For the first time in many years, the Taub Center Board of Directors held its annual meeting in Jerusalem. The Center was thrilled to host so many of its esteemed board members, especially those who traveled to Israel specifically for the occasion from the United States and Australia, including Board Chair, Michael Saxon (Baltimore, USA) and Vice Chairs Helen Abeles (Melbourne, Australia) and Jim Angell (Denver, USA). The Board members met with staff, policy program Chairs and fellows, policy makers and others to discuss the social and economic issues that are at the heart of the public debate in Israel today. Members of the Taub Center General Assembly and other friends of the Center were also invited to participate in various aspects of the retreat.
Over the course of the retreat, numerous Taub Center researchers presented their recently published research and/or offered special previews of forthcoming projects. This was a great opportunity for the Board members to hear about Taub Center findings first-hand from those conducting the research, and led to lively discussions on a number of topics.
One highlight of the program was a presentation from MK Elie Elalouf (Kulanu), who discussed the issue of poverty in Israel. MK Elalouf presented alongside Taub Center Principal Researchers John Gal (Welfare Policy Program Chair) and Dov Chernichovsky (Health Policy Program Chair). “The job of the Minister of Finance is to ensure that within three years there will be no elderly Israelis in poverty,” said MK Elalouf, who serves as Chair of the Knesset Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee. “We are running to close the gap with the OECD but, in doing so, we are leaving behind the weakest populations.” According to MK Elalouf, handling the problem of poverty is not just a matter of money, but is also related to housing, education and society’s attitude toward poverty. MK Elalouf praised the Taub Center and said that the Center is valued for its independence: “[the Center] researches what it chooses to research, so there are no influences on the results.”
Another panel featured Michal Halperin, the Director-General of the Israel Antitrust Authority; Prof. Eytan Sheshinski, emeritus lecturer in economics at the Hebrew University; and Taub Center Executive Director Prof. Avi Weiss. The three discussed competition, particularly within Israel’s food industry. “The most immediate way to change the centralization in the food industry is to enable and encourage imports,” Halperin said. She noted that a small number of companies control the market, to which Taub Center Executive Director Prof. Avi Weiss added that those “companies not only dominate the production, but are also major importers of different types of products – which further hurts competition.”
Additionally, Board members participated in a site visit to Kivun, an employment center founded by JDC-TEVET, to learn about the employment services and support it provides for members of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population group in Israel. Following a tour of the facilities, the Board members heard from four Haredi panelists who shared their experiences with JDC-TEVET, their entrance into the labor market, and their initiatives to help others in their community do the same.
The Board retreat was a wonderful opportunity for the Taub Center’s Board of Directors and the Center’s staff to engage in discussion, share experiences, and exchange ideas. Taub Center staff look forward to hosting their highly valued board members in Jerusalem in the Spring of 2017 for its second annual board retreat, and to their ongoing participation in the work of the organization throughout the calendar year.