IN LIGHT OF the growing challenges between global Jewry and Israel, The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ruderman Family Foundation are launching a new initiative that will train former Jewish Agency shlichim (Israeli emissaries) to connect Israelis to the diaspora after returning from Jewish communities around the world.
“Israelis who were shlichim and then returned to Israel are a tremendous force,” said Shira Ruderman, director of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Together we can transform them into an army of social change, that will connect Israel to American Jews. With their help, I hope we will bring the dialogue from a place of crisis to one of positivity and construction.”
In groups on campus, some 20 returning shlichim will receive professional guidance and financial assistance to promote projects that deal with strengthening connections and deepening Israelis’ understanding of diaspora Jews in general, and the American-Jewish community in particular.
Others, who are no longer students, will have the opportunity to receive micro-grants to advance projects connecting their surroundings with the American-Jewish community. The United States is home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel, with around six million members.
Each year the Jewish Agency sends around 2,000 young Israelis to communities around the world. They work to strengthen the connection of diaspora Jews on campus, in youth movements, day schools, and summer camps. During this time, the shlichim gain a deep understanding of Jewish life overseas, and when they return to Israel they are highly motivated to continue working on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people.
“There is much ignorance in Israel about Jewish life overseas,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog. “The shlichim are a powerful tool for spreading the message about our sisters and brothers in the diaspora…. The returning shlichim will join an elite group of former shlichim whose members will act as agents of change in Israeli society and serve as bridges between Israel and Jewish communities overseas.”