The University Record, January 30, 1996

U-M delegation spends week on economic development in Israel

By Jared Blank 

A delegation from the U-M spent one week in the Central Galilee region of Israel in December as part of the Detroit Jewish Federation's Partnership 2000 program, which aids regions of Israel with economic development. Walter Harrison, vice president for university relations and member of the group from the U-M, says the trip was an opportunity to learn how the University can expand research in the region.

"The idea of the trip was to see what help the Israelis need that we can provide and what the Israelis can provide for us, " explains Harrison. "For example, we were able to match up a School of Natural Resources student interested in studying water pollution with a kibbutz where contamination is a problem. I'd like to see more partnerships like this develop."

Throughout the trip, the group met with political and education leaders, including the president of Bar Ilan, the university at which Yitzhak Rabin's accused assassin was a student, and the president of the Israeli Supreme Court. A member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, presented a talk about the prospects for peace in Israel following Rabin's assassination.

B. Joseph White, dean of the Business School, focused on exploring economic development issues in the Central Galilee. White says that he was extremely impressed with Israel's successful absorption of over half a million Russian immigrants. "We visited a business incubator, where highly educated recent Russian immigrants are striving to figure out how to turn technical and product ideas they have into commercial and business successes," White adds. "These people are extremely proficient technically but know very little about business in a market economy, since they spent most of their lives in a command economy," where production is determined by the government.

White is enthusiastic about the prospects for business students to broaden their research in the Middle East. "Because of the Business School's commitment to entrepreneurship, action learning and assisting in moving economies from command to market," White explains, "I believe that we can arrange for several student groups to help this incubator with market research, development of business plans, and so on, for these aspiring entrepreneurs.

"In the process, our students will gain knowledge and skills and become more international in their experience and outlook."

Dean of the School of Social Work Paula Allen-Meares believes that the trip can open up many partnerships. "This was one of the most informative international trips that I've made," she says. "I learned quite a bit about human services in Israel, and that we can learn about what they have in place---this can truly be a two-way collaboration."

Allen-Meares sees a range of possibilities for future research in social work, including:

 

Immigration policies: How have Israelis absorbed the large number of Russian and Ethiopian immigrants?

 

Schooling: Israelis have created innovative after-school programs where students co-lead with teachers.

 

Day programs for the elderly.

 

The Israeli health care system.

Through the School of Social Work's Project STAR (Service, Training and Research in Jewish Communal Development), two students will complete their practicum in Israel this summer. "Truly, there is interest on our part," says Allen-Meares, "and we have good relationships already with agencies in Israel. I'm excited about the future possibilities."

"The Jewish community has had a long and important relationship with the University of Michigan," says Bob Aronson, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. "We feel that the U-M will be a great resource for the people of the Central Galilee region, and that the Israelis will enrich the learning process for U-M students. I'm pleased with how the follow-up is going."