Let’s Imagine, Together

Let’s Imagine, Together

Imagine Israel. Really, go ahead! – think about, connect with and imagine it, from new and varied angles. The Jewish Federation’s new Imagine Israel initiative engages Washingtonians with the people and State of Israel through a wide variety of social impact-oriented programs designed to share cultural values and norms in Israel.

One of these programs is a huge expansion of Federation’s Congregational Shlichim (emissaries) Program, in which qualified, vetted, trained Israelis come to Greater Washington for a year or two to be embedded in synagogue communities, building real relationships. Adat Shalom has been involved in the Shlichim Program since its experimental start five years ago, and it’s been amazing.  Now, with Imagine Israel, it’s getting up to scale, and poised to transform our larger community.

Imagine Israel, culturally – imagine an extended Israeli family (named Banai) that includes leading actors (Yossi), comedians (Gavri), musicians (Ehud and many more) and activists (Orna et al), many of whom are household names and faces, whose progressive secular and traditional Orthodox branches remain close. They’re an insight to Israel that most American Jews would miss – but not us, thanks to our first shaliach, Erez DeGolan.

Imagine Israel, culinarily – cooking popular Israeli foods with groups of synagogue members in their homes; exploring the various ethnic groups which comprise modern Israel through the lens of their foods; understanding progressive youth culture through the rise of vegan and vegetarian Israelis – we got that, thanks to our second shlicha, Sahar Malka.

Imagine Israel, intellectually and familially – linking the story of a grandfather who fought in the 1948 War of Independence with the growth of Israel, its halting efforts to enfranchise Arab and Bedouin minorities and the success of Ben Gurion University in Beersheva – as our full busload of Israel trippers heard recently from the amazing Ayelet Levi, who just began her shlichut this week.  Great connections, learnings and experiences await.

Now, imagine Israel weekly, via podcasts, blogs, handouts and study sessions, in Torah School classes, from the bimah, in print, through small group encounters and retreats and one-on-one explorations. Imagine building connection with the real Israel, all of it — from skyscrapers to struggling schools, co-existence efforts to human rights concerns, Israeli renaissance to religious strife. Imagine Israel historically and hysterically, personally and interpersonally, challenging pre-conceived notions, expanding horizons, deepening connections. Now, you can imagine Federation’s Congregational Shlichim Program, a central pillar of Imagining Israel.

Let’s imagine, together.

Fred Scherlinder Dobb is Rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, MD, a Past President of the Washington Board of Rabbis and a member of Federation’s working group that helped conceptualize the Imagine Israel initiative.

Expanding on the success of The Jewish Agency for Israel’s shlichim (emissaries) program already serving our community, Federation’s Congregational Shlichim Program will bring nine additional emissaries to local synagogues and schools this year. These young Israelis will transform the relationships and enhance the personal connections of congregants and students with Israel and Israelis. Federation is proudly investing $250,000 to make this program achievable for our community’s congregations.