“Le-tiferet Medinat Israel” — For the glory of the State of Israel — Gabriela Sztrigler Lew of Mexico City proudly declared, lighting one of the 12 torches at Wednesday night’s Independence Day Ceremony on Mount Herzl, as a representative of World Jewry.
Standing alongside 11 other honorees representing the 12 tribes of the Jewish people and the best that Israel has to offer, Lew embodied a deep sense of global Jewish unity and purpose.
Lew was honored for her work as a humanitarian volunteer through Shalom Corps, the “Jewish Peace Corps.” Lew began volunteering at a young age within her local Jewish community in Mexico, and, at 18, came to Israel, where she completed a search and rescue course. Empowered with a new set of skills, she continued this work upon her return to Mexico. In November 2020, when Hurricane Iota ripped through Central America, leaving entire communities in complete devastation, Lew, along with other Jewish volunteers and an Israel mission, flew to Honduras where they played a pivotal role in relief efforts.
Indeed, while Lew’s individual service is noteworthy, she is one of many young Jews volunteering today through Shalom Corps, a shared initiative run by the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, Mosaic United and the Jewish Agency for Israel. The organization is a global volunteer movement dedicated to meaningful service and social responsibility, as an expression of Jewish values and love of humanity.
Rooted in Tikkun Olam — repairing the world — this initiative activates Jewish youth around a shared sense of responsibility and desire to make the world a better place. Missions are held within local communities worldwide in response to various humanitarian crises. Last year, local missions were conducted in communities across the globe — from Belarus to Guatemala to Toronto.
Next year, as travel resumes, Shalom Corps will launch global missions bringing Jewish volunteers from different communities together for an experience that strengthens an individual’s Jewish identity and connection, while empowering the communities in which they are based.
Shalom Corps represents a much larger paradigm shift taking place within the Jewish World. Until today, fulfilling the promises of a Jewish state and the safety of the Jewish people have been the primary concerns of global Jewry. Today, we have the great privilege to look beyond our physical and spiritual survival, and together invest our energy to elevate the entire world.
The secret to the Jewish people’s survival and beyond is the fulfillment of this noble mission. Executing it requires us to build our people not only around a common history, text, and tradition but around the promised future that we are individually and collectively tasked to bring about.
As our people evolve, the frameworks put forth by Jewish leaders and institutions must evolve too, to meet current interests and needs. This is the only way in which to maintain and grow the rich tapestry that binds the Jewish people both today and in future generations.
Shalom Corps, then, champions the notion that our Jewish uniqueness and our position as citizens within a globalized world ought not conflict with the other. It understands that our Jewish vitality is intrinsically linked with the well-being and prosperity of our entire world. Ultimately, by embracing this mindset, we will be able to fulfill our common destiny as a united Jewish people.
Just as Lew’s torch lit up Mount Herzl, we too can light up our shared world.
As she said, “If a lot of individuals get together, they can make a big change. Tikkun Olam — to make great change in our world — this is the new Zionism.”
Isaac Herzog is Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Omer Yankelovitch is the Minister of Diaspora Affairs.
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