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Learning and Building Together

Shalom from Israel. You are never going to believe what I’m doing here. 

It all began several months ago, when I was contacted by the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco (JCF) about participating in a community leadership program funded in memory of Irving Rabin. The goal of the program is to connect the leadership of the SF Jewish community and more importantly, to develop strong working relationships despite differing agendas or perspectives. The desired end result is to improve the overall functionality of the SF Jewish community as a whole. All of the twenty six SF organizations, institutions, shuls and schools invited to participate accepted the invitation. 

In addition to spending over a week in Israel, the participants are required to attend several gatherings both before and after the trip. Our pre-trip meetings were quite successful -- the forty people who came were all very positive and interested in creating an environment that would enable us to work together. This is not as easy as it sounds due to the diverse makeup of our group, which consists of: 

  • A Wider Bridge (the pro-Israel organization that builds bridges between Israelis and LGBTQ North Americans and allies)
  • B'chol Lashon (strengthening the Jewish people through ethnic, cultural, and racial inclusiveness)
  • Camp Newman (Reform)
  • Camp Tawonga (Non-denominational)
  • Congregation Adath Israel
  • Congregation Beth Sholom (Conservative)
  • Congregation Emanuel (Reform)
  • Congregation Sha'ar Zahav (LGBT)
  • Congregation Sherith Israel (Reform)
  • Contemporary Jewish Museum
  • J Weekly
  • Jewish Community Center
  • Jewish Community Relations Council
  • Jewish Community Federation
  • Jewish Community High School of the Bay
  • Jewish Family and Children's Services
  • Jewish Film Institute (expanding understanding of Jewish life through film, media and dialogue)
  • Jewish Learning Works (formerly the Bureau of Jewish Education)
  • Jewish Vocational Services (helping individuals build skills and find jobs to achieve self-sufficiency)
  • Jimena (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa dedicated to the preservation of Mizrahi and Sephardi culture and history)
  • Limmud Bay Area
  • SF Hillel
  • The Brandeis School of San Francisco
  • The Kitchen 
  • Urban Adamah (Jewish environmental education center)
  • Wilderness Torah (reconnecting communities to the ancient, earth-based Jewish heritage)

The reason for traveling to Israel in order to help facilitate our “community unity” program is to meet and learn from people and programs all over Israel that are working at bridging the various gaps in Israeli society. Currently there are four primary components of the “Israeli Puzzle” – Secular Israelis, Modern Orthodox Israelis, Ultra-Orthodox Israelis and Arab Israelis. Each of these groups has a variety of sub-components, but in general, this division represents the big Israeli picture. Over the past decade there has been a growing recognition by each of the Israeli puzzle parts of the need to find a way to work together. And indeed, despite what you may read in newspapers or hear on the news, there are many bright spots in Israel of successful coexistence or sincere efforts to accomplish it. Therefore, we are off to see, listen, learn and hopefully bring back a little piece of Israel that just might make a big difference here in SF.

I’ll let you know how things are going next week.

Meanwhile, what can we all do now to strengthen our community’s unity? On March 15th, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) will host a Town Hall as part of their campaign “Racial Justice: Learning for Change,” which seeks to raise awareness about racial justice. Our participation will help build consensus amongst different Jewish organizations that will enable the JCRC to advocate on racial justice issues for a united and organized Jewish community. Find out more details about this exciting event today