Friends and supporters of the American Technion Society from around the U.S. gathered in Chicago November 4–7, 2022, for the organization’s annual Board of Directors meeting and a host of celebratory events. ATS leaders were honored during festive dinners at a Chicago landmark and at one of the city’s newest event spaces. Technion President Uri Sivan, Vice President for External Relations and Resource Development Wayne Kaplan, and Professor Marcelle Machluf and two Ph.D. students from her lab, flew in from Haifa. Below is a recap of the bustling weekend – a mix of official business with networking and celebration – which officially marked the beginning of Janey Sweet’s term as national president.

The weekend kicked off with candle lighting and Shabbat dinner that set the tone for the joyous days ahead. Joel Rothman, who formerly served as both the ATS – Chicago President and the ATS National President, welcomed the group. Naomi Newman, President of ATS – Seattle offered a d’var Torah, a reading based on the weekly Torah portion. She was joined by Joel Schwartz, a national BOD member and a former ATS-Chicago president, to conduct the blessings over the challah and wine.

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Saturday Tea & ATS Family Night
Honoring the Past, Present, and Future
Board of Directors Recap

Saturday Tea & ATS Family Night

Saturday, Nov. 5

On Saturday afternoon, guests were served hand-crafted chocolates at a tea party featuring President Uri Sivan, who was introduced by Nancy Aronson. In a presentation titled: “Forget about Technology, Focus on People,” the president spoke about the importance of graduating well-rounded, socially conscious engineers and innovators. He explained that Technion has placed a renewed emphasis on its Department of Humanities and Arts, focused on (but not limited to) history, philosophy, and the ethics of science and technology. Every student at the Technion will be exposed to the humanities so that these future leaders and CEOs have a broader perspective on society.

Saturday’s highlight was an evening of celebration, held at the Chicago Cultural Center. Built in 1897 to show Chicago had grown into a sophisticated metropolis, the Center, which contains the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome, has welcomed presidents and royalty, diplomats, and community leaders. On November 5, this stunning Landmark building embraced and paid tribute to six special members of the ATS family.

“Let’s take this moment to recognize that together, we are strengthening the Technion, Israel, and the world,” former ATS National President Scott Leemaster said in his opening remarks. Newly appointed ATS National President Janey Sweet then brought Andrea and Lawrence Wolfe on stage to present them with the ATS’s highest honor – the Albert Einstein Award. “You are among a select group of individuals who have shown exemplary commitment and support of the Technion, the State of Israel, and the Jewish people,” said Ms. Sweet. “We cannot think of a more deserving couple.”

Surrounded by friends and family, including their son Jeremy with his wife, Liz DeRoven; their daughter Ericka with her husband Mathew Thacker and their children, Rafi, Braedyn, Dalia, and Judah; the Wolfes were feted with the first of two heart-warming videos.

ATS CEO Michael Waxman-Lenz then spoke briefly about the Wolfes before introducing the second video, a thank-you tribute from the Technion. Mr. Waxman-Lenz spoke about how wonderful it was to get to know the Wolfes during a visit to the Guangdong Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in China, and to meet their children in advance of the award.

In the tribute video from the Technion, President Sivan said: “Your contributions represent the essence of what the institution was built on: applying the knowledge provided by science for the benefit of humanity and to produce the next generation of the brightest minds in science and engineering.” Professor Marcelle Machluf thanked the Wolfes for supporting her technology for drug delivery and cancer therapy, which helped her launch the biotech company NanoGhost. Assistant Professor Arielle Fischer spoke of a friendship that dates back to the time she met the Wolfes when she was a student on tour in the U.S.

Mr. Wolfe became emotional viewing Professor Moshe Shoham, who delivered his message in front of the D. Dan & Betty Kahn Medical Robotics Laboratory. “Their contributions to the Medical Robotics Laboratory marked a significant shift in my professional path and my potential to pursue and realize medical robotics,” said Prof. Shoham, noting that some of his research projects were developed into commercial businesses.

Humbled by the tributes Mr. Wolfe said, “We’re grateful that we were able to, in some small way, make a change and have some impact with the Technion.” Mrs. Wolfe added, “The Albert Einstein Award is not for us. It’s for our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.”

Later in the evening, President Sivan welcomed Ms. Sweet to her new position as ATS National President and outgoing President Steve Berger to his new role as Chairman of the Board.

Steve Laser, a member of the national Board of Directors and of the ATS in Chicago, spoke about Zahava Bar-Nir, a past president of both the national board and the ATS – Philadelphia. He was joined by Michael Waxman-Lenz and Steve Berger in thanking Mrs. Bar-Nir for her service and presented her with a hand-made paper cut gift. “Zahava is loyal and authentic,” said Mr. Berger. “She leads by example and inspires all of us to do more.”

Mark Gaines, a member of the national BOD and a former ATS-Chicago president, closed the evening’s celebrations by presenting Anita Enriquez, ATS Controller, with the Zahava Bar-Nir Gesher L’Kesher (Bridge to a Connection) Award. The award, which is paired with a trip to Israel, recognizes Mrs. Enriquez for her contribution to deepening the connection between the ATS and the Technion.

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Honoring the Past, Present,
and Future

Sunday, Nov. 6

The past is kind enough to give you lessons. The present is kind enough to give you opportunities. The future is kind enough to give you both.” – Anonymous

The second full day of the BOD weekend focused on recognizing the continuous thread between the past, present, and future. So it was fitting that President Sivan, Professor Wayne Kaplan, vice president for external relations and resource development, and ATS CEO Michael Waxman-Lenz met late Sunday afternoon with the Chicago–Technion Innovators, a new initiative designed to educate future ATS leaders about the impact of the Technion and plan for the ATS’s future. Each cohort consists of emerging leaders within the Chicago community, and three members of the first cohort are now on the ATS–Chicago board.

“It was extremely inspiring to hear about the new initiatives underway at Technion, as well as the challenge,” said Rob Bressler and Avi Davidoff, Innovators Cohort 2 co-chairs. “We were honored to have this opportunity followed by a fantastic event with national ATS board members.”

In the evening 150 attended the largest event of the weekend, a reception, dinner, and program at Chicago’s newest event space: 167 Green. The venue featured floor to ceiling windows with spectacular views of the city, “encouraging us to dream of what is possible outside this glass box as Technion reimagines the next 100 years,” said ATS National President Janey Sweet in her welcome remarks.

Professor Marcelle Machluf, head of the Carasso FoodTech Innovation Center, and Ph.D. candidates Shira Levi and Frank Yen from the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering showcased future possibilities during the cocktail hour. Setting up what they called, “Technion Kitchen,” the trio displayed small lab-grown “sliders” made from beef cells cultivated in the lab, without harm to animals.

Ms. Sweet opened the dinner program by taking a moment to recount the Technion’s history that preceded the birth of the State of Israel. The University played a pivotal role in building the new country, and the ATS provided the funding to do that through multiple generations of Technion supporters.

Just as today’s researchers stand on the shoulders of scientists who went before them, so do today’s ATS leadership. Invoking the phrase ‘l’dor v’dor” (from generation to generation), the thread binding the past, present, and future, Ms. Sweet asked all members of multigenerational ATS-supporting families to stand and thanked them and their ancestors for “passing down the values of the Technion and Tikkun Olam — making this a better world.”

Michael Pierce, ATS – Chicago President and national board member, noted the accomplishments of the Chicago community, which has sent the ATS six national presidents, established laboratories and faculty recruitment funds, chairs, and awards; funded student apartment units, seminar rooms, and scholarships, and the arts; and established its own leadership program. Mark Gaines, a former ATS–Chicago President and member of the ATS national board, then offered a tribute to one-time ATS President and legendary Chicago leader Leonard Sherman, who passed away in 2021, just shy of his 99th birthday.

The evening program weaved in and out of invoking the past and looking towards the future. Chicago board members Seth Jackier (a third-generation ATS supporter) and Julie Sirlin Pleshivoy, co-founders of “Innovators,” shared their goals for the new program and celebrated the Innovators’ addition to the ATS and Technion families. David Rappaport, who was not present Sunday evening, was also an Innovators co-founder.

In one of the highlights of the evening, Joel and Jeri Rothman were called to the dais to be welcomed to the Technion Guardian Family. “Joel and Jeri, have a profound understanding of the Technion’s role in enhancing Israel’s economic and scientific foundations, and the ATS’s role as partners in this vital mission,” said Steve Laser, a former ATS-Chicago and National President whose father and uncle were Technion supporters.

Mr. Rothman has served as the local Chicago and the national president. Together, Mr. and Mrs. Rothman have supported many impactful projects. Most recently, they established the Joel and Jeri Rothman Leadership Development Program, building on a program started by Larry Jackier and the late Ben Sosewitz of Chicago. “Tonight, Joel and Jeri continue Ben’s legacy,” Mr. Laser said, while also recognizing Mr. Sosewitz’s daughters Leah and Arna in the room.

Technion President Uri Sivan then joined the three on the dais to bestow Mr. and Mrs. Rothman with Guardian pins, for reaching the highest levels of giving. “They are “Guardians” in the truest sense; they embody a profound spirit of care for Israel and the Technion as well as a sincere pride in their philanthropy,” said President Sivan. “With this honor, the University formally recognizes their membership in our most distinguished leadership giving circle.”

Mr. Rothman expressed his gratitude and ATS CEO Michael Waxman-Lenz addressed the crowd before dinner was served.

After dinner Rob Polak, a Technion Guardian, second-generation ATS supporter and member of the local Chicago, national, and international Technion boards, introduced Prof. Machluf, whose cultivated beef products, when available, could address global environmental concerns.

Prof. Machluf discussed pioneering research in the Technion’s Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, the only one in Israel, and the Carasso FoodTech Innovation Center. Researchers at the Technion are developing high-protein food alternatives such as milk produced without cows, honey without bees, and falafels made from seaweed, as well as food packaging that is biodegradable and will keep food fresher longer. In November 2022, Prof. Machluf also launched Meatafora. The foodtech startup grows meat directly from animal cells in a scalable, affordable, and sustainable process without harming animals.

“This is Technion Impact,” Mr. Polak concluded. Guests left filled with “a great deal of food for thought,” he said, and a gift that captured the innovative spirit of the evening: menu cards containing seeds to plant.

After Prof. Machluf’s presentation, she and Prof. Wayne Kaplan held a dialogue on the future of food and answered questions about Israel and the Technion’s position as a global leaders in the field.

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ATS Directors Get Down to Business

In addition to various celebrations, activities, and time to be together with fellow Directors, the meeting in Chicago contained several forums and professional development opportunities designed to strengthen and streamline support for the Technion.

On Saturday, the Grants Committee, chaired by Sol Glasner and Andi Wolfe, opened its (formerly closed) annual lunch meeting to all Directors, who learned about the lifecycle of ATS gifts, and how ATS and Technion navigate the process and coordinate all the moving parts to ensure the highest level of stewardship.

Sunday brought additional opportunities to meet and learn. First on the docket was a Development Committee workshop, titled “the Evolving Philanthropic Landscape.” Hosted by Committee Chairs Barbara Dahl and Mark Gaines, and facilitated by philanthropic advisor and former Crown Family Philanthropies President, Caren Yanis, the workshop convened focus groups to discuss connecting the emerging generation with ATS and Technion, and how the BOD can move its mission forward ahead of the Technion’s centennial.

The Leadership Committee, hosted by Committee Chairs Eric Dobrusin and Linda Kovan, shared information about, and kicked off recruitment for, the Joel & Jeri Rothman Leadership Program, formally known as the 21st Century Program. Once selected, the first cohort of the newest Rothman Leadership Program will begin in Fall 2023.

Presided over by Janey Sweet in one of her first official acts as ATS President, Monday’s National Board Meeting featured opening remarks by ATS Chairman of the Board Steve Berger.

Following the reading of the necrology and a review of administrative resolutions by BOD Secretary Rod Feldman came committee reports and approvals presented by Investment Committee Chair Michael Veloric; Grants Committee Co-Chairs Sol Glasner and Andi Wolfe; Budget Committee Co-Chairs Joel Schwartz and Janet Shatz Snyder; and Finance/Transactions Committee Chair Zahava Bar-Nir. These presentations were followed by a report of mid-point strategic plan metrics by Planning Committee Co-Chairs Nancy Aronson and Naomi Newman.

After a campaign update by ATS Chief Development Officer David Chivo and Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Jeff Susman, ATS Chief Executive Officer Michael Waxman-Lenz provided an overview of the outlook for the coming fiscal year. And finally, those in attendance were treated to optimistic words from the presidents, with Janey Sweet and Prof. Uri Sivan discussing, respectively, the states of the ATS and Technion.