Brandeis U. to Bring Together Israelis and Arabs in Health and Social Welfare Program
Menu JTA Search

Brandeis U. to Bring Together Israelis and Arabs in Health and Social Welfare Program

Download PDF for this date

A unique program to bring together Israelis and Arabs working in health care, social services and job training in their respective countries is expected to begin next June at the Florence Heller Graduate School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare at Brandeis University, it was announced here at Brandeis House. The cochairmen for the Middle East Fellowship Program, all Americans, include a Catholic, a Moslem and a Jew.

The program is subject to official review and approval at the October meeting of the Brandeis Board of Trustees. However, Dr. Evelyn Handler, president of Brandeis — which is located in Waltham, Mass. — said that "it was important that we move forward this month, and that’s why we’re making the announcement before the event."

The announcement last Thursday capitalized on the recently accepted chairmanship by a Catholic leader of very high profile: John Cardinal O’Connor, Archbishop of New York.

Serving under O’Connor, the other two cochairmen are Dr. Kamal Batniji, an American Palestinian-Arab surgeon and founding president of the American-Arab Medical Organization, and Henry Taub, founding chairman of the board of ADP Corp. and formerly president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Taub has already committed a quarter of a million dollars over the next 10 years.


The fellowship program, which will provide advanced executive training for people of proven leadership qualities who work in the fields of health and social welfare, intends to steer clear of politics and focus instead on people. The intention of the program’s organizers is to foster personal friendships between Arabs and Jews who will be living and studying together under one roof for 15 months. Graduates will receive a master’s degree in human services management. A condition of acceptance for the program is that the graduates return to their own countries.

The lofty goals include the expectation that these students, once they become friends, will return to their countries to take positions of authority, and will base their future work on personal understanding that defies political differences.

The program’s aspiration was summed up by the chairman of the international advisory board of the Heller School’s Center for Social Policy in the Middle East, Joseph Califano, former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. He said, "We hope they (the students) will remain friends and colleagues for life… Political leaders make treaties, but people make peace."


Califano explained the background to the program’s conception from personal recollection. In November 1978, after the signing of the Camp David Accords, he met with the Israeli and Egyptian Ministers of health, education and social services to try "to use the United States as a catalyst to get Egyptians and Israelis to work together in this country and in each others’ nations on common problems." Appropriate Ministers in each country were often enthusiastic, Califano said, and "sometimes we even signed agreements." But little happened and interest dwindled after Califano and the Ministers involved left their posts.

Then, in 1982, Brandeis Prof. Leonard Hausman urged Califano to chair a Center for Social Policy in the Middle East. Hausman became the center’s director. This would transfer to the private sector the same idea Califano had tried in government. The center was launched in 1983.

In February, as part of the center’s operations, Israeli and Egyptian doctors and health officials spent two weeks at Brandeis, in Washington and Los Angeles. A repeat of this is planned for Tel Aviv and Cairo in the fall and early next year. A similar program had been planned two years ago, but was stopped by the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, Califano said.

This past June, Hausman and Califano went on an intensive two-week trip to the Middle East to discuss the idea for the special program with Egyptian, Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders in government and private sectors.


Before the trip, Califano, at Taub’s urging, met with O’Connor, who "expressed a willingness to open some doors for us on the West Bank, at Bethlehem University and in Jordan."

O’Connor asked for a report on the trip when they returned, and when he received it he expressed immediate willingness to chair the program, said Califano, including the effort to raise a $10 million endowment. He also agreed to be a vice chairman of the Center’s international Board of Advisors, joining Leo Fields of Dallas and former Secretary of State Alexander Haig.

Such a program has precedence at Brandeis. For 28 years, Brandeis has hosted hundreds of international students from over 100 countries who, said Handler, "have enriched the lives of the American students on our campus and who themselves, after undergraduate training and graduate training, have gone back to their respective countries and have made enormous contributions to the welfare of those countries. They continue to be a marvelous link to the United States of America."


The proposed program is an embarkation on "a very new and very different effort," said Handler, where Israelis and Moslem and Christian Arabs from Egypt, Jordan and Palestinians from the Israeli-administered territories will be enrolled in a 10-year-old program in the area of human services and, "in the atmosphere of peace, will learn to understand each other, will exchange their concerns about the individuals who live in their respective countries, will make contributions on their return to their native lands and will continue to form the human network necessary for peace in the Middle East."

Handler said the program, to operate under the Center’s auspices, has the "extraordinary help of the many members of the community that the Archbishop leads, as well as many members of the American Arab community. We hope that by bringing these many students together in our program, we will begin a path that has not yet been tried in other places in the United States."

The initial class will include up to 10 students, with hopes to expand to 30 in about three years. Criteria for choosing candidates for the program include "the highest professional recommendations, including a work profile indicating steady progress toward upper levels of responsibility in either the public or private sectors; management experience as a department head or higher; an outstanding academic record, including completion of a B.A. or its equivalent, and a good knowledge of written and spoken English."

Candidates will be chosen by a panel of experts at Brandeis and in the participating countries. Applications will be due by January 15 of the year in which study begins. There will be financial awards available, announced in the spring.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund