Meet Dr. Rachel “Heni” Haring –
In science and in singing, she hits all the right notes
There are many ways one can show dedication to her career. By the time Dr. Rachel Haring (“Heni” to all who know her), BSF’s assistant executive director, shows up for work, she has already displayed her devotion. That’s because she drives up to two hours from her home outside Tel Aviv, just to get to BSF’s office in Jerusalem. That’s two hours to the office and another hour and a half back home – every work day.
“You know how there are good things and bad things about every job,” she asks, laughing. “I guess you can say the commute is a bad thing.”
Still, she no doubt considers her role at BSF to be a very good thing. She coordinates all aspects of the granting process – a major responsibility considering the number of funding applications BSF receives, the scientific areas BSF covers, and the many internal and external reviews (involving input from scientists in Israel, in the United States, and all over the world) that are conducted to help make decisions on which projects receive funding.
“My work is very challenging, but it’s also very rewarding,” she said. “So many young Israeli investigators send applications, because, especially in Israel, a BSF grant is very prestigious. And it’s important for American scientists, too, because so many of them want to work with Israelis. Our country is known for its scientific and technical innovation, and Americans want to be part of that.”
Even before she came to BSF 12 years ago, Heni had already gained plenty of scientific experience in Israel and in the United States. A graduate of Tel Aviv University, with no less than three degrees in life sciences and biochemistry, Heni was a postdoctoral fellow at the Camp David Institute for International Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
“This was around the time of the Camp David peace accords, and I was one of two Israelis and two Egyptians who were chosen,” she said. “I spent two years there in New York, and that was a big learning experience for me. I learned a lot about the importance of collaboration, especially among people from different countries.”
In Israel, Heni served as senior biochemist at the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Ness Ziona; and as senior scientist in several biotechnology companies. She has also authored 32 peer-reviewed articles and 15 book chapters. All this experience made BSF Executive Director Yair Rotstein take notice when the assistant executive director position came up in 2005. Out of dozens of applicants, Heni was chosen.
“With my background and experience, I have seen for myself the importance of collaboration between scientists in the United States and Israel,” Heni said. “I think what BSF does is very important, and I am very glad to be a part of this organization.”
Asked how far back her interest in science stretches, she remembers her “a-ha” moment as if it was yesterday.
“It came when I was in high school, near Tel Aviv, in the 1970s,” she remembered. “I had a science teacher who I just loved. She was just so inspiring, the way that she taught. She really made everything very interesting for her students. In fact, many of my classmates also wound up going into science because of her.”
Heni lives with her husband, Danny, in Ramat Hasharon, a town north of Tel Aviv. They are the proud parents of two sons, Yuval and Tal, and a daughter, Yael. In
her spare time, Heni sings with the Shiran Choir, a group that is well-known for their performances throughout Israel. Last year, the group traveled to Riga, Latvia, for the European Choir Games, where they performed a repertoire of Israeli and international songs and received enthusiastic acclaim. For Heni, singing has been a passion for as long as she can remember.
“My parents come from Bulgaria, and Bulgarian Jews love to sing! My sister and I, we couldn’t help but start singing, too!”
Does she see any similarities between singing and science?
“None at all,” she said, laughing once again. “I just enjoy it. I love science and I love what I do, but sometimes, you just have to put all that aside and focus on other things. We sing a lot of popular Israeli songs, and audiences really respond to us. That is a very nice feeling and I really appreciate it.”