Jewish Federations of North America led a first-of-its-kind JEDI (Jewish Equity, Diversity & Inclusion) Leadership Mission to Israel for nearly 30 Jewish leaders of Color, with the aim of deepening their understanding of Israel’s diverse society and connecting them with racially and ethnically diverse leaders from across North America and Israel. The mission preceded the annual General Assembly hosted by Jewish Federations, which celebrated 75 years of partnership between North American Jewry and Israel and Jewish Federations’ decades-long investment in building and supporting a flourishing Jewish state.
During the mission, participants explored what it means to be Jewish as a multiracial and global people. The mission opened with a program to celebrate the group’s arrival and the journeys that have brought them together. Highlights of the mission included learning about the contributions and resilience of Ethiopian-Israelis to the Jewish people, from Ashagar Araro who heads the Ethiopian-Israeli Heritage Center Battae to new Ethiopian olim living in the mystical city of Tzfat.
The conversations during the week were full of depth and breadth. JEDI Leadership participants explored issues relating to advancing racial justice and equity in Israeli life for Ethiopian-Israelis, Mizrachim, Arab-Israelis and migrant workers, during a conversation with Yirmiyahu Danzig. Participants learned about efforts to create peace in the region from Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed - the first Palestinian to head an academic institute in Israel – and sat with leaders in Haifa working to strengthen peace between Muslims and Jews. JEDI Leadership Participants also learned with Rina Ayalin-Gorelik, Executive Director of Association of Ethiopian Jews and Dr. Yifat Biton, President of Achva College, two incredible leaders advancing racial justice and equity in Israel life.
“During this incredible journey together, our leaders had the opportunity to deepen their bonds with one another, experience the Land of Israel through the lens of social diversity and engage in really critical conversations on our visions for Jewish leadership that is inclusive and representative of the true social makeup of the Jewish community today,” said Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation incoming Chair and JEDI Leadership Mission Chair Paula Pretlow.
“Our Jewish leaders were eager to understand Israel's past, present and future and demonstrated a deep desire to contribute to the future of a flourishing and diverse Israel,” said Jewish Federations of North America Director of JEDI Engagement & Community Engagement Stacey Aviva Flint. “There were sparks in their eyes as we spoke about deepening learning and engagement with Israel and Jewish youth of Color.”
“The JEDI Leadership Mission to Israel set the tone for what an intersectional, multi-ethnic, multi-denominational, LGBTQ+ inclusive experience can look like in the future,” said Nate Looney, JEDI Director of Community Safety and Belonging. “This mission focused on the historical context and nuance of diversity in Israeli society, interweaving opportunities for North American and Israeli Jewish leaders of Color to foster a deeper international community, while also creating space for both laughter and tears.”
“In 2020 when we launched our JEDI initiative, we built something historic for the Federation system and the broader Jewish community,” said Jewish Federations of North America Rabbinic Scholar and Public Affairs Advisor, Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein. “This mission that was planned and curated by and for Jewish leaders of Color reflects another major step in our continued work to celebrate our multiracial Jewish community and create a culture of belonging for all Jews and our loved ones.”
This mission could not have been possible without the generous partnership of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Schusterman Family Philanthropies, UJA - Federation NY, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, One8 Foundation and the Wexner Foundation.
As a major priority of Jewish life today, Jewish Federations of North America’s JEDI initiative supports Jewish life in creating a culture of belonging for all Jews and our loved ones. Through education, engagement, and empowerment programs, JEDI continues to help Jewish life and civil society flourish. One of these initiatives is Moed, JEDI's community network for Jewish People of Color and their loved ones. Together we celebrate the racial and ethnic diversity of the Jewish people and mitigate the impacts of racism in Jewish communal life and broader society.
We look forward to strengthening our commitment to Jewish Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and communal belonging for generations to come.
To read more about the JEDI strategic framework click here.