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Newsletter Issue # 16 May 2011













Eli Pikarsky

Dr Eli Pikarsky, Hadassah Medical School, HU and Assoc Prof Sigal Ben-Yehuda. Faculty of Medicine, HU share the 2011 Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Medical Research for their respective, contributions to our understanding of human disease.

Dr Pikarsky was nominated for insights gained from his work in complex mouse models, into the development of human diseases.
His work provides new understanding of the determinants of malignancy in testicular cancer; of the impact of inflammation on the progress of liver cancer and the regulation of liver regeneration, important in all conditions which damage liver function.

Assoc Prof Ben Yahuda

Assoc Prof Ben-Yehuda was nominated for her contributions to our understanding of the biology of bacteria. Her discoveries, which include the demonstration of a previously unknown ‘nanotube’ form of communication between cells, are also fundamental for understanding the mechanisms of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. This gives her work great importance for the treatment of infections caused by the growing number of resistant bacteria.

Prize medals, crafted by Melbourne sculptor Michael Meszaros, and the shared cash award of $10,000 will be presented to the scientists by Fund Trustee, Mr Robert Simons OAM, at a ceremony to be held during the Board of Governor’s Meeting at the HU in Jerusalem in June 2011. Fund Trustee, Mr Michael Dunkel will also be attending the ceremony. Both Mr Simons and Mr Dunkel are Members of the HU Board of Governors and will be in Jerusalem attending the HU BOG Meeting at that time.

This is the first time the award has been shared between two nominees. Prof Jonathan Stone, Managing Trustee of the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund, speaking about the award said, “Both winners have made impressive contributions to our understanding of complex and difficult diseases – cancer, and antibiotic-resistant infections. Their discoveries are impressive examples of how well-targeted research can tackle serious medical challenges”.

First presented at the University of Sydney in 2006, the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Medical Research, recognises discovery in medical research by researchers under 45 years of age, emphasising contributions to the understanding or treatment of disease. The Prize is awarded in alternate years at the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 2012 award of the Prize will be for scientists at the University of Sydney. The 2012 award will be sponsored by The Schwartz Foundation. There will be a call for nominations for the 2012 award, in August 2011.



B'nai B'rith Lodge Sydney has supported the work of the Fund over many years directing its donations to the general work of the Fund. In July 2010 however, Lodge Sydney decided to make a targeted donation to the Fund’s Academic & Student Exchange Programs to contribute toward one student and one academic exchange. The scholars chosen to benefit from the fellowships supported by B’nai B’rith Lodge Sydney’s generosity will be known as B’nai B’rith, Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Exchange Fellows.

The BB SZCUF Student Exchange Fellowship has been awarded to Ms Katherine Sassoon a third year Arts student at the University of Sydney on exchange at the Hebrew University during Semester I, 2011. She is undertaking the Level 6 Modern Hebrew Language courses currently unavailable at Sydney University with a view to a career path in translating and interpreting or speech therapy. Other courses she is undertaking include Language, Society and Thought, and Ladino for Beginners.

Dr Nissim Otmazgin

The BB SZCUF Academic Exchange Fellowship has been awarded to Dr Nissim Otmazgin, Lecturer, Dept of East Asian Studies HU. Dr Otmazgin will be in Sydney during August-September 2011 to work with colleagues in the Departments of Japanese Studies and Asian Studies on a project focused on historical memory with particular attention to the recent emergence of Japan’s comic industry as a medium for political debate and especially its role in propagating new perceptions regarding Japan’s wartime history. Dr Otmazgin is interested in evaluating if current representations constitute a revisionist shift away from Japan’s mainstream thinking about its wartime misdeeds and a break away from what many Japanese see as an apologetic diplomacy towards its Asian neighbours.

During Semester II, both BB SZCUF Fellows will be making public presentations related to their respective visits and areas of interest as part of their fellowship and we look forward to extending an invitation to you and your friends and to supporters of B’nai B’rith to attend these events.



Sponsorship of designated projects by individuals or groups like B'nai B'rith Lodge Sydney featured in the article above, are greatly welcomed by the Fund. Currently, they also include The Schwartz Foundation’s sponsorship of the Sydney presentations of the SZCUF Prize for Discovery in Medical Research.

Projects which may be of interest to you or your organization could be:

  • The Prize when awarded in Jerusalem - alternate year
  • Academic Exchange – contributing to travel and accommodation expenses for visiting academics
  • Student Exchange – contributing to accommodation costs for students on exchange in Sydney from HU or vice versa
  • Research Grant – support a scientific research project in an area of interest to you, or nominated by the Fund

To discuss these and any of our other projects which you or your organization would like to sponsor or to suggest areas of potential mutual interest which could be explored as focuses for sponsorship, please contact the Fund Office - Ph: 9351 6558 or Email:

All sponsorship will be acknowledged through the Fund's literature and website.



Following the success of grants previously awarded to infrastructure projects in the Bosch Institute (U Sydney), the Fund has undertaken to support two further Bosch Institute infrastructure projects. Previous grants supported salary for an officer to manage a Molecular Biology Facility (2001-2005) and a Flow Cytometry Facility (2006-2008). Both facilities have given Institute members access to state of the art equipment essential in current biological research and they have formed the model for further joint facilities within the Institute. By demonstrating the value of such facilities, they have assisted in raising funds from major granting bodies to expand and maintain all these facilities.

The current proposals were for support of salaries for officers to manage an Animal Behaviour Facility (ABF) and an Oxidative Stress Bioanalytical Facility (OSBF).

Prof Nick Hunt

Making the application for the ABF on behalf of the Institute, Professor of Experimental Pathology, Nick Hunt wrote, “Rodent behaviour is a rapidly growing area of research worldwide and will underpin current and future Bosch research in neuroscience, infectious disease and gene function analysis. The activities of this Facility will be integrated with those of the existing Facilities, providing a comprehensive suite of approaches to complex biomedical research projects. The establishment of the ABF and the availability of the ABF Officer will provide an enormous boost to many research programs within Bosch, resulting in greater scientific and medical achievements and increasing its scientists’ opportunities to win grant support for research projects and research infrastructure.”

Prof Roland Stocker

In a similar, vein in his application on behalf of the Institute for the OSBF, Prof Roland Stocker, Head, Centre for Vascular Research, wrote, “ In many non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, ageing, diabetes and obesity, as well as in many infections, increased oxidative stress is linked to tissue damage. To understand the role of oxidative stress and to test potential mechanisms for controlling its associated damage in disease requires knowledge of the precise location, identity and levels of oxidants involved. The OBSF provides unique and advanced technology to localize, characterize and quantify biologically relevant oxidants in cells, tissues and organs and allows scientists to define how changes in cellular oxidative stress affect biological processes relevant to health and the pathogenesis of many diseases. In addition, OSBF facilitates will contribute to future drug discovery and the monitoring of drug efficacy and responses to treatment of diseases.” The two projects will each be supported by the Fund for 3 years at a total cost of $300,000.




In keeping with the Fund’s key objectives to promote scientific research and co-operative work between the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, shortly, the Fund will announce a call for applications for an exciting new scientific grant

Initially, the grant will provide one year of funding of $100,000 to the successful applicant(s). Preference will be given to a joint project between scientists of the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The aim of the grant will be to seed research in emerging areas, where the investigators would use the funds to gain sufficient momentum to be competitive in larger funding systems.
Managing Trustee of the Fund, Prof Jonathan Stone, an eminent scientist in his own right, speaking about the grant, said, “ So many of our most valued scientific discoveries are based on what were once thought to be blue-sky, fanciful and not commercially-viable ideas. They came to life only through the perseverance of the scientists who conceived them and the gamble taken by a forward thinking backer willing to provide the funds to bring the project to a level where its potential became more apparent. In establishing this grant, the Trustees hope to provide such an opportunity.”
The grant will be advertised shortly, with a closing date of end August 2011. Funding for the grant will commence in January 2012.



Shared Challenges, Future Solutions

In late October 2011, the University of Sydney will host a forum to enable scientists of the University to share ideas with scientists from various Israeli academic institutions including the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Technion and the Weizmann Institute.

The Program for the week will provide opportunities for interactions between researchers and appropriate government and non-government authorities and/or commercial interests. The major aim of the Forum is to foster collaborative research between University of Sydney researchers and colleagues in Israel.

The highlight of the program will be a Symposium to be held on 31 October 2011, at the University of Sydney. It will include a plenary session featuring a number of distinguished speakers and workshops focused on the themes of the Forum which are:

  • Medicine: Neuroscience, Cancer/stem cells, Obesity/diabetes
  • Water, Food and Agriculture
  • Pedagogy of teaching second language
  • Energy, IT, Business

The Fund has undertaken to support travel and accommodation expenses for 3 Hebrew University academics to be invited to participate in the Forum. The Trustees were pleased that this initiative was triggered by the exchange visits between scientists of the Bosch Institute (U Sydney) and the Hebrew University’s Institute for Medical Research (IMR) supported by the Fund’s Bosch/IMR Researcher Exchange Project Grants.

In conjunction with the Forum, a conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls will also be held in memory of Emeritus Prof Alan Crown. An accompanying exhibition in Fisher Library will display its newly acquired facsimile edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls and rare Jewish Manuscripts it holds. To enquire about the conference email: .

Organisers of the Forum hope to include a number of activities open to the general public. Once the final program is available, we look forward to letting you know how you can also participate in this exciting event.


  • How Senile Plaques Form In The Aging And Demented Brain: The Roles Of Haemorrhage And Macrophages.
    Prof Jonathan Stone (U Sydney)/ Prof Eli Keshet (Hebrew U)

In mid-2009 the SZCUF undertook support over 3 years for this joint project which aims to show that macrophages - specific cells that appear at the site of tissue damage such as stroke, to clean-up debris of dying cells - actively form plaques. If confirmed, this outcome will accelerate acceptance of the critical issue, that age-related dementia is a vascular disease, for which prevention, treatment and relief of symptoms will be found in the stabilization of blood vessels, the reduction of vascular risk factors and the treatment of the thousands of mini-strokes which threaten the aging brain.

Giving his first report to the Trustees in December 2010, Prof Stone reported good progress has been made on the project with 5 papers having been presented at major conferences/meetings providing evidence from the group’s research to support their hypothesis.

  • SZCUF Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) Research Grant

This two year Grant was awarded in September 2008 to Dr Claire Goldsbury and Dr Karen Cullen for their work titled Energy deficiency as a cause of neuritic pathology in Alzheimer's Disease. At the end of 2009 they reported significant progress had been made towards gaining a better understanding of the of the process that causes the accumulation of tau, one of the two diagnostic abnormalities exhibited by damaged nerve cells characterising AD-affected brains.

During 2010 the project was suspended while Dr Goldsbury was on maternity leave. The researchers have now resumed work on the project and will submit a final year report in December.

  • The Microvascular basis of Alzheimer’s Disease
    - A final Report from Prof Eli Keshet (Hebrew U)

In this report Prof Keshet rounds off work commenced originally in a collaborative project with Dr Karen Cullen & Prof Jonathan Stone of the University of Sydney.

The original aim of the project was to use genetically engineered mice produced in Prof Kesshet’s lab to gain further insights into the mechanisms at a cellular level by which AD is caused. The working hypothesis was that the triggering event in AD development is a cerebral vascular injury causing extra cellular deposits (EDC’s) at the site of the vascular injury. This was confirmed in early work using the transgenic mice.

More recent work with these mice has also provided insights into the role of a vessel growth factor (VEGF) in brain cell formation and improvement of learning and memory.

In using the transgenic mouse produced by his lab to produce these results, Prof Keshet concludes the model has been shown to be appropriate to critically examine the working hypothesis of a vasculo-centric origin of AD development. In addition the model has successfully shown a variety of ways in which the hippocampal vasculature may affect cognitive function.


Prof Menachem Hofnung

Prof Menachem Hofnung, Dept of Political Science, Hebrew U visited Sydney in July 2010 to work with Dr Gil Merom, Dept of Government and International Relations and to conduct research for a book focused on the right of free movement, fundamental to both citizens and non-citizens. According to Prof Hofnung, currently this free movement has become heavily restricted due to concerns about mass immigration from third world countries into affluent countries which is seen as changing the social and demographic makeup of the host countries. Also of concern is the threat of terrorist groups, who on their part, try to blend in, using the immigrant communities of the host states as a base for their clandestine activities. In this context, Prof Hofnung’s work aims to ask what are the boundaries of the right to free movement? To whom does it apply? What limitations can be justified on moral and practical grounds? In other words, how to strike a reasonable balance between the often conflicting demands of national security on the one hand, and international obligations and preservation of communal identity on the other hand.

Having conducted initial research in Israel, Prof Hofnung came to Australia to learn firsthand the policies and practices concerning immigration in a multi-cultural affluent country, with no land border with any other neighboring country and with no declared foreign enemies. He plans to continue his research in the US, Canada and several countries in Europe.

Prof Nili Wazana, Head, Dept of Bible Studies, Hebrew U visited the Dept of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies, U Sydney in August 2010 to contribute to the teaching and research of the Department. She taught classes on the book of Amos, part of a course entitled "From Prophecy to Apocalyptic". Dr Wazana also gave an excellent talk at Mandelbaum House, on: "Are Trees of the Field Human: War Laws in the Bible".

Prof Belalzel Porten, Dept of Jewish History, Hebrew U was also in Sydney in July 2010 to give some classes in the Dept of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies at and a public lecture in his areas of expertise in Aramaic texts.

Itzhak Galnoor

Prof Itzhak Galnoor, Herbert Samuel Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow, The Van Leer Institution, Hebrew U visited the Dept of Government and International Relations, U Sydney hosted by Department Chair, Prof Rodney Smith in February 2011. The purpose of his visit was to study the Australian experience in the area of privatization and compare it with the Israeli experience as Australia has had much more experience than Israel implementing privatization policies and evaluating their impact. Prof Galnoor was particularly interested in looking at whether in addition to utilities and infrastructure, there has been privatization of social services and what the impact of these had been. Reporting on his visit Prof Galnoor wrote,“The project has been under way since April 2007. The purpose of the research conducted in Israel under my academic supervision is to examine elected aspects of privatization and regulation, and produce a well-reasoned policy paper that will serve the needs of decision makers at all levels and, at the same time, open up public discourse on privatization policy in Israel. As the former head of the Civil Service in the Rabin Government (1994-1996) I learned that privatization has become a dominant aim in Israeli public policy with surprisingly little public debate. Hence the need to examine what happened, but more important - to assess whether pending privatizations should be advanced and if so, under what regulatory conditions.

The first part of the Israeli project is near completion and in the coming year we will publish the chapters in separate booklets. After receiving comments they will be published in a book which will include well-reasoned recommendations for policy-makers. The next stage of the project will include comparative studies of selected countries in Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand.”

Dr Isaiah Gruber

Dr Isaiah Gruber, Post Doctoral Fellow, Dept of Russian & Slavic Studies, Hebrew U has been visiting the Dept of History and Dept of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies, Sydney U during Semester I, 2011. He has made a number of presentations and has consulted with colleagues on a publication based on his research interests located at the intersections of Judaic Studies, History, and Russian Studies. His focus is the formation of a Russian national-religious identity in the late medieval and early modern periods.

He says, “This identity is based on carefully cultivated images of "Israel" in which Russia considered itself to have inherited the mantle of "God's chosen people," and as a result had an intimate but ambiguous relationship to ancient Hebrew texts.” Dr Gruber brings an extensive knowledge of many languages to his study to explore this theme, through texts and dictionaries of various periods. Dr Gruber says, “The first Russian "dictionaries" were primitive bilingual glossaries of Hebrew words later expanded to include Greek, Latin, Arabic, Tatar, Permian, Turkish and other languages. The millennia-long process of translating texts from Hebrew to Greek to Slavonic to Russian had by then produced a stratification or "layering of meaning" in Russian written culture. Along the way many words and concepts lost their original meanings, underwent distortion, or were otherwise transformed.”

In March, we were pleased to meet many Fund supporters and members of the Friends of the Hebrew University at a function where Dr Gruber spoke on the topic of "Life in Jewish Russia and in Russian Israel."


During 2010 the Student Exchange Program between the University of Sydney and Hebrew University saw heightened activity with five Hebrew U students visiting Sydney and one student from Sydney visiting Hebrew U.

Students going on exchange generally set out not only with academic goals but also with some personal goals and expectations. Often however, they are surprised by various unexpected aspects of the exchange which standout as the highlights.

Most of the Hebrew U students in Sydney during 2010 enjoyed the knowledge gained in the subjects they studied but even more so, enjoyed experiencing different approaches to teaching, different perspectives on issues they were familiar with and the opportunity to meet people from all over the world as residents of Mandelbaum House where most of them had chosen to stay. Though Mandelbaum is a kosher, Jewish residential college, its residents are not exclusively Jewish and come from all over the world providing students a wonderful opportunity to learn about each other’s cultures and perspectives and to form warm friendships.

For many students their personal goals during an exchange will include self-exploration and an attempt to clarify life goals. In the case of students going from Sydney to Hebrew U, exploring one’s heritage is also not an unusual aim. In this group of Hebrew U students however, coming to Sydney afforded the opportunity for at least one student to learn about Jewish rituals and customs not usually practiced in her secular Israeli home. The opportunity to become involved with the Newtown Synagogue community and the Jewish communal life of Mandelbaum was something she found very enriching and invaluable.

Coincidentally, the University of Sydney student visiting Hebrew U also found the exchange afforded the opportunity to come into closer contact with her Jewish heritage as she met for the first time, her Israeli relatives. This included an 87 year old grandfather who, though a speaker of 7 languages, did not speak English. Hence, all the years perfecting her knowledge of modern Hebrew now culminated in making it possible for her to communicate with him. Her Hebrew language skills also enabled her to do voluntary work in a Rape Crisis Centre through which she has found her future direction - human rights advocacy.

2010 student exchange participants