Letter from Our CEO

October 2020

Dear Friends,

As I write to you, I am looking out the window at our family's sukkah and thinking about the coming weekend's celebration of Hoshana Raba, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. With the conclusion of these holidays it is the beginning of a new cycle in the Jewish year. In a time when uncertainty seems to be the only thing we can count on, it is comforting to know that the holidays are a constant and are observed at the same time by Jews all around the world. Although our gatherings may look different this year, with fewer people who are further apart, the unity and fortitude of the Jewish people remain the same.

As Israel enters the third week of its second lockdown, we at American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU) continue to do our part to foster the continuation of the important work being done at Tel Aviv University (TAU). In this time of economic difficulty for too many, we are steadfast in our efforts to ensure the University can provide a quality education for all, regardless of economic conditions. Our mission is to make sure that TAU has the resources necessary to maintain the high standards that have resulted in the University being on the top ten list of universities producing entrepreneurs who secure venture capital funding. We are proud to report that TAU holds its spot at number eight again this year and is the only non-US university to make the list.

Since I began in my position over a year ago, I have endeavored to use my monthly letter to share the developments and innovation coming from Tel Aviv University. I hope these communications have provided much needed hope to act as a counterbalance for the negative and unsettling Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 related news stories. I encourage you to listen to last week's webinar, "The Real Pandemic Behind COVID19," featuring Professor Yaniv Assaf, whose research explains the effects that the news cycle is having on our brains. As we continue to hear about the wildfires in Sonoma and Napa Valleys in California and the extreme storms that have become destructive hurricanes, we are reminded by Professor Colin Price, head of the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, that we should have hope and that by taking positive actions we can fix the environment.

While America continues to mourn the great loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the first Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court, we celebrate her many achievements and the barriers that she broke. Her support of Israel and Tel Aviv University are evidenced by her donation of her signature collar to the Museum of Jewish People, which is on the University's campus. There are many examples of the parallels between Justice Ginsberg's work breaking barriers and advocating for equality seen across campus. TAU recently appointed its first woman dean, Liat Kishon-Rabin, as Dean of Innovations in Teaching & Learning, to build out the future of online learning for the University. Barriers were broken when Professor Abdussalam Azem, an Arab Israeli, was appointed as Dean of The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences.

As we enter the last weekend of the fall Jewish holidays, I am overtaken by a feeling of gratitude. I am grateful to have the opportunity to build bridges between the US, Tel Aviv University and Israel by bringing you information about the innovation and the contributions from TAU and Israel that continue to make the world a better place. Furthermore, I am grateful for the leadership of our board and the partnership of so many friends throughout the US. Your generous support makes the work possible and for that we thank you.

Wishing you a shabbat shalom and chag sameach,

Jennifer Gross
Chief Executive Officer