Many assumptions are made about the fraying relationship between Israelis and the North American Jewish Community (NAJC) and how to strengthen it. As with any loving relationship, communication is key to survival. The Wexner Foundation, due to our alumni networks in Israel and North America, is uniquely situated to encourage this communication.
At this year’s Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in Tel Aviv, 60 of our alumni gathered to facilitate a 300-person conversation between Israelis and North Americans. Through interactive small-group conversations, we engaged participants in that spirit. Modeling the collaboration that we hope to see in each discussion group, the conversation was co-facilitated by an Israeli and a North American alum in partnership. With open sharing and deep listening, participants explored ways to strengthen the fabric of the Israel-North American relationship and suggested action steps that each of us can take to effect change.
The focus of the discussion was a Wexner alumni-drafted Covenant Between the State of Israel & the North American Jewish Community. This aspirational document outlines a series of values and mutual obligations that could serve as a model for a strengthened relationship between our communities. Participants did a deep dive into the document offering their interpretations and suggestions for this working draft (the website, above, provides a platform for you to continue to make suggestions and comments.)
At the end of the discussion, participants offered their personal commitments helping to bring these two pillar communities of the Jewish world closer together. These are achievable steps that we can take in the next six months — small actions when multiplied can inspire real change.
Some examples that people chose include:
- Planning a trip to North America or Israel.
- Writing an article or op-ed for your local newspaper or a blog.
- Teaching or enrolling in a class.
- Hosting your Shaliach/Shlicha for a salon discussion in your house.
- “Adopting” an Israeli or North American student who is studying abroad in your city.
- Getting involved in your local Federation’s Israel and Overseas committee.
The great Zionist thinker Achad Ha’am believed that Israel should serve as cultural and spiritual force for the rest of the Jewish world. The same is true the other direction — Israel and the North American Jewish Community (as well as other world centers) mutually reinforce Jewish culture, spirituality and life for one another. Through continued conversation — and action — we can help ensure that this will continue in the years to come.
Let us know in the comments what steps you might commit to strengthen this relationship.
Or Mars is a Vice President of the Wexner Foundation.