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Dear Friends of the Weizmann Institute,Since November 2002, I have had the privilege of being Chair of the International Board of Governors of the Weizmann Institute, resuming a close association with this remarkable institution – as a member of the International Board and Chairman of the Feinberg Graduate School – which was interrupted only by my service in the U.S. government during the Clinton Administration. I had huge footprints to follow, after the decade of distinguished leadership and selfless service Gershon Kekst provided as Chairman.
In its second half-century of service to the State of Israel and to the betterment of life in the world, Weizmann remains an international pacesetter in basic scientific research through scientific advances by a world-class faculty.
But Weizmann faces new challenges not of its own making, which require all of us to redouble our support. One is a budget crunch caused in large measure by the sad state of the Israeli economy, racked by over two years of Intifida II. As a result, Israeli government support has dropped dramatically, from nearly 50 percent of Weizmann’s budget to 39 percent. There is no bottom in sight, as further fiscal stringency measures by the government force rapid responses by Weizmann’s leadership. With no traditional student body, Weizmann cannot resort to an increase in tuition fees. In addition, some in the Israeli government seem to de-emphasize the importance of support for higher education in Israel, failing to recognize that with few natural resources, Israel’s greatest resource is a highly educated citizenry. Weizmann has been a major contributor to Israel’s high-tech success. This must not be imperiled.
On top of the financial challenge is the threat of a boycott of Israel’s higher education institutions by European scientists. While there has been a welcome and broad-based counter-reaction by scientists in the United States and Europe, there remain some troubling indications. A few Weizmann scientists have reported that colleagues have refused to share materials with them or include them in multinational collaborations. With the uncertain situation in the Middle East, constant vigilance – and more support for Weizmann – must be our watchwords.
And yet I have been impressed with the great strengths Weizmann possesses to help cope with these challenges. I have made special efforts to meet with a wide range of Weizmann scientists. They are unsurpassed in their professional quality, devotion to their research, and commitment to the institution they serve. They are optimistic and creative. They are our greatest resource and we must do everything possible to provide them with the most modern facilities, up-to-date equipment, and strong financial support necessary for their continued success.
Weizmann is fortunate to have such a distinguished scientist and leader in our president, Ilan Chet. His vision, buoyancy and determination, combined with a keen sense of humor – all the more appreciated in these difficult times – will enable us to overcome our challenges. Working closely with Ilan, a cohesive team has been formed with our excellent group of deputy chairs, with whom we are in regular contact. We are committed to making greater use of their talents and those of our International Board. Together with our national committees, we have just begun a wide-ranging search to identify young people who can become tomorrow’s leaders of Weizmann. I am also dedicated to forging closer ties between the International Board and the leadership of our key national committees around the world.
While there is much about which to be concerned, the great strengths of Weizmann, its faculty and leadership, can help us surmount the hurdles ahead of us. But this can be achieved only with your support. You are the lifeblood of the Weizmann Institute of Science. This is the time for greater effort than ever before. You can help Weizmann go “from strength to strength.”
Stuart E. Eizenstat