The Woodman-Scheller Graduate Fellowships in Israel Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) has been launched in part to combat growing worldwide anti-Semitism. All gifts made in support of BGU’s Israel Studies International Program will be matched dollar for dollar up to $2 million.
The fund was established by American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) Vice President Wayne Woodman, his wife, Lisa Scheller; and her parents, Ernie Scheller, Jr., also an AABGU vice president and a member of BGU’s board of directors, and his wife, Roberta Scheller, all Pennsylvania philanthropists and longstanding BGU supporters.
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According to Wayne Woodman, “It is expected that graduates of this program will attain key political, diplomatic and academic positions related to Israel and the Middle East in their home countries. They will be armed with truths to combat malicious myths, essentially becoming ambassadors of Israel. Learning about Israel in its natural ‘laboratory’ is a most effective way to combat ignorance and misinformation.”
The Israel Studies International Program (ISIP) at Ben-Gurion University, taught under the auspices of the University’s Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism, draws graduate students from around the world, Jews and non-Jews, to study the only successful democracy in the Middle East. Students from Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, China, Georgia, Germany, Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States, and even the West Bank aspire to become experts in Israel’s history, politics and society.
The Woodman-Scheller matching funds will facilitate many annual fellowships, dramatically increasing the number of students who enroll in the graduate program. ISIP is taught in English by faculty from the Ben-Gurion Institute, an interdisciplinary group of experts from a broad range of academic disciplines that includes history, sociology, politics, philosophy, cultural studies, and Middle Eastern studies.
“Now is the time to invest in Israel studies and to recruit outstanding pupils from Africa, Asia and Europe, which requires a significant base of philanthropic support to provide fellowships for deserving students who might seek studies elsewhere without this opportunity, ” explains Ernie Scheller, Jr. “Donors will also be helping to enhance academic research on the history of the Jewish people, while simultaneously enabling BGU to grow as Israel’s leading academic institution in the study of modern Jewish history in the Middle East.”