Daniel Hershkowitz, Minister of Science and Technology, Shares Insight with Students

The Yeshiva University community enjoyed the opportunity to converse with and learn from Israeli Minister of Science and Technology Daniel Hershkowitz in a jam-packed evening on April 30.

Minister Hershkowitz meets with President Joel

Minister Hershkowitz and President Joel

Throughout the afternoon and evening, Hershkowitz met with students, faculty and administrators in a variety of settings to learn about the unique educational model of YU and share some of his insights.

“It is my first time at Yeshiva University and I am very glad to be here,” said Hershkowitz. “It would be wonderful if we had a similar kind of institution in Israel.”

Upon his arrival to the Wilf Campus, Hershkowitz was greeted by President Richard M. Joel and proceeded to meet with Yeshiva College Dean Barry Eichler and a number of senior faculty members to discuss common issues of interest regarding university life and current research underway at YU.

“As the day progressed, it was clear that YU had made a new friend with whom we could cooperate in our close relationship with the State of Israel as academics devoted to our teaching and research, and in the continued quest for strengthening Jewish life here and abroad,” said Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, vice provost for undergraduate education, who took part in a number of meetings with the minister throughout the evening.

At 8 pm, Hershkowitz delivered a short address in Furst Hall introducing an event sponsored by the Neuroscience Society, Medical Ethics Society, Yeshiva College Biology Majors Board, the Yeshiva College Philosophy Club, the Honors Program and the Stern College for Women Neuroscience Club.

The minister described the fast paced rate of technological change wrought by advancements in computer technology. To illustrate this, he offered as an anecdote a common occurrence that he encountered as a graduate student: when he discovered a citation for a journal article not held by his library, he would have to send away for it, often to another country. “If I was lucky,” he said, “I would receive the article in a month. Now with computer databases, I can retrieve an article in seconds.”

Minister Hershkowitz met with Provost Lowengrub (left) and members of the YU faculty.

According to Hershkowitz, this improvement has led to an explosion of new research and journal publications, allowing people to delve deeper into sub-specialties of specific disciplines than ever before. With people so hyper-specialized, Israel now encourages more interdisciplinary collaboration in the sciences in order to maximize its scholars output and creativity. This is why Israel is currently focusing the attention of its research centers on the four interdisciplinary fields of neuroscience, marine biology, nanotechnology and computer technology. “When different fields come together, we can do amazing things,” said the minister.

In closing, the minister offered a parable from the Book of Exodus to describe the compatibility of scientific inquiry and Jewish culture that he was pleased to encounter at YU.

“We were delighted to have Minister Hershkowitz address the Neuroscience Society,” said Neuroscience Society President Daniel First. “Neuroscience is one of the hottest fields of scientific research today, and it was fascinating to hear how Israel is playing a prominent role in its advancement.”

Minister Hershkowitz earned a doctorate in mathematics from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in 1982. He has served as the rabbi for the Ahuza community near the northern Israeli city of Haifa. In early 2009, he won a seat in the Knesset as the Chairman of the Habayit Hayehudi party, a national religious party, and was shortly thereafter named Minister of Science and Technology.