Engaging with Israel
The Return of NFTY in Israel
2021 was a banner year for NFTY in Israel. For the first time since before the pandemic, our 2021 NFTY in Israel trips offered a fun, meaningful, and educational way for confirmation classes (or any other congregation-based group of teens) to have a top-tier Israel experience while deepening bonds with their home community and the greater Reform Jewish community through spending time with Israeli teens, having conversations about the social and political challenges Israel faces, and learning about the history of Israel as a land and as a people.
More than 800 young people participated in 2021, thanks to vouchers generously provided by RootOne. RootOne also collaborated with us to maximize the educational impact of participants’ NFTY in Israel experience.
URJ Heller High
After a semester-long hiatus due to COVID restrictions on travel, students in grades 10-12 had the opportunity to apply for grants to help fund their semester abroad with URJ Heller High. This semester abroad experience in Israel is a life-changing opportunity that provides teens with long-lasting and diverse points of connection to Israel, whether through culture, politics, entrepreneurship, tikkun olam, nature, history, ritual, spirituality, or food.
Engaging North Americans with Israel
At the beginning of the year, we launched our Israel Leadership Network, which involved nearly 50 congregations. We worked with both lay and professional leaders on cutting-edge methodologies for discussing and learning about Israel. In May and June, during Operation Guardian of the Walls (an IDF operation that, in response to nearly 4,000 rockets launched by Hamas toward Israel, destroyed Hamas’ weapon manufacturing infrastructure), we provided resources and different forums for congregations and communities.
Engaging with Israel’s Political System
In 2021, a Reform rabbi was elected to the Knesset for the first time in history. MK Rabbi Gilad Kariv became a Knesset Member and the Chair of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee. MK Rabbi Kariv also established the Caucus for Religious Pluralism. His success was largely due to the growing Reform Movement in Israel. In 2021, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Jennifer Kaufman, and Rabbi Josh Weinberg represented the URJ on a solidarity visit with our Israeli Movement and a cadre of leaders from the Israeli Government and the Knesset.