Posted on August 10th, 2016

ARJE Task Force on Israel Engagement: Your Voice Requested!

Does Israel have a claim on us as Jews? Is Israel inextricably bound up with our Jewish identities? How does one go about building a relationship with Israel? How do we help our learners and leadership build a relationship with Israel? How do we even talk about Israel with each other and with our constituents?

These questions and more have emerged from and enriched the conversations of the ARJE Israel Engagement Task Force and the ARJE Board at its Spring 2016 board meetings. The Israel Engagement Task Force was established this past January to consider the role of Israel in ARJE as an organization and among ARJE members and to consider and articulate the nature of ARJE’s ongoing relationship to Israel. The task force was asked to consider the following guiding questions in order to identify appropriate strategies that reflect a deep engagement with Israel:
• What are the right types of Israel experiences for us to be regularly providing?
• What do ongoing, meaningful relationships with our partners in Israel education and engagement look like?
• What does a successful, visible relationship with Israel look like – for us as individual educators, for our institutions and for ARJE? How do we measure it?
• How does ARJE foster a relationship between Israel and our members?

In the past months, the task force has received a briefing from Rabbi Josh Weinberg, President of ARZA and member of the task force, regarding the state of Israel engagement in North America and issues inherent in engaging North American Jews with Israel. Based on this briefing and members’ respective experiences we began our work.

We set forth three goals for ourselves:
1. Articulate a brief, accessible set of Israel engagement guidelines to inform our and ARJE’s decision-making regarding Israel engagement
2. Suggest 4-5 areas of Israel engagement
3. Frame and prioritize multiple potential initiatives for both ARJE as an organization and for our members, based on #1 and 2.

Based on feedback from the board, we are continuing to refine our recommended core principles that will be brought back to the board and shared with members in the coming months. The four principles center on the following areas and are in the process of being further refined:
• Relationship and connection with Israel;
• The role of narrative in building connection;
• The centrality of ongoing learning about Israel;
• Frameworks for effective and meaningful discourse regarding Israel.

As you can imagine, as educators we were very quickly able to imagine dozens of initiatives and programs to engage ARJE and our membership with Israel. We realized as our work progressed that we were missing some very important voices: those of our members (i.e. YOU!). Therefore, we resolved to reach out to you in order to learn about your connection(s) to Israel, what you do, what you want to do and what you need when it comes to Israel education and engagement. In the past months we have been hard at work refining a brief survey and preparing to disseminate it broadly to you, our membership.

Israel, along with outstanding and meaningful engagement with it is, indeed, central to our ARJE work and our work as Jewish educators. In order to effectively meet our needs in this area, both professional and personal, please take the time to complete the survey you will receive in early September. The task force will carefully consider and integrate your thoughts, needs and aspirations into any recommendations we make with regard to new Israel initiatives, partnerships and experiences.

The ARJE Israel Engagement Task Force members (Rabbi Joe Eiduson, Lori Sagarin, Debbie Bram, Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, Kendra Gerstein, Rabbi Josh Weinberg, Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, and Rabbi Stan Schickler) and I are eager to partner with each and every one of you as we move forward with this important and challenging work.