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Michelle and David Berkowits & Dr. Rachel Eni - co chair

Noy - BGU student

Samantha Loxton - Ex. Director


posted June 5, 2013

[Editor's note : Samantha Loxton is no longer working as the Executive Director of Ben-Gurion University. She was in that position when this article was written ]


I could tell that the atmosphere at the Shabbat dinner put on by the Winnipeg chapter of the Canadian Associates of Ben Gurion University was warm and inviting the moment I arrived at the event at the home of David and Michelle Berkowits on May 10th.
There I met six Israeli students from Ben Gurion University's Guildford Glazer School of Business and Administration, who were in Winnipeg on the Arni Thorsteinson exchange program with the University of Manitoba's Asper School of Business. The  BGU students had been hosted all week by the  U of M students and together they were set to travel to Israel where the BGU students would take their turn at hosting. On the way, they were to stop in Toronto to meet with one of the sponsors of the program, Gerry Schwartz of Onex Corporation and his wife Heather Reisman.

As Samantha Loxton,   Executive Director of the Winnipeg chapter of CABGU said  the exchange program " provides the opportunity for university students from Manitoba and Israel to learn business practices and cultures of their respective countries."   This dynamic Program "would not exist without the continuous financial support from the Gerald Schwartz & Heather Reisman Foundation as well as from Arni Thorsteinson himself." 
Sean MacDonald, a sessional instructor at the Asper School of Business, who has accompanied U of M students to Israel on the program told me how  exciting the program is.

"I love visiting Israel--I loved everything--the history, the people I met, the people I was with, the society, the motivation ad the passion that people who live there have."
Macdonald also explained that because of the sponsorship provided, "Students only pay $500.00 to participate."

As Loxton noted,  "Today, BGU is a world-class academic and research institution with some 20,000 students on five

campuses in Beer-Sheva, Sede Boqer and Eilat. BGU is an incubator for innovative research and a haven for the humanities and social sciences. It is an integral part of the global community, with researchers sharing internationally their expertise in such fields as Hi-Tech, Bio-Tech, medicine, arid zone agriculture, solar energy, water resource management, nanotechnology and more.   As a matter of fact, BGU according to a recent survey commissioned by the National Union of Israeli Students is ranked the number one choice by Israeli undergraduates."

Noit Lewit ,  a 22 year old  student majoring in Management and Sociology  from BGU who spoke at the event,  explained the special atmosphere at the BGU campus, which fosters community service:

"Beer Sheva, the capital of the Negev, is a very unique place to live in. Far from their homes and parents, the students build an independent life for themselves. As part of the strong community feeling the university spreads, community service has become a standard among all students. Many of the students in Ben Gurion are involved in different projects of community service within Be'er Sheva and its surroundings. Among us, there are representatives of different kinds of projects: Goldi [Pazzit]  is teaching children ecological awareness at a school. Dor [Bahat] is participating in an organization called "Keren Moshe", where he educates and motivates kids to be leaders and involved in their community. I am in a project called "Perach", which is Hebrew for "flower", where I act as an "older sister" to a pre-teen girl that is from a poorer neighborhood in Be'er Sheva. Aside from those projects, there are many others, that focus on the elderly population, the mentally ill, and the hospitalized."  

Lewit was born in Tel Aviv and lived there until she was 11 years old and then moved with her family to live in Atlanta, Georgia. When she was 18 years old, she I decided to move back to Israel to join the Israeli Defense Forces and lived on a Kibbutz in the North with a group of other lone soldiers during her service.

The students at the Shabbat dinner were welcomed by  the Dean of the Asper School  of Business, Michael Benarroch.

Unfortunately, the students from Winnipeg were not able to actually attend the BGU campus this year due to liability concerns on the part  of the University of Manitoba. Ever since 2009, when rockets  from Hamas in Gaza landed in Be'er Sheva Canada has a had a travel advisory warning tourists that Be'er Sheva is not safe. As a result, the University of Manitoba will not take its students to the South of Israel since it can not get proper liability insurance because of  this travel warning.

However, as Prof Sergio Carvalho, an organizer of the exchange program noted, "We are going to be able to travel to many parts of Israel --Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, the Dead Sea and the Galilee."

Rena, one of the U of M  students I spoke with who had participated in the program the year before, said "I would love to go back and visit Israel again. It's at the top of my list. I hope I'll  get  a chance to go again soon." 
The  Shabbat dinner was co-chaired by Grant Zipursky and Dr. Rachel Eni, who is a prof in the faculty of human ecology at the U of M.

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