Illinois Governor Pat Quinn Spends Week in Israel

July 24, 2011


Aaron B. Cohen – Vice President, Communications

Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (left) and BGU Faculty of Health Sciences Dean Prof. Shaul Sofer sign a cooperation agreement on Thursday between BGU and the University of Illinois at Chicago to collaborate in the field of public health. (Dani Machlis/BGU)

State of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn visited Israel last week.  He met with high-ranking Israeli officials, sealing important agreements for the people of his state, and receiving briefings from experts on a range of issues of interest to the people of Illinois in the areas of hi-tech development, energy, environmentalism, education, security, and disaster preparedness.

Stops included visits to Motorola Solutions, one of the largest Illinois-based companies doing business in Israel, and to the offices of electric car innovator Better Place.

On Thursday, July 21, the Governor signed a formal Agreement on Academic Cooperation between Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beersheba and University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) to establish a wide-ranging relationship. The agreement will promote faculty exchange, student exchange, joint research projects, and other academic activities of joint interest. The agreement grows out of and greatly expands joint efforts in which the two universities have already been involved in the field of Public Health.

Prof. Rivka Carmi, president of BGU, presided over the ceremony. Signing on behalf of the university was Prof. Shaul Sofer, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

“Education is how we prepare our workers for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Quinn said at the ceremony. “This is an excellent partnership between two world-class universities, and I look forward to the results of their efforts.”

“JUF has been proud and pleased to play a role in advancing the relationship between BGU and UIC,” said Michael Kotzin, JUF executive vice president. “It is particularly gratifying to be here with Governor Quinn today when that partnership moves to a new level.”

“On the surface, the two universities have little in common. UIC is located in a major urban area surrounded by gritty neighborhoods; BGU is in the middle of the desert, in a small city being built by visionaries who use strategic plans,” noted Suzanne Straussberger, JUF’s director, State Government Affairs, who is accompanying the Governor. “Yet faculty from both share a passion for serving their communities. For Israeli communities in the desert, it is about missile attacks. For Illinois communities, it is about tornados, floods, and massive random violence. The principles of communication and training multi-disciplinary teams are the same.”

“We are delighted that Gov. Quinn is so interested in the important research programs going on at BGU in disaster preparedness and the joint cooperation between two highly regarded medical research institutions,” said Judy Rosen, regional director of the Great Lakes Region of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “We look forward to many exciting programs and joint research developments.”

BGU lecturer and award-winning author Etgar Keret joined Quinn later that evening.

On Friday, July 22, Quinn met with Dan Shapiro, newly-appointed U.S. ambassador to Israel.

On Sunday, Quinn joined Dr. Uzi Landau, Minister of National Infrastructures, in signing a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a “Sister Lakes” relationship between Israel’s Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) and Lake Michigan. The latter entity borders the state of Illinois and is the fresh water source for Chicago and its surroundings. The agreement references joint concerns regarding water purification, invasive fish species, and other issues.

Quinn also visited sites along the Kinneret itself, on a tour led by key figures in Israel’s Oceanographic & Limnological Research.

The Governor’s Educational visit to Israel is organized by the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago and made possible by a generous donor. The visit is part of a JUF initiative that for years has brought influential non-Jewish leaders to Israel. Joining him on the visit are Illinois State Senators Jeffrey Schoenberg and Ira Silverstein, along with Skip Schrayer, Chairman of the Jewish United Fund, Michael Kotzin, Executive Vice President of the Jewish United Fund, and several Illinois business leaders.

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