Working to promote the full expression of Jewish identity in all of its many forms

In Israel, schools and communities are divided into religious and secular sectors, creating social divisions and religious tensions that can present obstacles to democracy. The framework is often seen as a struggle between Haredim (the ultra-Orthodox) and the secular, but this polarization is only a partial view of the complex socio-economic and political trends within Israeli society.

The Federation’s Gvanim program promotes Jewish pluralism

In 2000, the Federation founded the Gvanim ("hues," in Hebrew) program in response to the deep divisions in Israel symbolized by the assassination of Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin by a Jewish religious extremist.

The groundbreaking program works to strengthen Israel’s democracy by creating a cadre of leaders to spread the message of Jewish pluralism to ever-widening circles of Israelis. Of the hundreds who apply each year, 15 professionals, representing every religious and economic sector of Israeli society, are selected to participate. The program culminates with a visit to San Francisco, where participants are introduced to the Bay Area’s diverse expressions of Jewish religion and culture.

How it works

Gvanim redefines pluralism for modern Israel through a one-year action-oriented fellowship program (similar to the Wexner Heritage Program) that:

  • Engages key Israeli leaders from across the religious and social spectrum in a deep examination of personal Jewish identity-related challenges.
  • Empowers Gvanim participants to initiate, plan and implement social action programs to promote Jewish pluralism in Israeli society.
  • Provides thought leadership and funding for the fellows’ social action projects.

Gvanim action programs are having a significant impact on Israeli society

In the past decade, Gvanim has blossomed into a network of programs stemming from fellows’ social action projects that stimulate a new shared discourse – the very bulwarks of democracy.

Today, there are 150 alumni, and members have initiated 80 social action projects with 350 secondary participants. Gvanim spin-off programs have been implemented in the Israel Defense Forces, in local government, in the Knesset, and local businesses.