We are proud to introduce you to some of our current and past AJLI Scholars:

LEIGH JACOBSEN (2016 – 2017 AJLI Scholar)

First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest gratitude for the opportunity to pursue my dream degree in Israel with the help of the AJLI scholarship. I am so lucky to have met not only AJLI staff but also my fellow scholars during my time in Israel and was so touched by the community feel and programming of this scholarship. I am more than happy to share my story with any future scholars, or anyone, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need my assistance with anything.

Going into my year in Israel, I knew that my ultimate goal was to find a way to bridge my two identities—Israeli and American— in some productive, security-related fashion. Though I initially toyed with the idea of writing an article, I found a more personally fulfilling project to fill the majority of my time in Israel: a three-hour, classified simulation of various terrorist attacks in Los Angeles that was ultimately presented at the International Institute for Counter-terrorism (ICT)’s 17th Annual World Summit on Counter-terrorism. My research partner and I were actually the first ever students to present at this prestigious forum, making it an even sweeter culmination of my initial project goal. Basically, I realized that I wanted to integrate my AJLI project goal with my ICT internship through my MA in Counter-terrorism & Homeland Security program, and suggested to my bosses there that I focus my terror research on my hometown of Los Angeles. Collecting months’ worth of open-source intelligence on possible terror threats in LA allowed me to understand how to apply my newly earned Israeli education to my life in LA, thereby fulfilling my initial AJLI project goal. The simulation was a hit, and was showcased as the Law Enforcement & Policing official presentation (https://www.ict.org.il/ContentWorld.aspx?ID=36#gsc.tab=0) at the conference to an audience of over 60+ global law enforcement officials. The feeling of being up there on the stage in front of this humbling audience was, hands down, my favorite memory from my year in Israeli graduate school.

My plans from here on out are to continue that initial mission and find a job in threat assessment/intelligence here in the United States that is similar to my internship in Israel at ICT— I’ll be sure to keep you updated once I find employment! Israel is, of course, still so very ingrained in my essence and life, as most of my family still lives there as well as the many new friends I met in this past year. It is my ultimate hope that in the future, with a bit of experience under my belt, I can open my own security consulting firm that allows me to work back and forth between LA and Tel Aviv and bring Israeli security consulting methods to the LA community.

MEREDITH SCOTT (2016 – 2017 AJLI Scholar)

I’m currently pursuing my MA in Holocaust Studies from the University of Haifa. My research is on culture in the Third Reich. One of the ways I research this is through dissecting public entertainment. I hope that through my research I will better understand how the German culture became complicit in the Holocaust, how to identify modern warning flags in dangerous cultures and bring value to the remembrance of the Jewish and other targeted cultures. I’m researching Jewish and other “undesirable” cultures through the lens of the circus in the Third Reich. I was born in the same town that the Ringling Bros.’ Circus was born, and I have family in the circus who lost their ancestors in concentration camps because they were perceived as “gypsies” as they were circus performers. I hope to write my MA thesis on this topic of circus culture and the varying cultures within the circus, as well as the attacking culture. After earning my MA, I hope to continue my research in culture through a PhD in History. I chose to study in Israel for a number of reasons. As a non-Jew moving to Israel was essential to my studies to learn about Judaism and Jewish culture, and the University of Haifa offers a top world ranking program in Holocaust Studies. I’m so glad I did!

Before moving to Israel I didn’t know a lot about the political climate, but I learned fast while I was there. I was very fortunate to be living in an apartment with two Jews, two Muslims and two Christians. We had a lot of really interesting discussions about Israel and Israeli politics. In America, and other countries, opinions toward Israel are polarized and often ill-informed. People generally seek out information that confirms their bias. Lately trending media ties currents of opinion on Israel to polarized ideas that to be pro-Israel is to be pro-“apartheid” and anti-feminist. I would like to offer a discussion, via blog, on these topics and more from many different Israeli and Palestinian backgrounds. In other words, I want to bring people to my apartment’s dining room table and I want to hold a virtual discussion between me and my friends that I met during my time in Israel. I envision the different articles talking to each other and offering a place where many different, non-polarized views can be digested, giving equal platform to differing voices. I hope to bring back to the American community a better understanding of the conflict by addressing the hard issues through my interviews. Right now, I’m preparing to launch the blog, but I’m open to seeing where it will lead me, maybe presentations at conferences or universities? My goal is to bring a realistic understanding of Palestinian-Israeli relations, and provide the information for Americans to make their own informed decisions on their stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I further hope to give them the tools to discuss the complexities of their developing opinions.

Some of my favorite memories of living in Israel is sitting with my roommates and friends of all different backgrounds and persuasions and discussing the latest news, or learning the dapke a traditional Palestinian dance, or learning the prayer to bless the Challah on Shabbat. I’m looking forward to bringing that experience to my readers.

ZOE ZELKHA (2016 – 2017 AJLI Scholar)

Zoe is pursuing a BS degree in Civil Engineering from The Technion. She was first drawn to The Technion after she spent five months in Israel on her gap year working on organic farms and gardens and learning about sustainable living. Zoe was inspired by how these communities managed to integrate natural cycles into modern life. After experiencing this, she decided to pursue a degree that would provide her the skills to eventually develop technologies that conserve the environment while also reconnecting people to their surroundings. In the future, she hopes to be involved in bridging American and Israeli innovation and to promote Jewish values related to the protection of the natural environment.

DANNY GINZBURG (2016 – 2017 AJLI Scholar)

Born and raised in Chicago. I studied earth sciences at Northwestern, which is where my love for food, agriculture, sustainability, and Judaism all coalesced into a magical mixture. I spent a summer working on a small, Jewish organic farm in Berkeley where I really solidified my desire to actively engage with agriculture and Judaism in the future. After college I worked for two years as a sustainability data analyst at a small real estate sustainability firm in Chicago. During my time working in Chicago my burning desire to explore life in Israel helped me find the program I’m in now (International Masters in Agricultural Sciences at Hebrew University – Rehovot). My experiences so far have helped me feel more proud to be Jewish, American, and a lover of the sights, smells, and most importantly, tastes of the produce at the markets throughout the country.

MEIRAV MALTER (2016 – 2017 AJLI Scholar)

My name is Meirav Malter and I am a 21 year-old from Chicago, Illinois. I am a third-year Bachelor’s student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. pursuing a major in Global Studies with a focus on the Middle East, governance, and conflict resolution. In addition, I am minoring in both Jewish Studies and Islamic World Studies in order to enhance my understanding of the Middle East and its rich history. This year I am studying abroad at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Thanks to AJLI’s scholarship, I have been lucky to spend the entire academic year at TAU learning Hebrew, Arabic, and studying the intricacies of the modern Middle East. I have also taken numerous trips around Israel to learn about the culture, society, and history of the state. I have been documenting many of my experiences abroad on a blog that I began writing this year, and I have made lasting friendships with Israelis and other international students. When I return to UIUC in the fall, I hope to apply my newfound knowledge of the Middle East to my studies, and aspects of Israeli culture that I have picked up, to my everyday life. In the future I plan to attend graduate school to continue learning about and researching the more specific topics that I have become most interested in during my undergraduate degree. These include: sectarianism in Lebanon, Israel-Egypt relations, and the Bedouin tribes living in the Sinai Peninsula and their relationship with Israel. With a graduate degree I will pursue an academic career or work in international relations.