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The Schmooze

Grants Awarded To Reverse Israel’s ‘Brain Drain’

May was a good month for the Cedar family. On the heels of Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar’s winning the best screenplay award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for his film “Footnote,” about Hebrew University Talmud scholar rivals who are father and son, it was announced on May 31st that his father, real-life Hebrew University professor Howard Cedar, was the recipient of one of the three first major grants in a $350 million Israeli government program to reverse Israel’s brain drain.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, citing an article in Haaretz’s “The Marker,” reported that the government has granted funds to the first three of what it hopes will be 30 Centers of Research Excellence in the country that will attract approximately 300 top Israeli academics and researchers back from the best universities around the world. Already, 11 such scholars have signed on to return from such universities as Harvard, Yale, Columbia and UC Berkeley to join the first three centers.

Along with Professor Cedar’s center for molecular science at the Hebrew University, the other two initial Centers of Research Excellence are one for cognitive processes led by Professor Yadin Dudai at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and another headed by Professor Yishay Mansour for computer science at Tel Aviv University.

Howard Cedar, who works in Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School’s department of cellular biochemistry and human genetics, was the 2008 recipient of the Wolf Prize (considered Israel’s Nobel) for his study of DNA methylation (chemical changes in the DNA molecule). He was named the Person of the Year in Health and Sciences by The Jerusalem Post that same year. In 2000, he won the Israel Prize in Biology.

Although father-son rivalries make for good drama, in this case art is not imitating reality. For the Cedar family, May 2011 will always be remembered as the month that both father and son came out winners.

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