, who every day said a prayer as he entered the beit midrash and when he left it. I choose to share with you his prayer today, as we leave the Hoffman Beit Midrash. And so he said: When I enter I pray that no offense should occur through me And when I leave, I express thanks for my share

 


 

Hoffman Program Graduation Ceremony - Class of 2009

Speech on behalf of the fellows

Gali Umschweif-Nevo, 2012

 

It was a few weeks ago, when I accidently met Ran, one of the first cohort graduates of the Hoffman program. We met around the campus, and had a short conversation. By the end of it, we found ourselves asking the question- how come we feel so close but actually met once every other week for 2 semesters?  What is it in the Hoffman program that makes us feel that way?

I found myself wondering about that question for a while.

Academic life is about acquiring deep knowledge in a specific field. Therefore, PhD students are quite focused in their research – which is, by definition, a very specific sub-subject of a certain field.  Sometimes, without realizing that we tend to do so, we develop tunnel vision but not a world view.  And world view, in my perspective, is what academy is really about.

The Hoffman program gives us the unique chance to develop world view. We get not only to meet, but also to really know PhD students range from all academic scale of disciplines. Together we discuss dilemmas and conflicts of the Israeli society; we get to host and hear experts in many fields and to hear the life stories of true leaders

All the fellows in the Hoffman program are knowledgeable, minded and critic people, but also caring and society oriented.

We argue, but we know how to listen. We understand others opinion.

We are all people who want to make a difference and the Hoffman program gives us the perfect platform, and allows us to give back to community. Hoffman fellows volunteer everywhere – with blind, deaf, children, adolescence, elderly, and list goes on.

Some of us use our profession such giving legal advice from Hoffman lawyer fellows. I, for example, use my knowledge as a pharmacist and give drug consulting to holocaust survivors and teaching hospitalized children and their teachers.

In one of our last meetings, we have met Avi Naor , an impressive Israeli  philanthropist. He said something that I want to share with you. He said that if one wants to donate to an institute or a place, the easiest thing is to build another building after your name.  But if one really wants to make a difference to the people in that place and to really change something for them, donation should be targeted differently rather than establishing another building. So dear Mr and Mrs Hoffman- by establishing the program and supporting all of us, you get to deeply change academic education and experience of all Hoffman fellows in the past, present and future. You have founded a home rather than a building.

During the last 3 years we have met fascinating people, and enjoyed fruit-full discussions. We have created a micro environment facilitating ideas concerning our academic and volunteering activity.

It is not going to be easy to keep on our PhD studies without being an active part in the Hoffman program. And I quote our dear Amalya- “once a Hoffman always a Hoffman”

 

During our time in the program, we were successful in research and self-development alongside with volunteering and helping others. Without dough, we will all continue giving back to society as long as we can.

Earlier this year we have met Prof. Alis Shelvi  for a talk about gender and feminism and she read us a poem by Robert Frost ,that I would like to close with a short cite from:

“Two roads diverge in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel them both”

 And we say- Thanks to the Hoffman program we have traveled them both.

 


 

Hoffman Program Graduation Ceremony - Class of 2009

Speech on behalf of the fellows

Chanan Cohen, 2012

 

Dear Mrs. Sylvia Mr. Harry Hoffman, their daughter Suzann and their grandson Joshua, Mr. David Lantzke, Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, Prof. Sarah Stroumsa, Prof. Amalya Oliver, Prof. Roi Baer, Mrs. Lital Mayers, Hoffman fellows, families and friends.

Recently, an extensive debate has developed in many academic forums over the future of PhD studies in Israeli universities. Some of the participants in this debate argued that there are too many PhD students compared to the number of academic job openings, and this creates feelings of stress and insecurity among the students. Other critiqued the training given to PhD students: there are fewer advisors that train more students; there are not enough research resources, making it difficult for PhD students to develop ambitious research projects, or travel to prestigious conferences abroad; and there are not enough forums where PhD students can meet their colleagues and share their ideas and experiences. Loneliness, so it was claimed, is the dominant feeling among PhD students. Indeed, it was quite depressing to hear these opinions: many young researchers, especially in the humanities and the social sciences, are afraid that they spend so many years working on a research project, only to finally find themselves working in jobs out of the academia. Is there really no future for young academics in Israel? 

Some of the debaters have suggested some good solutions to these problems: to establish more institutionalized graduate programs in the American style; to accept less PhD students but guarantee that they are fully supported – both financially and academically; to create more colloquiums and forums for PhD students, and so on.      

But after reading the letters and opinion articles I felt that something was missing. I started to think about the purpose of higher education in general and PhD studies in particular. A good start, so I thought, was to return to the vision of the founding fathers of the Hebrew University.

The formation of the Hebrew University was, without a doubt, a Zionist project. The proposal to establish a Jewish university in the land of Israel dates back to the 1884 Kattowitz conference of the Hovevei Zion movement; later, the 1918 ceremony for laying the cornerstone for the university was attended by the most prominent public figures of the Jewish ‘Yishuv’ in Palestine as well as the Jewish world. But above all, the Zionist mission is apparent in the establishment of departments, institutes, and libraries that specialize in Jewish, Hebrew, and Zionist themes.

But at the same time the founders of the Hebrew university had in mind another vision: to establish a university that would be open to all human cultures and achievements and would contribute, in return, to the knowledge and success of humanity at large. In other words, they also had a humanistic and universal vision. This combination of a universal and national vision is manifested in the words of Haim Nahman Bialik in his speech on Mount Scopus in the 1918 ceremony: "The windows and gates of this house will be open to the four winds of heaven, to bring it all the best and highest of the creative spirit of men in all times and all countries. But we are also not novice in the kingdom of spirit, and when we learn from all, we also have something to teach. And I am sure that a day will come and those moral principles laid in the foundations of our institutes of teaching will become the asset of all humanity".     Today we know that these visions are not always complementary as some have aspired. Disputes over the goals and vision of the Hebrew University are present to these very days.  

Tomas Kuhn in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” stresses how important it is for a scientist to work within an established paradigm, and to know that his or her efforts are not fruitless since they get meaning from belonging to a larger research tradition. The Zionist and Universal discourses are still present today, but to some extent they are overshadowed by an individualistic, Neo-liberal discourse. The message many PhD students get today is the message of personal excellence. The dominant metaphor is that of a competition. Publish more, choose a prestigious topic, teach less, become an expert, pursue an academic career, concentrate on your research, and balance home and work (which means, be less at home and more at work). We hear these messages every day, not only in Israel and not only in academia.

The ambition for personal success is, without a doubt, a good motivator, but for most people this is not enough. Most people want to feel that they affect things on a larger scale. I think that part of the loneliness and insecurity felt by PhD students today is rooted in this individualistic discourse. If writing a dissertation is only a way of getting recognition, then even temporary failures (not to mention the possibility not to get an academic position) means that I just wasted my time. But if writing a dissertation carries a value of its own, because I believe that it contributes to human knowledge or may benefit my society, then I’ll be much less anxious.

That’s why I think the Hoffman program is so important. It changes a discourse. The Hebrew university announces to the academic community that science and research cannot be separated from society. Not only is it OK to be an academic and volunteer in the community, it’s the demand. Moreover, it gives a message that caring for your surroundings makes you a better scientist. That’s the main point. Responsibility and the willingness to take leadership roles should be part of one’s identity as a scientist.

 

In the Babylonian Talmud, in the Kiddushin tractate, we are told about R. Tarfon and the Elders that were once sitting in Lod, when a question was raised before them: Is study greater, or practice? R. Tarfon answered, saying: Practice is greater. R. Akiba answered, saying: Study is greater, for it leads to practice. Then they all answered and said: Study is greater, for it leads to action. גדול תלמוד, שמביא לידי מעשה

 

Janusz Korczak said: "The one concerned with days, plants wheat; The one concerned with years, plants trees; The one concerned with generations, educates people"  

There are not enough words to thank you for your support in our education and academic development. In our years in the program we have heard your amazing life story and learned about your countless philanthropic enterprises, all with kindness and modesty, and a love of mankind.

We wanted to give you a present that will express something we learned from you: The ability to use financial resources in a socially responsible way. Our modest gift includes two items, both purchased at the fair trade shop of the “Achoti”  (Sister) organization.

The first gift is a Challah cover, hand made by new emigrants from Ethiopia. The tapestry includes two main elements: A lion, which symbolically represents Jerusalem; and the last part of the above quote by Janusz Korczak: The one concerned with generations, educates people", which expresses our deep appreciation of your work.

The second gift is a tissue holder, hand made by members of the “Parents Circle”: a joint Palestinian-Israeli organization of over 600 families, all of whom lost a close family member as a result of the prolonged conflict. The organization aims to promote reconciliation between individuals and nations.

We will soon graduate from the Hoffman program, but we will always be a proud part from the Hoffman program family. Thank you so much!

 

This is also an opportunity to thank those who took upon themselves the task of running the Hoffman program on a daily basis.

First, we’d like to thank Lital Mayers, the coordinator of the program. Lital, we appreciate your hard work, reliability, your amazing attention to details, and your effectiveness. Thank you so much.

We’d like to thank Prof. Roei Baer. Roei joined us this year and soon proved to be a real asset for the program. Thanks for being part of us and for contributing so much for the program.

And finally, to Prof. Amalya Oliver, the “Big Mama” of the Hoffman family! Amalya has led the program since it was founded five years ago, and we cannot imagine the program without her presence. To Amalya the Hoffman program is truly a labor of love. Her smile, encouragements, and kind words are ever present, and when coupled with an underlying message of high expectations has the miraculous effect of making us try harder and do better. We love you Amalya.

 

 


 

Hoffman Program Graduation Ceremony - Class of 2007

Speech on behalf of the fellows

Jenny Oser, May 24, 2010

 

In the past three years we have learned in our Hoffman meetings about the importance of listening to other people’s stories and telling our own. I’d like to share with you a taste of my own story to give one concrete example of the impact that the Hoffman Fellowship has had and will continue to have on Israeli scholarship and social leadership. It is truly an honor for me to represent this group, and I’m happy to do so, as a native English speaker and someone whose field of research is perhaps more accessible to the non-expert than most. But I emphasize that every one of us has a story to tell about the significance the Hoffman Program in our lives.

 

About three and a half years ago, I vividly remember meeting with Prof. Itzhak Galnoor, my master’s thesis adviser, to advise with him on whether to continue to doctoral studies. At the time I was working full time as a community and political organizer, and “on the side” was finishing a master’s in public policy and adjusting to becoming a new mother. Well, the parents among us can already tell here that this story is on its way to a dramatic crisis point! Around this time, I received encouraging support from my department to continue to do doctoral studies, and considering this option posed a real dilemma for me.

 

I had already decided not to pursue an academic career several years before when I finished my undergraduate degree at Harvard in the social sciences. I greatly enjoyed my academic pursuits, and after finishing my degree I continued to be involved in research projects on the side, but I decided – I thought definitively at the time – to invest my energies in community organizing. Two main factors influenced my decision at the time: first, I felt in the American context that there were already enough people studying social issues, and that my contribution could be more meaningful in trying to actively advance social change. Second, and perhaps more decisively, I was coordinating a group of doctoral students at Harvard in a multidisciplinary research project on civic and political engagement that I greatly enjoyed, but the main thing these doctoral students had in common in my eyes is that they all seemed fairly miserable to me. It didn’t matter - divinity, government, economics, sociology – they were mostly young, single, and seemed totally overwhelmed by the isolating doctoral task that stood before them.

 

So to be very honest, I initially began the master’s degree in public policy for the sole reason that in Israel your salary is pegged to your level of education, so I was determined to try to earn those few more shekels a month that a master’s degree could afford me. But when I began my studies, I was surprised to see how engaged I was by learning about civic and political participation in the Israeli context, and by thinking about the research questions I had explored previously in an explicitly comparative way. And regarding the question of considering where I could make a meaningful contribution, the situation seemed almost opposite in Israel compared to the U.S., in that public policy is relatively a new academic field in Israel, and that efforts toward social change in Israeli public life could greatly benefit from serious, in-depth scholarly research. So when the opportunity arose for me to continue on to doctoral studies I began to seriously consider it, despite the warning signs in my memory of those miserable Harvard PhD students.

 

In this conversation with Itzik I remember raising the possibility that perhaps I will continue to work as a community organizer, and do the PhD studies on the side. And I have a vivid memory of him staring at me intensely and saying

"לא, אני לא מרשה את זה. במיוחד לנשים."

In English – “No, I don’t allow that. Especially for women.”

 

This seemed fairly chauvinistic to me at the time, especially since he was one of the greatest feminists I have ever met! But he continued to say, in essence, that if you don’t take yourself seriously as an academic then other people won’t take you seriously either, particularly as a woman, and this will unnecessarily hinder you from making progress. His advice was that if I continue to the PhD, I should aim to pursue the