Haitian community and Hebrew University seal deal

Outgoing president Monette Malewski welcomes Ari Brojde, the new president of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University, Montreal chapter.

MONTREAL — Carmi Gillon had to chuckle at the irony that he came all the way from Israel to a chilly Montreal to cement an agreement involving Haiti.

Gillon, a former director of Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Bet, is now vice-president for external relations of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

While in Montreal recently, Gillon attended a meeting between representatives of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University (CFHU) and the local chapter of Kanpe, a humanitarian organization based in the Haitian community.

They agreed to work together to raise funds to send students from Haiti to study at Hebrew University’s agricultural and public health schools. The goal is to collect enough money to support two or three students a year over the next decade.

A major joint fundraising event is being planned for November 2013.

Gillon said Israel’s agricultural school today serves mainly overseas students because agricultural represents only about five per cent of the country’s economy. Students come from all over the world – from developing countries, such as Africa and South America, as well as a superpower like China, Gillon said.

Gillon, a former ambassador to Denmark, also met with the deans of Hebrew University’s newest academic partners in Montreal, the schools of medicine and pharmacy at the Université de Montréal, as well as the law faculty. He was joined by Simon Benita, principal of Hebrew University’s pharmacy school.

Gillon said it is clear the attempted academic boycott of Israel has no traction in Quebec,and is really not gaining support anywhere in the world, at least, not among top-tier universities.

Gillon also made a condolence visit to Fiona Eberts, the widow of Quebec-born Hollywood producer Jake Eberts, who died in Montreal in September at age 71. 

Eberts, whose films earned a total of 37 Academy Awards and dozens of nominations, was honoured by the CFHU a year ago. His last project was Jerusalem, a 3D Imax documentary about the city. Gillon said work on the film, which is due to be released next year, is going ahead despite Eberts’ unexpected death.

Box-office proceeds from the not-for-profit Jerusalem, whose aim is to foster understanding among Jews, Muslims and Christians, will fund a variety of projects in Jerusalem, in collaboration with Hebrew University.

Gillon was also on hand for the installation of new CFHU Montreal chapter president Ari Brojde, who succeeds Monette Malewski.

At 35, Brojde was introduced as among the youngest, if not the youngest, Friends presidents in the world.

An investment adviser associate at RBC Dominion Securities, Brojde’s family has a long association with Hebrew University.

His mother, Anna, is a governor and honorary fellow, in recognition of the family’s philanthropy. They established the Peter Brojde Centre for Innovative Engineering and Computer Science at the university, in memory of Ari’s father who died in 2005, a donation which also includes scholarships and fellowships in his name.

Peter and Anna Brojde co-founded the pioneering connectivity company, Eicon Technology Corporation.

“Volunteering your time in support of Israeli universities is conducting the work of angels,” Ari Brojde said. “Contributing your resources is support of them is angel investing.”

That’s how his father described using capital to create a positive social impact, rather than only a financial return, he explained.

Brojde said he will work to stem the academic “brain drain” from Israel, strengthen partnerships between Hebrew University and overseas universities and institutes, raise awareness of Israel through outreach programs that highlight outstanding research at Hebrew University, and encourage younger people’s bond with Israel by allowing them the opportunity to visit the country.

Brojde has chaired the CFHU’s Albert Einstein Business Forum, which organizes lectures showcasing Hebrew University and Israel as academic and business innovators.