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Brian Schwartz


By Rhonda Spivak, November 23, 2011

[Editor's note: Last June, I began asking Prof. Brian Schwartz (who happened to teach me Constitutional And Charter of Rights Law many moons ago), how it was that he got the idea to start the Mishpatim Program he initiated last year- the program where U of M students go to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. And somehow, I neglected to publish it at the time. But since Hebrew U is now raising money to continue the program, I thought it was a good time to  publish the article]  
Schwartz said he was visiting Israel in 2010 to find a partner for a potential academic program whereby law students at U of M could study in Israel.
He was invited by Herzliya's Interdisciplinary School [IDC] to participate in their visiting overseas professor program, where he had to consider what is was that he would teach at IDC.
“They [IDC] require students to acquire at least 4 credit hours taught in English, and they have a substantial number of experts from around the world deliver the program. ...They suggested to me that the [Israeli] students would like something very different from the usual fare, so I said I had an expertise in indigenous rights, but I didn't see how that had much application in Israel.   They said that actually the Bedouin are claiming rights under the emerging international law on indigenous people, so I said be happy to [teach this]."
Schwartz, who has written a number of books and legal briefs in the aboriginal rights area, and has presented oral argument in about a dozen aboriginal rights cases at the Supreme Court of Canada, is an expertise in international law. 
"I was looking forward to learning more about how aboriginal rights are developing in other countries as well as Israel.   So about in the spring of 2010 started compiling a new collection of materials.... I started with about  10,000 pages, whittled it down to about five hundred, and I told the students they only had to focus on a selection from that."
Schwartz suggested that "The materials could turn out to be very useful in developing courses on international and comparative approaches to aboriginal rights at Robson Hall and other places in the future."
"Teaching the course at IDC in February 2011 was one of the best experiences of my career. The students are both highly enthusiastic and capable. IDC has a great overall vibe; it's a dynamic new school, willing to try new things, and there is a very friendly as well as innovative ambience.   I met some of the faculty there, including Aharon Barak, the legendary former Chief Justice of Israel, who was amazingly willing to give me almost two hours of his time.   I had rather expected a five minute ceremonial visit with such an eminent and busy person, just enough to tell the grandkids about it...instead, it was an extended and enlightening conversation," he said.
Schwartz's visit in 2010 to Israel last year also included going to Hebrew University where Schwartz learned of the "Mishpatim" program.
“They turned out to have a terrific program for Australian students called Mishpatim - a three week course that addresses issues such as human rights, international law, minority rights and gender issues.     Vice Chancellor Shimon Lipsky met with me, and was extremely welcoming and positive. So I worked with the HU coordinator, Offer Shiner, and we Canadianized it - there are now components on international trade and indigenous rights. We obtain a very generous grant from the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University to support the costs of students attending and staying at the Meirsdorff residence."
Schwartz took students on the first successful Mishpatim Course on May 2-19, 2011. The academic purpose of the course was to introduce students to the Israeli legal system, while focusing on current issues at the core of the Israeli legal debate. The course allowed students to examine key questions related to the identity of the Israeli State including Jerusalem and the interaction with the Palestinian population in Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza and the status of Palestinian refugees. The course was taught by Ofer Shinar Levanon, a legal scholar and clinical lawyer.
"'The course included several field trips allowing the students to experience, first- hand, the workings of the Israeli legal system and included guest lectures by some of Israel's prominent legal scholars as well as by advocates working to promote democracy and human rights."
"The feedback received from the participants confirmed that this course, and others like it, will be highly effective in creating future supporters of the Hebrew University. This group of students, most of whom had no idea about Israel except what they'd seen in the media, were deeply affected by their three week stay and are likely going to be enthusiastic advocates," said Winnipeg CFHU chapter president Faith Kaplan.
 The Canadian Friends of Hebrew University is now in the process of raising funds towards Schwartz 's Mishpatim program.
Anyone wishing to donate can contact Sharon Zalik at the Winnipeg Chapter of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University at 942-3085 or [email protected].
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.