Despite unprecedented political, social and economic turmoil, mutual solidarity continues to anchor world Jewry in these rough waters. But that solidarity is being threatened by renewed pressures and the potential for rifts, which is why we are combining forces in establishing Enter: the Jewish Peoplehood Alliance.
Enter’s mission is to ensure the Jewish people remains a dynamic, diverse, global community that is united, secure and inclusive. With the support of a diverse coalition of Israeli and Diaspora partners, we intend to build off the accomplishments of those already hard at work building out the field of Jewish peoplehood.
We are embarking on a marathon, not a sprint, and are focused on ways to instill greater empathy, awareness and understanding. We believe these are the metrics that will be increasingly vital to securing our common future, which is why Enter is investing in Jewish peoplehood education.
The pandemic is dramatically accelerating the adoption of digital communication platforms, but this is not being exploited to boost school and community twinning, a mainstay yet under-utilized arena across the Jewish world. Although hobbled by the pandemic, we know these types of programs promote unity and inclusivity.
Enter is laying the groundwork for experiential online mifgashim (encounters) for teens, a key demographic. We are also developing certification and training efforts that will help Israeli educators and communities harness the power of peoplehood.
Immersive and relationship-based exchange programs have proved effective but also must be adapted. Even before the pandemic, there was increasing realization that these programs are heavily weighted in favor of Diaspora participation. For too long, Israelis were viewed as the “hosts.” Greater mutuality is key for Jews from different societies to deepen their shared sense of peoplehood.
The successes of Birthright Israel and other immersive programs are well documented, but we are just on the cusp of understanding how peoplehood can also be deepened within the Jewish state. For example, the study of contemporary Jewish peoplehood in public education is only in its infancy but has enormous potential for bolstering awareness and strengthening literacy.
Enter is also investing in public awareness.
In the fifteen years since Charles was provided the first-time privilege, as a non-citizen, of lighting one of the 12 beacons on Israel Independence Day, this recognition has now become an annual tradition. More recognizable traditions that celebrate our interdependence need to be fostered in Israel and throughout the Jewish world.
The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv is at the forefront of these efforts and its recent transformation spotlights all strands of Jewish life, from ultra-Orthodox to Reform, from the twin poles of Israel and North America to the many vibrant communities that span the globe. The museum’s new campus and its expanded educational programs that reach across the Jewish world are forces for unity and a salve against present-day challenges.
Enter is also investing in measurement and is committed to supporting data-driven tools for assessing the pulse of Jewish peoplehood. We need more nuanced, evidence-based models that can identify the strengths and the strains shaping World Jewry. Most critically, we need to further hone our collective understanding about the types of interventions that have the most profound impacts.
United, the Jewish people have met daunting challenges, achieving what neither could do alone. Whether we look at the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 or the Soviet and Ethiopian aliyot, combined action has changed the face of Israel and the identity of Jews everywhere.
Opinion data suggest there is a strong baseline of solidarity and “shared fate,” both in Israel and in the Diaspora, despite disagreements that do exist over particular policies. This robust sense of belonging among Jews of all stripes coincides with a shared desire for rootedness. We draw strength from a deep heritage, a valuable refuge in a world of unprecedented disruption.
Understandably, the focus today across much of the Jewish world is on the current pandemic, racial tensions, and strengthening the safety net of our communities, institutions, and businesses. But we also need to have an eye on the day after and what will be needed to secure an even stronger Jewish future.
Charles Bronfman is a philanthropist, Jewish community leader and longtime investor in Israel. A co-founder of Birthright/Taglit, for decades he has been a leading supporter of initiatives to strengthen the unity of the Jewish people and improve the quality of life in Israel.
Irina Nevzlin is Chair of the Board of Directors of The Museum of the Jewish People and President of the NADAV Foundation. She is also the author of “The Impact of Identity: The Power of Knowing Who You Are.”
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