Feature Stories

The Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute: Celebrating 40 Years

Founded four decades ago this year, the Myers-JDC-Brookdale (MJB) Institute uses applied social research to help Israel address its complex social policy and social service challenges. We’re grateful to Prof. Jack Habib, the Institute’s director, who took some time to answer a few questions about MJB’s historic milestone.

Q: Tell me a little about MJB’s inception. How did the Institute come about?

A: In the early 1970s, JDC’s leadership, including Herb Singer, envisioned the creation of an applied social policy research center to serve Israel, the Jewish world, and the international community. The impetus was the severe lack of information to guide Israel’s efforts to address its complex social challenges. With the help of a major Brookdale Foundation grant, the JDC-Brookdale Institute was established in 1974 as a partnership between JDC and the Israeli government. This partnership, joined later by the Myers Foundation in 2004, was intended to maximize impact while guaranteeing the Institute’s independence and objectivity. Since then, we've grown into an internationally recognized model for linking research with policy, practice, and action.

Q: How has MJB’s focus evolved over the decades; and which areas are you targeting today, and why?

A: We’ve expanded over time in response to emerging challenges in Israel and the Jewish world and because of the growing recognition of our contributions.

Our first decade was focused on aging and the elderly, and our analyses of the service system and the first-ever national projections of the needs for long-term care catalyzed a decade of intensive service development. Then in the 1980s, our expansion into health care policy came amidst a national health crisis and the effort to establish national health insurance. Based on our contributions to social policy for the elderly, the Government of Israel came to us and said, “We need a Brookdale Institute on health care.”

The same thing happened in the 1990s, when national concerns about child welfare led to the establishment of our children’s unit. During the massive aliyah from Russia and Ethiopia in the 1990s, JDC and the government turned to us for urgent assistance to successfully integrate the immigrants. In the 2000s, employment of the disadvantaged and people with disabilities became national concerns and focuses of our program.

Today, we continue to focus on the greatest social challenges facing Israel—the rapid rise in the elderly population, the urgent need to better integrate disadvantaged groups into the labor force, efforts to address the consequences of poverty, enhancing opportunities for disadvantaged children, the challenges facing the health care system, and more.

Q: When you look at MJB’s 40 years of service to Israel and the global Jewish community, what are some key accomplishments you're especially proud of?

A: We’ve played a decisive role in strengthening the policy infrastructure for addressing social needs: adoption of national health insurance, national program of home care for the elderly, national policy for Holocaust survivors, national program for children and youth at risk, and more. We have also evaluated many of JDC-Israel’s most important and innovative social interventions as they have grown from small pilots into national programs, including the PACT (Parents and Children Together) early childhood program for Ethiopian-Israelis and the one-stop employment centers for Israeli Arabs and Haredim.

Beyond Israel, we have assisted in important JDC efforts on behalf of Jewish communities around the world, such as the development of the Initiative for Disadvantaged Children.

And we are an ongoing reliable and up-to-date source of knowledge and understanding with respect to the major social developments in Israel for the global Jewish community.

Q: To what extent do you feel that MJB's work is in conversation with JDC's other efforts in Israel? How would you describe that relationship and why is it important/what value does it add?

A: The relationship is very significant and adds value to both sides. We work together to address Israel’s most complex social challenges. MJB supports JDC-Israel’s strategic partnerships with the government to affect the way social needs are addressed. We are a source for comprehensive and reliable data on vulnerable populations and assist the development of strategic, multi-year plans for JDC-Israel’s divisions.

Our systematic evaluations of JDC’s programs in Israel identify problems and successes during implementation, help to make mid-course corrections, and are essential to government and philanthropic decisions to take the programs to national scale. The combination of our research expertise and JDC’s program development capacities significantly enhances the ability of both to make a difference.

Q: What do you see as the future of the Institute?

A: The 40-year story of MJB is the story of how Israel has faced its greatest social challenges. The social challenges facing all societies have become greater and more complex, and as the challenges have evolved, so has the Institute. We have facilitated a significant cultural change, and today, the desire to plan on the basis of solid information—to measure how well goals are being met and to base policies and programs on what really works—is greater than ever. Accordingly, the demand for our expertise is also greater than ever. I also foresee that our work with JDC to enhance their efforts to strengthen Jewish communities around the world will expand even more in the years ahead.

JDC’s global programs are made possible by the generosity of our supporters.

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