Michael Copeland, 1938-2012: WUJS Founder Who Realized His Dreams

Copeland, a native of Manchester who was known as 'Copey,' immigrated to Israel in 1963. He co-founded the World Union of Jewish Students Institute in Arad in 1968 together with Dr. Justin Phillips.

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Michael Copeland, a British communal leader and educator who co-founded a Jewish educational institute in Israel's southern city Arad, died November 9 at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva following renal failure due to prostate cancer. He was 74.

Copeland, a native of Manchester who was known as "Copey," immigrated to Israel in 1963. He co-founded the WUJS (World Union of Jewish Students ) Institute in Arad in 1968 together with Dr. Justin Phillips.

"Copey and Phillips were visionaries," recalled Canadian-born Sheldon Schreter, who directed the WUJS Institute from 1980-1984 and was a member of its board. "During that incredible summer of 1967, Israel was literally deluged by thousands of well-meaning volunteers from abroad - a great many of whom wound up just hanging out or wandering around without really finding a niche or a constructive way of channeling their energies and good will."

Schreter credited them with perceiving "that this was an historic opportunity, a watershed occasion and a chance for Israel to achieve a whole new relationship with a new generation of young Jews who hadn't been energized by anything like the Six-Day War."

The WUJS program continued in Arad for 25 years, with an estimated 6,000 participants studying there - a third of whom made aliyah, according to Copeland's wife, Judy, who spoke to Anglo File during the shiva. The institute closed in 2009 and WUJS was later incorporated into Hadassah and Young Judaea.

"They created a program whereby these volunteers could study Hebrew, Jewish history, the Holocaust, the Arab-Israel conflict and Judaism, and see the country. WUJS helped them find jobs or continue their studies," Judy Copeland said. "It developed into a year-long program for young university graduates from all over the world."

Copeland earned a degree in Economics and Sociology and a Diploma in Personnel Management from the London School of Economics. He served as an emissary in London as Director of the Hillel Foundation of Great Britain and Ireland from 1975 to 1978. After leaving the institute in 1988, he followed his love of language and words and opened a translation and publishing company. In recent years he became involved in multi-language translation and in academic publishing, translating articles and books in various fields of knowledge.

In addition to his wife, the former Judy Brodie, Copeland is survived by three children, Sharon, Benjy and Yoel; and 13 grandchildren. A resident of Arad for 33 years, Copeland resided at various stages in Be'er Sheva and Netanya. Funeral services were held in Netanya.

"Copey was a dreamer in the most positive sense," said Judy. "He believed in dreams and the ability to make them come true. And he did. Few in Israel have as many rights as he, a sworn Zionist, not only for himself but for many others."

Michael CopelandCredit: Courtesy

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