How Do We Deepen Connections with Israel?

By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
One of the big takeaways from our Community Trip to Israel was that deepening connections with Israel is critically important for Jewish continuity. A strong relationship with our Jewish homeland is foundational for a strong relationship with the Jewish community and being active in Jewish life.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has a variety of exciting programs in the works to foster stronger engagement with Israel and with the Jewish community. Our upcoming program, an evening with Ambassador Dennis Ross on February 7, 2019, is one such opportunity for the entire community. For teens and young adults, we are excited to offer a set of initiatives that will provide opportunities for immersive and substantive Israel experiences for those on whom the future of a vibrant, thriving Jewish Puget Sound depends.

For teens and their parents, I want to call your attention to two opportunities available right now. One is our Teen Israel Experience Scholarship program, which is provided to the community every year by the Federation. We believe that every Jewish teen should have the opportunity to travel to Israel and foster the stronger Jewish identity and sense of belonging to the Jewish community that an Israel experience can provide. Financial barriers should not stand in the way. Thanks to the Samis Foundation and other dedicated donors, generous need-based scholarships are available to make the dream of an Israel experience come true for teens in our community.

The scholarship application deadline is Tuesday, January 22, 2019 — just over five weeks away!

The other opportunity is an exciting new initiative — the Center for Israel Education (CIE) Teen Israel Leadership Institute (TILI). We are seeking applicants in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades for a highly-subsidized program that will give approximately 30 teens a solid grounding of Israel knowledge and exposure to Jewish life on a local college campus, and teach leadership skills that will be invaluable for their future professional and community lives. During the program, scheduled to take place May 3-5, 2019, at Hillel at University of Washington, participants will create an Israel-learning project to share with their synagogue, youth group, or the broader community.

Applications for TILI are open, and we encourage teens and parents to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

By the way, there is an incredible incentive for teens participating in TILI: eligibility to receive a $2,500 Samis Israel Education Incentive Grant towards an approved Israel program. This grant can also be combined with an Israel Experience Scholarship, providing an opportunity for teens to further their education about and deepen their connections with Israel at the critical time before they leave for college.

For young adults, the Federation supports Birthright, which sends Jews ages 18 to 26 on 10-day trips to Israel, free of charge, where they can explore their Jewish identity and create community. As is true throughout life, relationships need tending in order to continue thriving. Research has found that after returning home, Birthright participants often have questions about Israel and need a forum to reflect on the experience, continue their learning about Israel, and find out more about engaging in Jewish life.

To that end, the Federation has developed a comprehensive Young Adult Israel Education Initiative, in partnership with Hillel at University of Washington. Thanks to generous donors, a cohort of approximately 30 young adults will participate in experiential learning sessions, in unique venues throughout the city, that will be facilitated by Federation staff and experts in Israel and Middle East studies. During the program, participants also will learn about engagement opportunities with a variety of Jewish organizations in the Puget Sound area.

The initiative will be an avenue for young adults to build on their Israel experiences by deepening their knowledge and understanding of complex issues in the region, plugging into local Jewish life, and strengthening the personal relationships that are the foundation of a strong and durable community. Thank you to our committed community members for making this new program possible!

Israel education and engagement programs tailored for teens and young adults will benefit the entire community. Younger people who have developed meaningful connections with Israel, on a firm foundation of experiences and knowledge, will infuse their energy into community life, bring new ideas to the table, enter the leadership pipeline, and help ensure Jewish continuity — for people of all ages, for today and tomorrow.