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Giving

Supporting student travel to Israel

By David E. Nathan

In hope of providing today’s Brandeis students with the same life-changing experience in Israel that his wife enjoyed as an undergraduate 50 years ago, former Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat made a $250,000 gift to establish the Frances Taylor Eizenstat ’65 Undergraduate Israel Travel Grant.

Through the endowed program, up to five students a year will receive $2,500 stipends to fund their travel to Israel to study, pursue research or participate in internships. Students from all academic disciplines are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is Oct. 15 for spring travel and March 1, 2014, for summer and fall travel.

“We thank Stu Eizenstat for this generous gift, which recognizes the significant role that Brandeis and her semester abroad in Israel played in Fran’s life,” Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence says. “This travel grant program will provide students with opportunities for personal engagement, along with academic and professional growth.”

Brandeis’ Schusterman Center for Israel Studies will administer the grant program. “The Eizenstat travel grants are not only intended to encourage Hebrew-language acquisition and formal knowledge of the country, but offer the opportunity to experience Israel in a practical way such as working in a company, laboratory, archaeology project, NGO or any program that would enhance the encounter with Israel and its culture,” says Ilan Troen ’63, the Stoll Family Chair in Israel Studies and director of the Schusterman Center. “This is expected to be a transformative experience.”

Fran, who died of complications from a stroke in February, journeyed to Israel during her junior year through Brandeis’ Hiatt Program. She studied at Hebrew University for a semester, a period during which she developed a deep and abiding love of Israel that she transmitted to her family. She made repeated trips back to Israel, accompanied by Stu and their sons, Jay and Brian. Jay later worked for several summers on a kibbutz and studied at the Meir Yeshiva in Jerusalem.  Brian spent a semester studying in Israel while a student at Emory.

“This program represents a marriage of Brandeis and Israel, both of which were very important components of Fran’s life,” says Stu, a former Brandeis trustee. “She loved the educational stimulation and Jewish values of Brandeis, and made lifelong friends while a student there. The semester abroad in Israel was one of the seminal events of her life. I hope that spending time in Israel will have the same impact on today’s Brandeis students as it did on Fran.”

If not for Brandeis, Fran and Stu might never have met. They were introduced at a dinner hosted by David ’64 and Barbara Roston ’65, while Fran was pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Boston College and Stu was attending Harvard Law School. “From that day forward, we were inseparable, with 45 years of a remarkably happy, fulfilling marriage,” Stu remembers.

Many members of Fran’s family attended Brandeis, including Ruth Gordon Stavisky ’57, P ’84, and Steven Ruby ’74, her cousins; Paula Stavisky Ziskin ’84, Ruth’s daughter; Marvin Ellin ’86, Fran’s nephew; and Matthew Ruby ’08, Steven’s son.

During her professional career, Fran worked on initiatives to strengthen low-income families and improve the lives of children. She worked for the Model Cities anti-poverty program in Atlanta, and pioneered a life-saving Tay Sachs screening program as vice president of the National Council of Jewish Women in Atlanta. The program became a national model to help deal with the deadly disease, which particularly threatens Jewish Ashkenazi children.

Fran moved to Washington, D.C., when Stu joined President Jimmy Carter’s White House staff in 1977 as the president’s chief domestic policy adviser. She worked for the Children’s Defense Fund for two years and then helped lead the White House Conference on Families. Fran later worked in the low-income housing section of Fannie Mae. She traveled the world as a member of the international board of directors of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and served on the board of Mazon, the Jewish response to hunger. Fran was a founding board member and a leader of the Defiant Requiem Foundation, which Stu chairs; the organization honors the artistic defiance of the Nazis by the Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt concentration camp through concert-dramas around the world, an award-winning documentary, lesson plans for teachers of the Holocaust and an institute that performs works created by the Jewish prisoners.

A Brandeis trustee from 1991-96, Stu also worked in the administration of President Bill Clinton (1993-2001). He was U.S. ambassador to the European Union (at Fran’s initiative, they had the first kosher residence in U.S. diplomatic history), under secretary of commerce, under secretary of state and deputy secretary of the Treasury. With Fran’s encouragement and support, Stu also served as special representative of the president and secretary of state on Holocaust-era issues during the Clinton administration, successfully negotiating landmark agreements with several European countries that provided victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution financial and property restitution. He now serves as special adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry on Holocaust-era issues and heads Covington & Burling’s international law practice in Washington, D.C. He is co-chair of the Jewish People’s Policy Institute in Jerusalem.

For more information or to make a gift in support of the Frances Taylor Eizenstat ’65 Undergraduate Israel Travel Grant,visit the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies webpage or contact JoAnn Leavitt, assistant director, at 781-736-2152 or jleavitt@brandeis.edu.

Date: October 8, 2013