Heard Round WexWorld: Stronger Together
Ninety alumni from all of our programs report back on highlights, challenges
and take-aways from the recent Summit’s concluding gathering in Zichron
Yaakov. How might we (Re)Imagine the North American Jewish Community and
Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, WGF Alum (Class 2)
I think one of the most important things that has happened in terms of my own understanding of the relationship between the two communities — as somebody who has spent my life in both places — is that what really happened because of the two Summit meetings (the first in Princeton and this one in Zichron Yaakov) is the notion that we are actually all struggling with the same issues of leadership, of change, of political activism, of what it means to take a stand and of issues that feel very existential and challenge our core Jewish and moral values. It made me feel closer to feeling that this group will actually make a difference in those arenas.
Gideon Meretz, WIF Alum (Class 13)
A highlight for me was working on a path-breaking project — creating a new framework for our two communities which we call the Israel North American Jewish Community Covenant — and also definitely making ten great new friends.
Anita Greenwald, WHP Alum (NY/Westchester 07)
The Wexner Stronger Together Summit just concluded and I left feeling that indeed we are “stronger together.” The connections made between program participants from the four Wexner programs were the highlight and I hope will be lasting and productive, too. I’m pleased through our work at the Summit we launched a project I believe (and hope) will gain traction with the help of the Wexner network — Bnai Bayit (Bet Bet). We hope this program goes viral all over North America and in Israel. Please check it out and contact me to get involved!
Tsachi Mushkin, WIF Alum (Class 14)
Our group worked all year on thinking about how to promote Jewish pluralism in Israel because we feel the lack of it in Israel alienates progressive North American Jews and is an impediment to building a stronger relationship between us. We came up with many ideas and have even researched and collaborated with many organizations and compiled an online resource in Hebrew and English for people to find pluralistic Jewish options in Israel. The website is in beta mode and we’d like you to use it and send feedback. Check it out here!
Michal Shalem, WSL ’15
Our project that we’ve been working on all year is based on the assumption that we’ll use Jerusalem as a platform for connectivity between Israel and the Diaspora. For me, that was obvious, but what I came to understand from working within the group is that North Americans don’t see Jerusalem that way. I see it as a place of diversity and, at the same time, a place that can bring people together. It is much more complicated for the North Americans, and it sometimes involves their political views. I think the magic that happened during the last year was the ability to go through this process of open conversations and understand their needs on the one hand and to have them see Jerusalem in our eyes on the other. Bringing all that together helped us facilitate a process with a very fine result that at the end of the day will probably bring more people together in Jerusalem.
Dalit Caspi-Schachner, WIF Alum (Class 23)
I am very optimistic about North American Jewish-Israeli relations. I see all the great people who came to the summit — we have so much in common — and I see many things we can do together.
Deb Housen Couriel, WIF Alum (Class 12)
The US and Israel are on two historical tracks — I see it in my family relations on both sides of the ocean. This Summit has brought together many good people with a strong commitment to make sure the bridges continue to be built and maintained.
Eitan Chikli, WIF Alum (Class 12)
I feel insulted when others say that we Israelis are unable to solve our own problems by ourselves. Some don’t respect the political decisions of the people in Israel. Even so, this Summit allowed for difficult conversations I would love to continue.
Yanai Yedvab, WIF Alum (Class 21)
Having difficult conversations make us stronger together and doesn’t weaken us.
Ram Shmueli, WIF Alum (Class 11)
I think that the Israeli Palestinian conflict is not the first or even second most important issue regarding the future of the Israeli people. Our objective is that we want to strengthen the American Jewish community and the State of Israel because we share a responsibility for a mutual future. Without the Jewish community, there is no future for the State of Israel; without the State of Israel, there is no future for the Jewish people.
Joe Kanofsky, WGF Alum (Class 11)
We have had some interesting conversations that led to a deepening and broadening of the understanding of the relationship between the north american Jewry and Israel. I learned more about each of us, as members of our countries or cultures, but also about us each individually. I’m still figuring it out.
Elka Abrahamson, President, The Wexner Foundation
Israel and America are in a complicated and linked relationship one with the other. Voices have raised a bit in volume and passion. We are learning how to argue and are pushing ourselves to stay in the room even when the discourse makes us uncomfortable or, worse, when we believe it to be inappropriate, offensive or just plain wrong. This reality, staying in the room, staying in the relationship, wrestling and then hugging, wrestling more and then lunch together, and more coffee and more. There is something unique and something precious about a diverse group of Israeli and North Americans staying in a relationship. You are in it. Stay in it.