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Shaoul Family Fund for Visiting Scholars and Fellows Will Expand International Academic Collaboration for TAU
Tuesday, January 13, 2015 9:30:00 AM

New York philanthropists create innovative fund to foster international exchange opportunities

Dr. Michael Shaoul and Dr. Nirit Weiss Shaoul
Dr. Michael Shaoul and
Dr. Nirit Weiss Shaoul

Dr. Nirit Weiss Shaoul and Dr. Michael Shaoul have established a fund to enable Tel Aviv University to extend its network of international exchange and collaboration, providing a significant resource to help counteract the threat of isolation of Israeli academia from the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS).

The Nirit and Michael Shaoul Fund for Visiting Scholars and Fellows is a multi-year commitment to encourage global faculty exchanges and joint scientific and cultural collaborations across academic disciplines. Although the BDS movement has not yet achieved its goal of isolating Israel's universities, some American and European institutions have quietly opted to cease funding expenses related to collaboration and faculty exchange.

"Nirit and I are alarmed by the increasing cultural marginalization of Israel," Shaoul says. "We view this isolation as the second most serious threat to the country, after security, with the universities on the front lines. That's why we created this seed fund — to which we hope others will contribute — to help stem the effects of marginalization.

"It is critical to prevent the isolation of Israel's academic community, and to keep broad international ties intact. We view this as an important step in a significant struggle: As we have seen in the past, cultural isolation is a precursor to the deterioration of a country's quality of life and its very legitimacy, and if we do nothing to resist this process, we will be horrified at the results in a decade's time. We also believe that those academics who visit Israel are much more likely to develop an informed and balanced view of the situation, which can then be represented within their faculties upon their return."

A proactive reaction

The initiative will be inaugurated at the annual Tel Aviv University Board of Governors Meeting in May 2015. Administered by a review committee to be established by TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter, funding will supplement university resources for expenses and honoraria related to speaking engagements and visiting professorships across the campus. Recipients will be designated Nirit and Michael Shaoul Fellows.

Michael Shaoul is Chairman and CEO of Marketfield Asset Management, helping formulate top-down macro insights that inform the firm's investment decisions. His views on a variety of topics are featured frequently in the financial media. He serves as Treasurer of American Friends of Tel Aviv University and is a member of the University's Board of Governors.

Dr. Nirit Weiss is a neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Her practice specializes in treating complex disorders of the brain and spine, treating severe chronic pain syndromes, and performing craniofacial reconstructions in adults and children. She has authored dozens of peer-reviewed articles and textbook chapters detailing cutting-edge treatments of pain, degenerative disease, and tumors. The couple reside in New York City with their children.

Defending the international academy

The creation of the Shaoul Fund illustrates the core importance of the "global knowledge" principle for TAU and other major research institutions in Israel.

TAU President Klafter, a vocal leader in denouncing the movement, says, "The universities generate Israel's most important natural resource — human capital. Without outstanding universities and the graduates and ideas they produce, we would not be the start-up nation we are all so justifiably proud of." TAU's faculty members and students, he notes, represent all faiths and ethnicities, and include students from more than 60 countries.

"Through the Nirit and Michael Shaoul Fund for Visiting Scholars and Fellows, TAU will be able to continue forging new academic research relationships, and to reinforce its hundreds of existing relationships — the lifeblood of all world-class institutions," Prof. Klafter says.




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