Locals Recognized for Their Support of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

With the influx of high-tech companies and Israeli military intelligence units, the desert city of Beer-Sheva is becoming the hub of Israel’s rapidly expanding cyber security industry. One of Beer-Sheva’s main draws is its world-class academic institution, Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev, which offers graduate study tracks in cyber security, and has collaborated with the Israeli government on a national cyber security center.

BGU’s cyber security work is being supported here in Philadelphia as well. The Mid-Atlantic Region of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University (AABGU) — a nonprofit organization that supports BGU — raised funds from its annual tribute dinner for the university’s Cyber Security Research Initiative, and its contrtibution was matched dollar-for-dollar by the Israeli government. The Cyber Security Research Initiative supports needed infrastructure and allocates grants for innovative cyber research at BGU, with the goal of creating a national cyber security research center that is globally unsurpassed.

Michele and Robert Levin, AABGU Philadelphia Chapter chairs, presenting the award to Jane and Lee Bender.

In the 48 years since its inception, BGU has grown to three campuses and has become a world leader in scientific and medical research. The tribute gala in Philadelphia was not only a fundraiser to support BGU’s cyber security program, but it was also an opportunity to honor local residents for their individual efforts on behalf of this Israeli university. Two of the award recipients were Jane and Lee Bender, who are active leaders in the Jewish community and in their synagogue, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood. In a joint statement, they wrote:

Throughout our community activism and advocacy, we consistently keep our eyes focused on the mission: to be a light unto the nations and seek to repair and better the world. In this regard, Ben-Gurion University is a shining light, which we are thrilled to support. …

Dr. Barry Kayne, Delaware Chapter chair, presenting the award to Dr. Robin Karol-Eng.

Another award recipient, Dr. Robin Karol-Eng, became an ardent proponent of growth in the Negev 20 years ago, and later became chair of the Negev Funding Coalition within the Jewish Federations of North America. “In that role, I discovered the importance of Ben-Gurion University in the development of the Negev,” said Dr. Karol-Eng. “I have visited there a number of times and strongly believe that BGU is an integral component in the creation of a strong Negev and a strong Israel.”

Gerald B. Shreiber receiving the Albert and Harriet Soffa Lifetime Achievement Award.

The final honoree at the gala, Gerald B. Shreiber, was awarded the inaugural Albert and Harriet Soffa Lifetime Achievement Award. Shreiber is president and CEO of J&J Snack Foods Corp., which was a bankrupt soft-pretzel company when he purchased it in 1971, and is now an international company with over a billion dollars in sales annually. Shreiber has been a veteran AABGU leader and a generous donor for over 30 years. Among other things, he established an endowed scholarship at BGU in honor of his parents and a master’s degree scholarship in honor of his dear friends Albert z’l and Harriet Soffa.

“I have witnessed with my own eyes how Ben-Gurion University, originally a simple desert outpost with cots for sleeping and rationed foods, has now transformed into a major university,” said Shreiber. “I am amazed and proud of the progress, and delighted and gratified to play a part in supporting AABGU.”

To further the mission of showcasing and supporting the talent at Ben-Gurion University, the AABGU Mid-Atlantic Region is in the process of planning events for 2018, including a few programs in honor of the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. Held in March, these programs will be hosted throughout the region, from Wynnewood to Allentown to Delaware, and will include appearances by Prof. Paula Kabalo. Prof. Kabalo is director of the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism, and is considered a world-class expert on the life and times of David Ben-Gurion.

For more information on AABGU and its programs, contact Regional Director Claire Winick, 215-884-4510.


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