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Israel Studies Project

The Israel Studies Project has brought Israeli writers and scholars of the highest caliber to Urbana-Champaign. A collaboration between Illinois and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, it has moved us to the forefront of national and international efforts in Israel Studies.

The Israel Studies Project grew out of an op-ed piece by Michael Kotzin, Executive Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. Kotzin, who alas passed away since beginning this project, proposed that federations and universities work together to foster the study of Israel at North American college and universities.

With the joint sponsorship of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and former Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman, we have been able to invite Israeli academics, writers, and artists to come for visits from a few weeks to several semesters. The presence of such prominent Israeli academics and artists gives both campus and community access to important and often little-known work on Israel and the Middle East.

Our visitors have included the following:

Michal Aviad, documentary filmmaker, (Spring) and Smadar Zamir (Spring) as part of a symposium A Film of Hew Own: Women in Israeli Cinema

2015-16 A Film of Her Own conference
Vered Weiss, JUF supported Israeli Studies postdoc (Fall and Spring semesters)  

Sayed Kashua, Novelist, TV Writer/Producer, Columnist (Fall and Spring semesters) - watch An Evening with Sayed Kashua here

Rhona Seidelman, Historian (Fall and Spring semesters)

Joseph Cedar, Filmmaker (Fall, half a week)     
Matan Hermoni, Writer (Fall, one week) -- watch An Evening with Matan Hermoni here

2011-12  Sayed Kashua/Native book
Ron Leshem, Writer (Fall, one week) -- watch An Evening with Ron Leshem here      
Dan Laor, Writer (Spring, one week) -- watch "Writing the Holocaust: Is It Still Relevant" here

Etgar Keret & Shira Geffen, Writers (Fall, two weeks) -- watch An Evening with Etgar Keret here   
Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Literature Scholar (Spring, one week)

Irit Linur, Writer (Fall, two weeks)     
Dalya Bilu, Translator (Spring, two weeks)

Asaf Ashery, Writer and Screenwriter (Fall and Spring semesters)

Yosef Gorny, Historian (Fall, two weeks)     
Orly Castel-Bloom, Writer (Spring, two and a half weeks)

Gail Hareven, Writer (Fall semester)     
Hana Wirth-Nesher, Literature Scholar (Spring, two weeks)

Yossi Klein Halevi, Journalist and Writer (Fall, two weeks)    
Hillel Halkin, Journalist, Writer, Translator (Spring, two weeks)


All our visitors are highly visible on campus. They give major public lectures, visit classes, and lead workshops. They are also active in the community, speaking on WILL-AM, the local NPR station and visiting Hillel, Sinai Temple, and the Rotary Club.