The Faculty of Law’s investment in students for advanced degrees and research fellows has again proved worthwhile. For the first time, all three recipients of the prestigious Fulbright Program scholarships for 2013 are graduates of our research fellows program (and by the way – all three are women!)
The Fulbright Program was established in the United States in 1948 and offers scholarships in two tracks – a track for American citizens and a track for outstanding non-American academics interested in studying in the United States. In Israel the program is operated through the United States – Israel Educational Foundation (USIEF). Prominent jurists who have enjoyed the program’s support include retired Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and former Justice Minister Professor Daniel Friedman. Our own faculty also includes many former recipients of the scholarship, including Professors Eyal Zamir, Daphna Lewinsohn-Zamir, Assaf Hamdani, and David Enoch. Three graduates of the Faculty’s research fellows program are now joining this distinguished list: Dr. Tammy Harel Ben-Shahar, Sivan Shlomo-Agon, and Dr. Sharon Shakargy.
Although all three scholarship recipients are young researchers from the Faculty of the Law, they have different fields of interest and have followed diverse academic paths. Sharon Shakargy, whose doctorate thesis was submitted and approved last year, has been a student in the Faculty since 2001, when she began studying law together with the Amirim program in the humanities. She went on to pursue her master’s degree in the Faculty under the supervision of Professor Michael Karayanni, focusing on the field of private international law. Her doctorate thesis, written under the supervision of Professor Celia Fassberg, discussed the choice of law rules for marriage and divorce.
“During my doctorate studies I was a member of the Faculty’s Research Fellows program and the Private Law Forum,” Shakargy relates. “In the field of of private international law, there is no better place to be – certainly in Israel – than the Hebrew University. Furthermore, on the basis of my own experience I can say that one of the most important requirements for research in the field of private international law is a good library with a large selection of comparative works. Through I was very much impressed by the library at Harvard University, where I have spent a year researching for my doctorate, but our library in Jerusalem is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Another recipient is Tammy Harel Ben-Shahar, who completed her doctorate thesis in the Faculty last April under the supervision of Professor Barak Medina and Professor David Enoch. Harel Ben-Shahar has served for the past two years as an academic instructor at the Faculty’s Clinic for the Rights of People with Disabilities, and for the past year she has also been an instructor in the Public Law Workshop. “My research is advancing a philosophical argument concerning the principle of due distributive justice in the field of education. I am examining how questions of distributive justice in education are manifested in law,” she explains.
The final member of the successful trio is Sivan Shlomo-Agon, who joined the Faculty after serving for seven years as an officer in the International Law Department of the Judge Advocate General’s Office. “The Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University,” she explains, “is a hothouse for researchers in the field of international law, both in Israel and around the world. So it was the natural place for me to undertake my doctorate studies.” Shlomo-Agon’s thesis on the effectiveness of the conflict resolution system in the World Trade Organization was written under the supervision of Faculty Dean Professor Yuval Shany and Deputy Dean Professor Tomer Broude.
The young researchers have been active in diverse fields in Israel and elsewhere. For example, Shakargy has established the Family Law Forum. “I felt that there was a need for greater discourse on family law,” she recalls. “The forum brings together researchers in family law from all the academic institutions in Israel, as well as several family researchers from fields other than law.” Shlomo-Agon was a member of a research project led by Faculty Dean Professor Yuval Shany focusing on the effectiveness of international tribunals, funded by the European Union’s Research Council (the ERC). For two years she trained the Faculty’s team in the international Jessup moot court competition. During her doctorate studies, Shlomo-Agon interned in the World Trade Organization, the subject of her thesis, and was later invited to visit the WTO as a guest researcher. The scholarship recipients have also been active as class instructors, imparting knowledge to the next generation of researchers. For example, Shakargy relates: “Last year I taught the Introduction to Israeli Law course as part of the Faculty’s international program. It was an interesting and unusual experience, both in terms of the subject matter and due to the need to ‘translate’ the Israeli system for students from diverse legal systems and different approaches to teaching and learning.”
The Fulbright recipients’ research proposals are also fairly diverse. Sharon Shakargy, who is already at the University of Michigan, will be focusing on the legal regulation of spousal relationship which are not traditional marriages, under the supervision of Professor Mathias Reimann. “One of the components in my thesis concerns the devaluation of the status of marriage – what is commonly referred to as the transition of marriage from status to contract. After several years’ intensive work in the field of the transnational regulation of marriage, I came to understand that there is no longer any reason to differentiate between marriage and other spousal relationships, at least in terms of the rights between the partners themselves. Accordingly, I find it strange that there is no arrangement – that is to say, no choice of law rules – for such relationships. As I started reading about the subject, I found that when an arrangement has been proposed in particular instances it has been unsystematic and imprecise.”
Ben-Shahar and Shalom-Agon have both traveled to New York University for their post-doctorate studies, although they are attending different programs. Ben-Shahar is a member of the Tikva program, which seeks to promote research drawing on Hebrew law and related fields. “In the program I am continuing to research the subject of distributive justice and the way it is implemented in law. One study is examining religious schools and the tension created between religious and cultural values and distributive justice. Another study I will be involved in will focus on the demand for equality regarding goods characterized by competitiveness in consumption.” Shlomo-Agon has been appointed an Emile No? l fellow in the Jean Monnet Center. In this framework she will participate in a project that aims to examine the legal discourse between international courts and diverse audiences – in addition to states – with the goal of consolidating and maintaining the courts’ legitimacy as part of global governance.
From the Faculty to Fulbright
The scholarship recipients are heading off to pursue academic research in different universities and cities in the United States. They were selected after a strict procedure implemented by the program, including submission of a research plan, written recommendations, and a personal interview. This type of screening process can naturally cause considerable stress, but the replies came quickly and – to the three women’s great satisfaction – they were positive.
The Faculty made a significant contribution to the admissions procedure. “The Faculty as a body, as well as specific members of it, have made an important contribution to my development as a jurist,” Shakargy explains. “My academic achievements are certainly closely related to my studies at the Faculty, and particularly to what I have learned from Professor Fassberg. Many Faculty members, both faculty members and he administrative staff members, went out of their way to make the process as smooth as possible.” Shlomo-Agon describes a similar experience: “My doctorate supervisors were full partners not only throughout my doctorate studies, but also as I prepared for the post-doctorate stage. I can hardly imagine how I could have enjoyed such a fascinating process over the past few years, and secured the achievements I have managed to reach, without this generous help.”
The support of the Faculty of Law does not end when the researchers receive the scholarship and are admitted to the program. The Faculty team continues to offer assistance as the recipients move on. “Yaffa, the doctorate students coordinator, helped me greatly with the administrative aspects of applying for the scholarship. She crossed her fingers together with me and shared in my joy when the good news came,” recall both Ben-Shahar and Shlomo-Agon. “In general, the wonderful community of doctorate students at the Faculty helped a lot at every stage, both socially and professionally. It’s great to have colleagues you can exchange information with and ask for advice.” Shakargy sums up: “The Faculty’s investment in the research fellows program has paid off, at least as I see it. During my time in the program it has provided a real support group. The friendships and collegial relationships developed amongst the fellows were of much help. Fellows generously and willingly shared information even with regards to competitive programs.” Ben-Shahar adds: “The program created an interesting and challenging framework, one aspect of which was practical information about career planning, post-doctorate studies and so forth.”
In the future the young researchers plan to return to Israel. Harel Ben-Shahar has already secured a place as a member of the Faculty of Law at Haifa University and expects to being teaching work on her return. Shakargy and Shlomo-Agon also plan to find their place in the Israeli academic community after completing their research in the United States and hope to be accepted in the leading law faculties in Israel.