Photo: Alon Tocker
Meeting with Lord Janner of Brownstone
Photo: Alon Tocker
Photo: Alon Tocker
Michael Strauss
Photo: Alon Tocker

Young Jewish leaders discuss future

Some 40 young people from all around the world meet in London conference organized by Keren Hayesod to debate Jewish communities' difficulties in engaging young people to work for each other's benefit

The beloved Israeli song "It's a sign that you're young, like a clear spring day, it's a sign that you're young," stimulated dozens of participants at the young Jewish leadership conference to hit the dance floor.


Those who didn't understand the Hebrew words smiled momentarily in embarrassment, but when the meaning was explained to them they joyfully nodded their heads.


Approximately 40 young people arrived for the London conference, organized by Keren Hayesod - United Israel Appeal, from various world locations including the US, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Holland, etc. They gathered to discuss issues connected with leadership and working with the young generation in regions that have active Jewish communities.


Among the participants were four young leaders from the Negev region who are active in the Partnership 2000 program that links the communities of Beersheba, Bnei Shimon and Montreal, Canada.


Today's check isn't what it used to be

The word "philanthropy" immediately evokes connotations of the "uncle from America" – i.e., rich Jews living in the US who send money for assorted Israeli projects. There are many who interpret such contributions as a way to ease a guilty conscience over not living in Israel.


"Philanthropy isn't exclusively the domain of American 'uncles', for it also exists among Israeli Jews", explains Yossi Tanuri, director-general of the United Israel Appeal of Canada. He speaks about the substantial contribution of the Strauss family to dozens of social projects, the chief of which is extending assistance to children who have difficulties in normal educational and social settings.

Discussions and lectures at UJIA (Photo: Alon Tocker) 


The children are assisted in preparing homework as well as developing their social abilities through, among other things, the study of martial arts. This allows them to release the tensions they grapple with in an intelligent manner while learning methods of communicating with others.


The project was explained to participants at the conference by Michael and Adi Strauss. The meeting with the Strausses contributed greatly to discussing the place of Israeli philanthropy. "It showed us that Israeli society benefits from Israeli contributors too and doesn't rely only on 'uncles from America'," commented Yiftach Cohen, representative of the young leadership group from Partnership 2000 – Beersheba-Bnei Shimon-Montreal.


The discussion also dealt with the subject of philanthropy from the aspect of the changing attitudes of contributors. In the past, fundraisers turned to potential contributors and asked for money for this or that specific purpose.


Today the situation is different: Contributors want to know exactly where the money is going and whether their contribution has benefited as many people as possible. They also prefer responding to projects that solicit "matching money" – i.e., additional partners who are also willing to bear the financial burden and take responsibility.


Connection with young people

One of the most fundamental topics dealt with at the conference was the difficulty of Jewish communities in engaging young people to work for each other's benefit. Once it was obvious that a Jew in the Diaspora was part of the Jewish community and that he or she must contribute and work for its benefit, even if it is partly located in Israel.


Today's generation is characterized by individualism. Thus in both the Diaspora and in Israel, they're having a hard time connecting young people with the cause.

At London's ancient synagogue (Photo: Alon Tocker) 


"The discussion didn't surprise me," says Oz Moyal, a member of the Partnership 2000 group. "Even here, we're dealing with the difficulty in talking with young people. They're busy with all sorts of things and are less active. But on the other hand, more and more active-minded people are joining our group each year and expressing the desire to contribute and make a difference.


"What did surprise me at the conference," continues Moyal, "was the explanation of the change in the method of recruiting young people. Once, the method was based on the threats facing world Jewish communities, including in Israel. Today, they work in an opposite manner: They attempt to connect young people by evoking feelings of belonging and pride. It was quite interesting to hear all this."


"What was meaningful for me was to hear Professor David Passig, author of The Future Code, who was among the speakers at the conference," reveals Alon Tocker, also from the young leadership group representing Partnership 2000 – Beersheba-Bnei Shimon-Montreal.


"Passig stood on the stage and reminded us that the future is already here. He said we have to correctly read the processes of the present as they turn into tomorrow's reality. In the context of the goals of the conference, Jewish leadership must be prepared to interpret today's reality and take action so that what currently seems beyond our grasp will be part of the Jewish and public agenda."


"The reason this was all so meaningful for me," says Tocker, "was the encounter that was made possible by this conference. All of the participants come from different places in the world and they ultimately live in their own realities. If we don't pay attention to what's going on in other places and connect those people to what's happening here in Israel, then who knows what will be?"


Friendship between leaders

In order to connect with happenings on a smaller scale—at the conference itself—participants went out to spend time together and, in doing so, struck up new friendships.


"For me," exults bright-eyed Efrat Vaknin, a young leader from the Partnership group, "the encounter between people is the real meaning of the conference, and it's a world in itself. It's clear to me that for some of the people, and it's a natural thing, the connection will be a weak one; perhaps occasional messages via Facebook.


"But I have no doubt that for most of us, the connection will be significantly preserved. The feeling is that we've not only met new friends, but good partners for whom the destiny of the world Jewish community is important to them irrespective of where they live…"



פרסום ראשון: 03.20.11, 07:30
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