Can We Talk: How the Federation is Opening Up the Israel Conversation

Conversations about Israel are often loaded, especially here in the Bay Area where, particularly among young adults, they can be fraught with emotions, biases, competing narratives, and worldviews. Indeed, some of those views may challenge the bedrock principals upon which the State was founded. And yet, for those who are committed to promoting pluralism, democracy, and equal opportunity for all of Israel’s citizens, these conversations—even the most difficult ones—are important to have.

It is in that spirit that the Endowment Committee has authorized two-year seed grants to three nonprofits that have been bringing a wide variety of people together, expanding our tent, and furthering the conversation in order to secure a safe, secure, inclusive and vibrant Israeli future.

“The three organizations that were chosen to receive these grants had one thing in common,” said Rachel Barton, the Federation’s Senior Engagement Officer, Israel & Global Network. They are “a shared commitment to discussing Israel in a thoughtful and nuanced and open way.” The organizations are the Shalom Hartman Institute, Wilderness Torah, and Resetting the Table.

The Shalom Hartman Institute, a leading center of Jewish thought and education on peoplehood, identity, and Israel, will be utilizing its grant to “train the trainers” funding cohorts of mid-career Jewish leaders and professionals who will be creating a curriculum to foster Israel-Diaspora relations.

Shalom Harman Institute

Wilderness Torah will use its grant to train as many as 20 Bay Area members of the Jewish community to explore Israel’s culture and history and learn how to facilitate challenging conversations with people of all ideological inclinations.

Wilderness Torah

Resetting the Table will also use a cohort model to partner with organizations that are already embedded in the young adult Jewish community, such as Moishe House and Honeymoon Israel, to provide tools, skills, and content for nuanced Israel learning and discussion and to build courageous, constructive dialogue across differences in Jewish life.

Resetting the Table

“Each initiative will have its own specific successes but overall the impact that we would want to see is young adults coming away from these programs with an increased level of comfort when it comes to having conversations about Israel,” said Barton, who continued to share her thoughts on what a home run would look like if these programs make the impact we expect them to. “My hope is that through these kinds of opportunities, people will see disagreement not as something to repel or distance you from somebody, but rather as an asset that can bring people closer together.”

Ultimately, said Barton, these initiatives are not about compelling people to accept any specific set of beliefs. Rather, they are an invitation for individuals to explore Israel in a way that is authentic and “acknowledges some of the complexity of the topic....” And through these honest conversations, there is hope that a pathway for growth and reconciliation will be cleared.

Categories: Israel, Grantees, Community


June 27, 2019


Jon Moskin