Alumni Network: Focus on Co-Existence
Wexner Alumni are making their mark on the Jewish world, one issue at a time. Be it in North America or Israel, be social action, education, or advocacy, our constituents apply Jewish passion and knowledge while exercising leadership. In this new segment of our newsletter, we hope to periodically profile alumni of all 3 Wexner initiatives who are blazing new paths in the Jewish world, and in so doing, highlight the links that bond our alumni to each other. Our focus this time: Co-existence efforts between Israelis and Arabs, Jews and Muslims. Enjoy.
Dr. Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program, is the Founder and Co-Executive Director of Abraham’s Vision (www.abrahamsvision.org), a conflict transformation organization founded in 2003 and based in San Francisco that works within and between the Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, and Palestinian communities. Currently an Assistant Professor in the Theology and Religious Studies Department of the University of San Francisco, holding the Swig Chair of Judaic Studies, he is the founding Director of the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, the first academic program in the country formally linking these two fields. Hahn Tapper also co-founded and co- runs the Center for Transformative Education. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Hahn Tapper previously lived in the Middle East for five years—four years in Jerusalem and one year in Cairo—and traveled extensively in Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, and Syria. He received a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, majoring in Psychology, a Master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School, focusing on World Religions, and a PhD in Comparative Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where his doctoral dissertation, “From Gaza to the Golan: Religious Nonviolence, Power, and the Politics of Interpretation,” explored the relationship between the socio-political context of Israel and Palestine, religious law, and power. Growing up attending 13 years of Jewish Day school, countless summers at Jewish overnight summer camp, and various Orthodox yeshivot, in 2000-2001 he studied at Bir Zeit University while serving as a Harvard University Frederick Sheldon Fellow, and in 2003 he was a attended a conflict transformation program in the Hague followed by interning with the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The following year he returned to the Middle East as a Fulbright- Hays scholar. Hahn Tapper has been involved in Jewish education for two decades, shifting his focus towards Jewish-Arab, Jewish-Muslim, and Israeli-Palestinian education ten years ago.
“There is probably no more complex issue facing the Jewish community today than our relationship with the Muslim and Arab communities. Relations with these communities must be transformed, not merely resolved, as partnerships and allies need to replace old ways of interacting with the ‘other.’ To paraphrase Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the significance of the Jewish tradition does not lie in its being conducive to the survival of ‘us’ only, but rather in its being a source of spiritual wealth, a source of meaning relevant to all humankind.”
Aaron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dalia Perez, a Wexner Israel Fellowship alumnae, has served as co-principal of the Max Rayne “Hand in Hand” Bilingual School in Jerusalem since 2001. The K- 9 school for Jewish and Arab children seeks to create innovative foundations fostering a different kind of dialogue between Jews and Arabs in Israel. With a strong professional background in education and cross-cultural mediation, Ms. Perez spearheads a multiethnic faculty, student body, and community of parents. Ms. Perez graduated from high school in Sderot and, following her army service, attended Tel Aviv University, where she received BA and MA degrees magna cum laude in Sociology and Anthropology. She was instrumental in promoting various projects for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, providing them with tools for future scholastic achievements. She was also a member of the team that founded “Kedma” in Tel Aviv, a unique educational institution for Jewish junior high school pupils of problematic socioeconomic background, which encouraged new modes of multicultural expression. Ms. Perez was later chosen to participate in the highly respected program run by the Mandel School for Leadership in Education where she developed a multicultural curriculum for both Jewish and Arab students. She has two daughters, Noa and Michal.
“I believe that through education we can make a real difference. A great part of the problem derives from alienation and lack of opportunities for Jews and Arabs to meet and interact as equals. For me, the Jewish-Arab schools in Israel exhibit different kind of relationships between Jews and Arabs, ones that are based on mutual respect, equity and partnership.”
Dalia can be reached at email@example.com
Ami Nahshon, a Wexner Heritage alumnus, has served since 2003 as President & CEO of The Abraham Fund Initiatives, a non-partisan New York and Jerusalem based nonprofit working since 1989 to advance coexistence, equality and cooperation among Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.
Named for the common ancestor of Jews and Arabs, The Abraham Fund designs and tests models for constructing an inclusive society through a series of far-reaching national initiatives that form the foundation for its advocacy and institutional reform work.
Major current initiatives include the mandatory teaching of Arabic language and culture in more than 100 Jewish elementary and middle schools throughout the country; transforming the way the Israel Police and other branches of government serve the Arab citizens of the state; building a comprehensive model for Jewish-Arab cooperation in mixed cities and regions; and lifting barriers to fair employment opportunity for Arab women and men.
Nahshon is also a founding member and serves on the Executive Committee of Foundations for Peace, an international network of activist funders working in divided societies, and on the Leadership Committee of The Alliance for Middle East Peace, a US-based coalition of 42 organizations working for Jewish-Arab coexistence in Israel and the Middle East.
“My vision of an inclusive Israeli society for all of her citizens – Jewish and Arab – is motivated by both a commitment to social justice and by a concern for Israel’s security and social stability. This is not an issue of ‘left’ or ‘right.’ Investing in building a culture of co-existence and equality is an investment in Israel’s future, and needs to matter to all Israelis and their friends worldwide.”
Ami can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org