Experts Salute Stein, Emory and Israel Studies
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Experts Salute Stein, Emory and Israel Studies

The 20th anniversary celebration of the Emory Institute for the Study of Modern Israel featured 22 presenters, jam-packed remarks and panel discussions.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip). On the side, Marcia is Captain of the Senior Cheerleaders for the WNBA Atlanta Dream.

Proud sons flank Ken Stein: from left, Jason Stein and Todd Stein.
Proud sons flank Ken Stein: from left, Jason Stein and Todd Stein.

The 20th anniversary celebration of the Emory Institute for the Study of Modern Israel Nov. 10-11 at the JW Marriott Lenox featured 22 presenters, jam-packed remarks and panel discussions. Founding Director Ken Stein, professor of contemporary Middle Eastern history, political science and Israel studies at Emory University, was the helm and the subject of encomiums touting his impact.

Rooted in the Carter Center, prior to the Emory campus, ISMI was founded in 1998. It evolved out of academic interest and student demand for learning about modern Israel. President Jimmy Carter received negative reaction to the abrupt ending of the center’s Middle East program in 1992, which left a vacuum.

Later, benefactors Arthur Blank, Bernie Marcus and the Seslowe and Klutznick families came through with funding to sustain the program. In a 20-year commemorative booklet, some past students stated that they applied to Emory “because of the exposure to the contemporary Middle East, the understanding of the conflict, but not (done) in polemical tones.”

One famous intern was Jake Tapper (1989), a well-known journalist, author and cartoonist.

“The sessions have been phenomenal,” said Sabra Yaacov Golan. “‘U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Israel’ was the most enlightening. It explored the deep division of Jews today versus the past, where support of Israel was bipartisan.”

Heather Waters, Shlomit Ritz Finkelstein, Dana Shemesh, Michaela Rosenblatt and Diane Rieger exchange Emory experiences.

Educator Nancy Gorod said, “Stein’s amazing CIE religious school curriculum is implemented across the country for grades 2 through 7. I currently use it at Congregation Shearith Israel for students who are not in the day school system.”

Prior to the Israeli-themed dinner on Saturday night, mingling during the cocktail hour included two of Stein’s sons, Todd and Jason. The former said, “It’s a moment of pride for me when I check into a Jewish event and someone says, ‘You must be Ken’s son.’ He is seen as such an expert.”

Todd Stein said, “My father is a teacher inside and out. He has coached more baseball teams than any professional has ever even played!”

Emory’s Diane Rieger added, “I have worked with Ken since 1986… He is a wonderful human being; literally, it is his mitzvah to educate others. He is so energized that to him sleeping is wasted time.”

Randy Gorod, Nancy Gorod and Mitchell Tanzman, former student and current Emory board of trustees member.

In the panel “ISMI at Emory, Impact of Emory College, Atlanta and Beyond,” American Jewish Committee’s Southeast Director Dov Wilker commented, “We, as locals, benefit the most from the ISMI resources, the best reports in the world: … perhaps 10 percent university versus 90 percent community. I especially admire their work with Latin-American students … their Facebook outreach has been especially impressive as a new approach.”

Stein explained that his history-laden motivation stems from his mother’s escape from Germany in 1934, tying in this November’s marking of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

He also quoted from his father: “Never look in the rearview window.” Following that advice, “Let’s not look back, but go forward, … what’s in the next 10 years? For me, it’s been a good ride. … We have to continue to separate fact from narrative in the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

After the dinner, Ethiopian Israeli singer Aveva Dese performed songs in a fresh urban Tel Aviv beat and African groove.

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