Category Archives: Newsletter

CECI Debate Program Crowns Winner

Dear Friends,

It is with great pride that I update you that on Tuesday, March 8, 2011, the final rounds of competition of CECI’s “Siach ve Sig” Debate Program in Israel and award ceremony were held in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Education at the auditorium of Beit ha Tfutsot (Museum of Diaspora) at Tel Aviv University.

The final competition included debate teams from four high schools — Herzeliya, Hod-Hasharon, Rishon Lezion and Tel-Aviv.

The Israeli College Debate Team, which won first place (in English language) at the International Competitions at Oxford University, trained the high school teachers for CECI’s debate program and served as judges for the finals.

As you may be aware, March 8th was the International Day of Women. The bright, enthusiastic finalists eloquently debated different aspects of the topic addressing abuse of female images in advertising. The winning school was Ironi Dalet from Tel Aviv, and the runner-up was Hadarim High School from Hod-Hasharon.

Minister of Education, Gideon Saar, attended the ceremony and spoke highly of CECI and its educational initiatives. We were all very proud to receive his heartwarming praise. After the event, some parents expressed what an amazing “learning tool” the Debate Program has been for the students. Many revealed that the program brought them closer to their children by helping them prepare for competitions and discuss the pros and cons of different subjects.

I wish you could have been part of this amazing event! It truly was an impressive outcome for a pilot program, which began last year with only 20 schools.

Due to the tremendous interest generated by this initiative, next year, we plan to implement “Siach ve Sig” in over 300 Israeli high schools.

CLICK HERE to view the video that was presented at the final competition.

 Kindest regards,

Izak Parviz Nazarian

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Aryeh Deri Voices His Support

On Thursday, February 17, 2011, CECI’s Forum For Government Stability hosted an important gathering with former Minister of Interior, Rabbi Aryeh Deri, and other government representatives.

Participants at the meeting included: CECO of Cellcom — Amos Shapira, former Director of Israeli National Security Council — David Ivry, Executive Chairman of the Peres Center for Peace — Dov Lautman, former Israeli Ambassador — Uri Lubrani, attorney — Shlomo Cohen, former Cabinet Secretary — Israel Maimon, businesswoman — Galia Albin, former senior advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — Dr. Raanan Gissin, and many others.

David Ivry addressed a few significant points from the Megidor Commission (spearheaded by CECI):

1. Raising the voters’ threshold.
2. Head of the biggest party will be chosen as the Prime Minister.
3. Regional elections
4. Norwegian Law

Rabbi Aryeh Deri expressed his support for these proposals, but he mentioned he does not believe in regional elections.

He urged that social pressure needs to be exerted on members of the Knesset and major parties long before elections occur in order to bring about reform. Overall, he does not support small cosmetic repairs to the electoral system, but rather, he advocates a thorough change of the system. He added that we do have “Basic Law” and as such, he does not believe that creating a Constitution is the answer for securing the necessary changes. Rabbi Deri emphasized the importance of these points:

1. Direct election of the Prime Minister.
2. Raising the voters’ threshold significantly.
3. Prime Minister should be able to select his government without the approval of the Knesset.
4. Knesset members should serve a full term (four years).
5. Ministers should be professionals in the field they serve.

The General Director of The Citizens’ Empowerment Center, Yuval Lipkin, commented: “The problem of governance has become the biggest enemy of democracy, and it affects every citizen in the country. Long-term programs are not promoted, and sometimes, they are not planned at all, simply because the Ministers are replaced too quickly to complete their plans for security, health, education, etc. Additionally, elected officials are forced to deal with campaigning for new elections every two years, instead of serving the general public’s interest. We need to change the electoral laws in this Knesset’s term and formulate a legislation for a more effective system of government before it’s too late.”


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Civil Service Project Probes New Boundaries

Recently, CECI spearheaded a forum headed by former Minister and head of Shin Bet, Ami Ayalon, which prompted discussions about promoting civil service recruitment to the IDF in the Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) sector of Israel. (CECI’s “National Civil Service Project” promotes civil service members’ involvement in excluded sectors of society.)

MK Yohanan Plesner served as a prominent voice in discussions as to the best approach to secure recruitment in the Haredi and other ostracized areas. It was noted that of these young people who reach 18, records show that generally 50% of the youths will not be drafted into the IDF. These include Ultra-Orthodox, non-Jewish citizens, and those with physical difficulties. This state of polarization deepens the sense of a growing rift between the various sectors of Israeli society.

Participants generated a proposal to lobby their idea of integrating the Ultra-Orthodox circuit into mainstream society. All agreed that the Israeli public must recognize the changing status and role of the IDF. Only a combination of army and Civil Service will enable the various sectors of the public to share the vast array of society’s burdens. Key points included:

  • Promote a public dialogue with the Orthodox population to allow recruitment into the national service circuit.
  • Consider long-term effects on army recruits if thousands of Orthodox recruits are included.
  • Create various ways for Haredi volunteers to effectively choose between the army and civil service work.
  • Establish a framework for an emergency civil service unit.

In addition to promoting the involvement of National Civil Service members in ostracized sectors of society, the “National Civil Service Project’s” goal is to increase awareness of the importance of personal contributions in order to secure a well-functioning and healthy society.

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Stimulating Student Project in Israel

The Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel (CECI) commenced competitions for its “Sig ve Siach Debate Project” on January 9th. This educational debate program, which began in 2010, has been set up at high schools in cooperation with Minister Gideon Saar and Israel’s Ministry of Education. This year’s competition will honor 2011 as Israel’s “Hebrew Language Year”.

The debate teams are utilizing the theme: “Ensuring a Spot for Women in Parliament”. Yesterday, four different high school teams met at Shmuel Hanagid School in Hertzlia. The student debates boasted impressive arguments, and everyone viewed the competition as a huge success.

“Sig ve Siach” is designed to help students develop personal rhetoric skills by teaching them how to improve their ability to stand before an audience and successfully utilize their powers of persuasion. Within the project’s curriculum, topics focusing on cognitive thinking, listening techniques, and the “culture” of discussion will be addressed. Such topics have not customarily been taught in the educational programs of high schools.

The competitions for the year will be completed by March 2011 to commemorate “Israel’s National Day of Women”. The 4 top winning schools will be announced nationally and will receive their awards at a special ceremony at Tel Aviv University.

Best regards,
Parviz Nazarian

Sig ve Siach Project
Sig ve Siach Project
Sig ve Siach Project

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Modern Youth Violence Prompts CECI’s Students’ Rights Conference

On Thursday, November 18, 2010, CECI held a conference at Tel Aviv University entitled: “Steps for a Non-Violent Society – Implementation of the Students’ Rights Law” The conference addressed the dangerous phenomenon of violence and delinquency in today’s schools and how that could impact tomorrow’s citizens.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Negev and Galilee Silvan Shalom, who initiated the “Students’ Rights Law”, aroused great support and enthusiasm when he spoke of the importance of Israeli youths acquiring a higher education and the need to take care of their rights. “I think the “Students’ Law” needs to be implemented much better than it is currently.” Jutie Kanis, an expert on advocacy and policy design – UNICEF Branch Geneva, also addressed the topic, while Professor Izak Katz, President of the Research Institute Maagar Mohot, presented important survey results with alarming data:

  • Many students are fearful because of the violence, threats, drugs and weapons in today’s schools.
  • 15% of students indicate that they don’t feel school is a safe place.

A panel discussion, moderated by Ms. Yael Kafri (Faculty for Law & School of Education, Tel Aviv University) discussed the reality of implementing laws for students’ rights. Participants included: MK Ronit Tirosh – Former Executive Director of the Ministry of Education, Attorney Moriel Matalon Chairman of UNICEF Israel, Honorable Judge Galit Mor Vigodzki – President of Magistrates’ Courts for Youth, Mr. Ali Agabria – Director of “Nacal Iron”, and Ms. Eti Benyamin – Chairman of the National Parents’ Leadership.

MK Tirosh, one of the initiators of the “Student Rights’ Law”, explained the scope of the problem that exists in Israel. MK Tirosh praised the work of The Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel in raising awareness of this issue. She added that preserving the rights of the child, and maintaining his honor, will bring tranquility to the education system and will help Israeli society move forward.

Yuval Lipkin – Executive Director CECI – served as event moderator. This conference was the third in a series of conferences that CECI is promoting with the School of Education and the Certified Club for Management and Policy at Tel Aviv University. A second conference at Tel Aviv University is being planned for January 25, 2011, entitled: “Digitization in the Education – An E-Learning Education System in Israel”. Event keynote speaker will be Minister of Education Gideon Saar.

Inspector Ms. Tova Ben Ari, head of the implementation of students’ rights in the Ministry of Education, concluded the conference.

The conference was covered by various national media venues (newspapers, radio and television).

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The Ambassadors’ Visit

Israeli high school student, Shira Gushpantz, presented a moving address, emphasizing her commitment to Israel at the recent September 26th, 2010 CECI Gala “From Vision To Reality”.  The event was held at the Grand Ballroom of the Kodak Theatre Complex in Los Angeles.  The 5 top CECI “Ambassadors’ Project” student winners and award-winning teacher were honored during the evening’s program for their extraordinary educational achievements in civics and leadership.  The winners arrived in Los Angeles after an extensive tour of Washington D.C.  While in our nation’s Capital, they met with various legislators, including Congressman Eliot Engel, Congressman Henry Waxman, Congressman Howard Berman, and Congressman Brad Sherman.  They were also privileged to visit The White House, Capitol Hill, the U.S. Congress, and the Holocaust Museum.

“The Ambassadors’ Project” is one of CECI’s successful educational initiatives, encouraging “out-of-the- box” thinking and promoting leadership.

One of the evening’s highlights was a televised broadcast from Israel’s Minister of Education Gideon Saar.  Mr. Saar emphasized the importance of CECI’s educational initiatives and its collaboration with Israel’s Ministry of Education, especially in regards to the new “Sig ve Siah Debate Project”, which has been created to empower the Youth of Israel and create a new generation of strong leaders. Film producer and entrepreneur Avi Arad was also honored with the 2010 “Legacy of Citizens’ Lifetime Achievement Award” for his contribution as an outstanding role model for today’s youth and for his commitment to education.  Actor and humanitarian Jon Voight presented him the prestigious award.

Over 500 guests were present, including:  Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Beverly Hilton owner Beny Alagem, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Motion Picture Group Co-Chairman Amy Pascal, Mayor of Beverly Hills Jimmy Delshad, actors Shaun Toub and David Dian, and the cast of the Beverly Hills Housewives.  Event Co-Chairs were:  Adele and Beny Alagem, Cheryl and Haim Saban, Parviz and Pouran Nazarian, and Dora and Neil Kadisha.
The evening’s entertainment featured a multimedia image and light show, featuring exciting modern dance by Body Traffic and vocals by Gilad Segev, Carmel Ekman, and Israeli hip-hop singer Nir “Kendog” Kedmi.

Below, please find links to some of the press coverage for your review:

CFM Music Scene and Entertainment News



US Magazine

Vicki Rubinson

Los Angeles Blueprint

Comic Book Resources


Israeli Week

Photo Credit: Orly Halevy & Moshe Barzilai

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A Politician is Born

Last week, the first round of a unique student training project came to a conclusion.  The project was created to promote civic interest in young Israelis and encourage those who want to pursue political careers. During the past year, hundreds of youths from all over Israel participated in “The Ambassadors’ Project”.  Spearheaded by The Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel (CECI), the project arranged for senior businessmen to visit high school civic classes and lecture on how government instability affects daily life.  Students participated in special quizzes on issues, such as democracy, and created projects on their own. The project’s highlight was the selection of 5 student winners who, along with a teacher, will fly to the United States for 1 week during the upcoming Sukkot holidays, to visit government officials and learn about American democracy.

The first stop on the students’ U.S. tour will be Washington D.C., where they will have a series of meetings with U.S. government officials at Capitol Hill. They will end their trip in Los Angeles, where they will meet with California politicians and various local officials.

Executive Director of CECI, Yuval Lipkin, stated: The project reveals that Israeli youths possess considerable knowledge about civics.  It also demonstrates that in Israeli high schools, there is a lot of talent to develop for future leadership. The United States trip was designed to give students an additional point of view on democracy, to increase their overall civic knowledge, and to reward students for their hard work during the year.

On Sunday, September 26, 2010, these winning students will be acknowledged at a high-caliber gala hosted by The American Friends of The Citizen’s Empowerment Center in Israel. In attendance will be prominent community leaders, members of the entertainment industry, and U.S. officials.

The student finalists presenting their projects at CECI offices in front of the referee committe and members of academia.

Michael Strauss, Founder and CEO of Strauss Group, lecturing at Ort Gutman High School in Netanya with the 11th and 12th grade students.

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