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Local, Israeli experts to discuss modern Israel at NW symposium

David Graizbord
Sharon Megdal
Yoram Weiss

Editor’s note: This event has been postponed until November due the spread of COVID-19. The Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona have canceled all public events through April 16 out of an abundance of caution.


Israeli politics, water scarcity, and medical advances will highlight “Israel in the 21st Century,” the second annual symposium of the Ruth and Irving Olson Center for Jewish Life in the Northwest. David Graizbord, Ph.D., Sharon B. Megdal, Ph.D., Yoram Weiss, M.D., Danielle Levy, and Shay Friedwald will speak at the event on Sunday, March 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Danielle Levy and Shay Friedwald

“Adult education is a huge component of the Olson Center,” says Phyllis Gold, director of the Northwest Division of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. “People tend to want something current and popular that they can learn about. There are some people who haven’t been to Israel in a long time.” Gold says technological, medical, and political advances in Israel are hot topics ripe for the symposium this year.

Graizbord, an associate professor and associate director of the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona, will speak about the historical and cultural background of Israeli politics — its various political parties, political ideologies, and political styles — “to contextualize and deepen listeners’ understanding of Israel.”

He aims to encourage participants to approach Israel as a modern country and a real-world society, and not as a political “issue, a ‘project’ of American Jewish organizations, and an object of charity, much less a series of over-heated and misleading headlines and op-eds in the media,” says Graizbord.

Also a historian of early modern and modern Jews, Graizbord will share how the politics of World War I and World War II shaped Israeli politics today and will analyze the March 2, 2020 elections in Israel.

Megdal’s topic will be “Addressing Water Scarcity in Israel through Innovative Water Management and Technology.” She is director of the UArizona Water Resources Research Center, an extension center and research unit for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Megdal is the head editor of “Shared Borders, Shared Waters: Israeli-Palestinian and Colorado River Basin Water Challenges,” and is board president of the International Arid Lands Consortium.

“Israel is a known leader in water management,” Megdal says. She will give an overview of how Israel has met high demands while dealing with a water shortage. “It’s important because people in our region are dealing with water shortage. We can learn from Israel.” She will make connections between water management in Israel and in Tucson.

Weiss will appear by live video from Israel. He is an anesthesiologist, the director of the Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital in Jerusalem, and a senior lecturer in anesthesiology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 2002, Weiss received the Hadassah Women Zionist Organization Prize for Outstanding Research Achievement.

Levy and Friedwald, Tucson’s shinshinim (teen ambassadors from Israel), will present a video of Israel today from their perspective. They also will speak about the experience of being teens growing up in Israel.

The event, at 180 W. Magee Road, #140, is cosponsored by the Olson Center, Weintraub Israel Center, and Diane and Ron Weintraub. Registration is $50, including continental breakfast and a dairy lunch. To RSVP go to www.jfsa.org/nwsymposium or call 505-4161.