|Written by Keith Hall|
17 January 2013
Slice of Israel on the American Front
NIF Washington Director Karen Paul-Stern
While our eyes are on Israel's elections next week, those of us who work to build a stronger and more democratic Israel on this side of the ocean have other challenges.
I recently heard that a rabbi at a local synagogue has refused to include Israel as a topic of discussion in his young professionals group on the grounds that it's too controversial.
But as the Washington Director of NIF, I know that I have a responsibility to my community to move towards that conversation, not away from it, no matter how many arguments it may precipitate.
A newly-formed group of activist leaders has come together in Washington, DC to create exciting programming, reach out to new donors, and build community around NIF, as well give voice to the very questions regarding Israel that are pre-occupying the Jewish community today.
As their first effort, my DC Leadership Council developed a salon series, exploring several issues facing Israel's fragile democracy - including the exclusion of women, religious pluralism and freedom, and the color of Israel today, which addressed provocative questions of immigration, race and citizenship.
NIF-DC has also initiated two exciting community partnerships. First, as a member of the Greater Washington Forum on Israeli-Arab Issues, NIF is co-sponsoring a community education day: "Israel: Building A Shared Society" on January 27th. Participants will hear from experts on education, economics, women's issues, housing and other issues affecting Israel's Arab citizens.
NIF-DC has also partnered for the first time with the highly-regarded Theater J to support the innovative Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival. We are sponsoring two Israeli plays that reflect social issues in Israel - religious freedom and environmental justice - that are core issues of concern to the New Israel Fund.
It is these partnerships that keep our message of tolerance, equality and justice for all Israeli citizens vibrant and healthy on this side of the ocean. It's not always easy for us to stay hopeful about what is often difficult news from Israel; working in our communities to highlight the inspiring work of NIF's partners on the ground gives us courage and keeps us moving forward.