Jewish Identity and Pluralism

Israel’s diverse population brings a multitude of rich traditions, religions, history, and culture that add to the complexities of daily life. 

Building a society of inclusion, equality, and justice for all of Israel’s citizens is a moral imperative with the potential to positively impact every sector of society, whether social and economic. 

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 the ultra-Orthodox and secular, but this polarization is only a partial view of the complex socio-economic trends within Israeli society. 

Some have claimed that Israel’s leading threat to security and future lies from within. Following Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995, the country was visibly torn, and major social issues – such as immigration, the question over who is a Jew, social issues related to marriage and death – underscored the realities of contemporary Israeli society and the inherent anxieties within a diverse population.

Our work in Israel aims to promote the full expression of Jewish identity in all its variegated forms.

The Federation currently supports four programs in this core issue area, all of which incorporate social action as a tool for social change:

BINA: Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture – BABAZMAN (All in Good Time) Urban Shared Society Initiative

BINA is a pluralistic Comprehensive Community-Building Initiative (CCI), a method of implementing change through the creation or enhancement of community among individuals within discrete urban areas. This program supports shared society and tolerance in Israel by bringing together high ranking municipal leaders to address issues of intolerance and inequality on a local level, while generating new intercultural initiatives to build bridges between diverse local groups.

Gvanim Network – Leadership Development to Promote Jewish Pluralism

Gvanim, the Federation's flagship program in Israel, aims to create a cadre of change agents to spread the message of Jewish pluralism to ever-widening circles of Israelis by developing and implementing projects across the country – in schools, community centers, the media, the army, and beyond. Each year, Gvanim selects 15 participants from about 350 applicants, reflecting the entire mosaic of Jewish-Israeli society, Orthodox through secular, all of whom are leaders in their professional fields. Gvanim is an intensive educational program and includes a visit to the Bay Area to showcase pluralistic Jewish life in the community, and is action-oriented, where each participant develops a program to disseminate into their professional spheres of influence.

Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism: Ufaratzta Initiative

The “Ufaratzta” program aims at making Progressive Judaism accessible to any interested Israeli. This grant will strengthen the pluralistic Jewish identity of Israeli society and create a basis for connecting between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora by establishing frameworks for pluralistic and progressive community activities throughout Israel, with an emphasis on areas where no such activities currently exist.

Society for Advancement of Education, Jerusalem (SAE): An Introspective Program for Pluralistic Jewish Educators

This program enables a diverse group of 16 Israeli high school educators to meet representatives from different Jewish communities in Israel and learn about their defining texts and religious approaches over the course of one school year. During this process, the educators will create new learning materials that will apply pluralistic values, methods, and content in the classroom, and will inform their educational interactions with students.