Today is February 23, 2017 -
The executive directors of our city-size Jewish Federations gather annually to learn from each other and bond with each other. This year’s conference is in Israel and our objective is to deepen our understanding of complex Israeli issues and trends of strategic importance to American Jews including: religious pluralism, social cohesion, minority integration, and Arab-Jewish relations.
Our community’s Rona Pozner is a newly elected board member of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). From last month’s board meeting she reported that a waning interest in Israel among our youth has become a national challenge. While hundreds of thousands of young adults have experienced Birthright, the anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses persists. The board determined that we should be doing more to get kids to Israel while they are still in high school.
Rona was pleased to report to her fellow board members that Northeastern NY identified this issue years ago, and I am delighted to report that, following the conference, I’ll be here to welcome 23 of our kids as they begin their 10-day experience here. We’ll start with a long weekend in Jerusalem with my friend and colleague, and Albany native, Rabbi Sam Shor as our scholar-in-residence. After the weekend we’ll move down to our partnership community, Eshkol for five nights of home hospitality for our kids to live among their Israeli peers.
One of the issues identified in my current conference is that American Jews and Israeli Jews do not usually speak the same language. We communicate through the media and cannot understand each other’s issues. Our overseas partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) hopes to solve this problem with the Partnership together (p2g) program, where we can drink coffee in each other’s living rooms and talk. This is one of our primary goals with this half of our teen mission. Friendships developed three years ago, when last we ran this program, continue today. We hope to replicate this experience.
I’ll update you more next week.