Rosh Hashanah 2014

The Sabbath Year

The High Holidays are upon us. And, after a nail-biting summer here in Israel, we are more than relieved to shift our focus from politics to tradition, and usher in the New Year with renewed energy. Rosh Hashanah is a time for reflection and evaluation, a time to consider our past actions so that our future ones can be more significant and impactful.

And this year in particular, Rosh Hashanah is escorted by the Sabbath Year – the Shmita Year – the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle outlined by the Torah for the Land of Israel. Referred to in Hebrew as Shnat Shmita, literally “the year of releasing,” this year we are asked as a nation to treat the entire year as we would a Shabbat; to put pause to our actions, to rest, re-think and recharge as an equal, collective whole. In Biblical times, this meant a year of leaving one’s land to lie fallow so that the needy may share in its fruit, in addition to relieving all financial debts. That’s a tall order, by anyone’s standards. But the concept is brilliant, and can certainly guide us today as it did in the days of our ancestors. However, in order to move forward, we must first look back.

For nearly three decades, the Federation has been on a quest to strengthen Israel as a pluralistic, democratic, and just society with equal opportunity for all its citizens. Over the years, these lofty ideals have been anchored in real work that has heralded real change.

We’ve done this through volunteerism and leadership development, job training and employment. We are leaders in Israel’s movement toward Jewish pluralism, embracing our heritage and traditions in an inclusive approach. We are at the forefront of narrowing social gaps and encouraging excellence among disadvantaged populations through education. We are looking to create a more representative economy in hopes of a shared society, integrating citizens, including Haredi and Arab, into Israel’s hi-tech industry. And these are only a few examples. Our collaboration with Israeli NGOs, government agencies and fellow funders is impacting the fabric of Israeli society.

At a glance, the Federation’s work in Israel in 2013-2014 has included:

  • 38 NGOs supported
  • 8 social ventures initiated
  • More than $3.5 million mobilized to create change
  • Thousands of beneficiaries impacted from all segments and sectors of Israeli society, ranging from preschool to adulthood, including Haredim, Ethiopian-Israelis, Russian-Israelis, Arab-Israelis, Bedouin, Druze, and at-risk youth
  • More than 150 people educated by our flagship Gvanim Program, espousing Jewish pluralism

And just in time for Rosh Hashanah, the Federation is proud to welcome three new grantees, who shed new light in new directions:

The Abraham Fund

This year we welcome the Abraham Fund to our family. Long a proponent of creating an inclusive and just Israeli society, the Abraham Fund looks to decrease the widening social and economic gaps between the Arab and Jewish communities. With a $50,000 grant, the Federation is partnering with the Abraham Fund to create a cohesive plan for building a shared society model within the campus environment to be replicated at other Israeli college campuses. Along with hospitals, college campuses are among the only common spaces in Israel that have a steady interaction of Jews and Arabs. Therefore, procuring and replicating these campus interactions is significant. In this spirit, the Federation is proud to join forces with the Abraham Fund and increase and equalize the college campus experience so that increased positive interactions between Arab and Jewish students can lead to increased tolerance, cooperation and future collaboration.

Photo courtesy of the Abraham Fund

Shaharit: Multicultural Fellowship for Community Leaders

The Federation is excited to introduce Shaharit, a new kind of think-tank that is examining Israel’s political scene in a new light, not through the traditional dichotomies of Right vs. Left, or secular vs. religious. The Federation has granted $50,000 towards Shaharit’s Multicultural Fellowship for Community Leaders program, aimed at nurturing and networking a future leadership for a multicultural Israel. Shaharit is creating this new political ecosystem, recognizing that each niche of Israeli society needs to stand tall and remain balanced so that each community can flourish.

Photo courtesy of Shaharit


Our final new grantee this is year is Aluma, an organization seeking social integration of all Israeli youth by helping Israeli teens use their national service in the Israel Defense Forces and/or in Sherut Leumi (volunteer civil service similar to AmeriCorps) as tools for social success, and as a means for breaking the cycle of marginality. The Federation is supporting the Bat-Ami program with a $30,000 grant in order to help incorporate more than 100 at-risk young women into society through an intensive preparatory course to be offered toward the end of their National Service.

Photo courtesy of Aluma

As we continue to enhance the social mosaic that is the bold and colorful Israeli landscape, the Federation remains firmly committed to promoting social justice and equality in Israel, welcoming old friends and new. This Rosh Hashanah, may the holistic approach to community of the Shnat Shmita lead to new opportunities, peaceful collaborations, and a stronger, just and democratic nation for all.

To learn more about the Federation's grantees in Israel, contact Siggy Rubinson at 415.512.6429.


September 22, 2014