From the Chair & the Director

Message from the Director – Prof. Shai Lavi

Ideas matter. Innovative ideas, no less than political and economic forces, shape our world. Today, in Israel, as in the rest of the world, we face new challenges to democracy, social justice, regional stability, and environmental sustainability. New ideas may help us better understand these predicaments and offer new ways for shaping our future. Our current research at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute addresses a broad range of topics: secularism and democracy in a post-secular age; the possibility of social justice within global economic constraints; the ethics of climate change and gene-editing; and the place of Israel in a rapidly transforming Middle East.

An integral part of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute research is the Polonsky Academy for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Polonsky Fellows form a vibrant international research community of roughly twenty-five outstanding scholars in the humanities and social sciences, with the freedom to conduct their own research both independently and in collaboration with ongoing projects at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

As we develop novel ideas, we are constantly searching for innovative ways for introducing our ideas to a wider public. We currently have three new and exciting platforms for public engagement: The magazine Hazman Hazeh (These Times), in collaboration with Ha’aretz, makes academic research and insight accessible to a wide readership. Our new intellectual incubator for documentary filmmakers allows young as well as established documentarists to develop and perfect their next project and take it to new heights; and our Intellectual Journeys program fosters a new generation of young and committed intellectuals from all walks of Israeli society. In an age of political populism, sustained public engagement with ideas enriched with insights from the humanities and social sciences is a necessary condition for a sustainable democracy and for its thriving. This is what we at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute are committed to nurturing and disseminating.

Message from the Chair – Ms. Fay Twersky

I am delighted to be the new chair of VLJI’s Board of Trustees. The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute has played a unique role in Israeli society since its founding in 1959, supporting pathbreaking scholarship, and convening conversations that pushed conventional boundaries. As the world is rapidly changing, the Institute is rising to meet these new challenges. Under Shai Lavi’s leadership, the Institute is poised to contribute mightily and meaningfully to a vital and pluralistic Israeli society and beyond. It is supporting young scholars of all backgrounds – secular, religious, Palestinian, and European. It is supporting research into a post neoliberal world and contributing ideas for new pathways to peace.

I first gave a talk at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute in 2008 when I was leading a delegation to explore how Israel’s third sector approached measuring results. At the time, I was impressed with the diverse gathering of people for such a conversation, with insightful questions, concerns and ideas to share. I have since seen that this is part of the Institute’s DNA. It is a place for open minds, for exploration, for bridging ideas and bridging divides. We need to treat this kind of place as sacred in our increasingly polarized world.

I am inspired by the opportunity to meet the challenges ahead and to working with the exceptional board and staff team as we continue to chart our path forward.

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