As chair of the newly restructured Global Connections department of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ (see related story), I am delighted to share with our community the new way we are thinking about and addressing Israel, the Jewish world, and our own identity.
But first, a brief story for context: Jacob, our forefather, has a dream. In the midst of the dream, God tells him that his descendants will be like the dust of the earth, spreading out over the west, east, north, and south (“yama, v’kedma, tzafona, v’negba”). There, we are blessed with the promise to multiply, break through, and scatter. The promise does not draw borders or impose geographic limits; it only directs the people to the four corners of the Earth. And indeed, through the years, the Jewish people created communities spread out all over the world.
But with this blessing also comes a challenge: the responsibility of our people to remain united in spirit despite the great distances separating them. This is the mutual responsibility (areivut hadadit) of every individual and every community to take care of and support one another.
The Jewish community of Greater MetroWest has always been at the forefront of promoting this concept. Currently we have seven partnership communities throughout Israel, a sister community in Ukraine, and a delegation of 10 shlihim (young emissaries from Israel) to enhance Israel engagement in our community. We run programs that bridge our communities — Birthright, Diller Teen Fellows, religious pluralism efforts, Partnership2Gether, Youth Futures, Living Bridges, and on and on — and that have been a priority of federation’s agenda for years.
These myriad programs and activities make us quite proud; however they also create a challenge. When you do so much, it’s sometimes difficult to articulate what it is that you do. Let me explain:
Until recently, our Israel center had grown to serve as the umbrella for eight committees that made up the various aspects of our Israel and Overseas programming. There was the Israel Program Center, Israel & Overseas Committee, Overseas Committee, Israel Arab Committee, Religious Pluralism Committee, and two Partnership2Gether committees. And of course, we all too often used acronyms — so there was: IC, IPC, IOC, OC, IAC, RP, P2G. You get the picture!
It was confusing even to those on the inside. So we began a process to reformulate and revise our work. Our first task was to figure out how to present a clear message to the community of the important work we are doing and our impact throughout the Jewish world. The second task was to streamline the operations of this structure. And the third was to take members out of their individual projects and help them to look at the bigger global picture and how what we do is all interrelated.
The result is Global Connections (or U’faratzta, meaning “spreading out”). It is built upon four platforms named for the four corners of the earth from the aforementioned story. These platforms focus on:
Jewish Diaspora (Yama): We care for Jews around the world through our partnerships with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and World ORT and our overseas connections throughout the Jewish Diaspora.
Israel Shared Society (Kedma): We support a vision of a Shared Society in Israel, based on the values of a Jewish democratic state, religious pluralism, peace, and security.
Israel Engagement (Tzafona): We “live Israel” in our Greater MetroWest community, fostering local Israel engagement to connect the next generation.
Negev Operations (Negba): We partner in the Negev to strengthen and enhance continued growth and development in Israel’s desert region.
These four platforms have given us a new direction, a clear path.
The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ is experiencing meaningful changes. These changes are intended to inspire many more people to connect with us, to streamline our operations, and to strengthen our community worldwide. We believe that our global connections with the larger Jewish world are essential for the continuity and vibrancy of the Jewish people.
Global Connections is the structural translation of Jewish peoplehood. It’s the connection of Jewish communities throughout the world as one people.
This is our destiny.