BOG 23: Launching the Irwin Cotler Institute
During its 2023 Board of Governors meeting, Tel Aviv University inaugurated the Irwin Cotler Institute, which will advance the legacy of one of the world's leading contemporary jurists and advocates of justice, “a human rights warrior” Irwin Cotler of Canada. The institute’s mission is to instruct, train, and carry out policy-oriented research on human rights, democracy, justice, and the fight against antisemitism and racism at large.
The inauguration ceremony was held in the presence of Hon. Irwin Cotler, his wife Ariella, their children and grandchildren; the Canadian Ambassador to Israel Mrs. Lisa Stadelbauer; Mr. Rick Dubrovsky, the Institute’s founding donor; human rights activist, Mr. Natan Sharansky; Prof. Ariel Porat, TAU President; the Head of the Cotler Institute, Prof. Uriya Shavit; TAU senior faculty and long-time friends and supporters.
“We are witnessing today a resurgent global authoritarianism […] and global antisemitism. Antisemitism is not simply threatening to Jews: it is toxic to democracies—a standing injustice, an assault on our common humanity,” Hon. Cotler said at the ceremony. “While it begins with Jews, it doesn’t end there, and so in combatting antisemitism, we are defending democracy, justice, and human rights. We have the capacity and the responsibility to be engaged in a transformative impact on the universe from evil to good, and we trust that this Institute can play a role in that.”
The Cotler Fellowship
The Institute’s flagship program is the already-running annual Irwin Cotler Fellowship, which brings together a group of TAU international students for year-long weekly lectures and projects on human rights and democracy. The Fellowship’s first cohort recently finished the program and included 21 students from 18 different countries, including Japan, Canada, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Venezuela, India, Indonesia, the United States, Argentina, Israel, Germany, Ukraine, Colombia, Norway, Mexico, Turkey, Romania, and France.
“It has been an amazing journey. During the program, I gained a deep appreciation for the power of dialogue to create constructive change. I look forward to using the knowledge and skills I gained to positively impact my community and beyond,” said Nurgul Gokpinar, a TAU LL.M graduate from from Istanbul, Turkiye.
Aryo Brahmantyo, a Cotler Fellow from Indonesia, echoed Gokpinar’s words: “For the past seven months, my friends and I have learned incredibly valuable lessons. We met with prominent figures in diverse groups who all refer to Israel as their home. Interactions are essential in the development of a culture of peace and respect.”
During the program, the Fellows engage in discussions about Israeli society, its history, diversity, and challenges. They take field trips to historical sites and communities across Israel and learn how to advocate for righteous causes in their home countries in the face of shifting social landscapes.
“Cotler Fellows come from diverse academic disciplines – from security and diplomacy, law and conflict resolution to music, medicine, and psychology – but they all share a passion for Israel and human rights issues,” said the Institute’s academic director, Dr. Carl Yonker.
The Cotler Institute also organizes instructional workshops for policymakers, law enforcement officials, media professionals, and educators around the world. It educates these groups on the contemporary challenges to democracy and human rights and conveys the means to fight racism at large, and globally rising antisemitism specifically. The Institute also convenes research seminars and supports original policy-oriented research in diverse disciplines.