Shalem College
May 19, 2017

Where Critical Thinking and Real-World Impact Meet: The 3rd Annual Student Conference on Policy and Society

Where Critical Thinking and Real-World Impact Meet: The 3rd Annual Student Conference on Policy and Society
The 3rd Annual Shalem Conference on Policy and Society, April 3, 2017.

This April 3, Shalem students kicked off the 3rd Annual Shalem Conference on Policy and Society, the focus of which was economics. A project made possible by The Paul E. Singer Foundation’s investment in Shalem’s newly formed Impact Office, the conference used workshops, panel discussions, lectures, and even a live podcast to explore issues in Israeli economic policy from as many angles as possible.

“The common thread uniting Shalem students is a desire to influence and improve Israeli society, and we felt that not only a solid understanding of, but also a critical approach to economics and economic policy is a key step toward achieving that goal,” said junior Sapir Bluzer, who together with senior Alon Tuval and sophomore Naomi Grunewald organized the event. For Bluzer, the Shalem student conference was the perfect complement to her work as co-founder of the national grassroots advocacy organization Israel 2050, which seeks to encourage Israeli youth and the public at large to play an active role in setting economic policy.

Tuval explained that the conference was designed to encourage students to take their knowledge of economics a step farther: “Activism must go hand in hand with policy. We wanted students to come away from the conference appreciating not only how meaningful economic policy is to one’s life, but also what it takes to effect large-scale economic change in a society,” said Tuval, who is himself the CEO of Tacharut (“Competition”), a free-market nonprofit founded to advance the rights of non-unionized employees and reform the Israeli public sector.

Guest speakers who shed light on the everyday impact of economic policy included Dr. Asher Meir, head of the economic department of the nonpartisan research institute Kohelet Forum and former member of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan Administration; Dr. Eran Bartal, economic editor of the Israeli weekly Makor Rishon and director of educational programs for the public-policy think tank The Israel Center for Social & Economic Progress; and Amatzia Samkai, managing partner of Tavor Economic Consultants and director of the nonprofit Betzedek: Toward Jewish Economic Policy. Among the keynote speakers was Shalem’s own Omri Segev ’17, who lectured on the economic impact of companies such as Airbnb and Uber on traditional industries, and argued for the likelihood of their replacing them outright in the coming decades.

The conference concluded with a live broadcast of the popular Israeli radio show “Added Value: A Podcast by Two Former Employees of the Ministry of Finance,” hosted by Tal Wolfson and Lior Tabori. Addressing the question, “What is the place of young people in the setting of economic policy?” Wolfson and Tabori were a fitting finale to a conference conceived and executed with the aim of making Shalem a hub of economic inquiry and activism. “Shalem places critical thinking and real-world impact at the forefront of our education,” concludes Bluzer. “So it’s a natural place for a conference on economics. I hope this conference places Shalem on the map for potential students who want to do serious and goal-oriented thinking about economic change in Israeli society.”