04 November 2022
“Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…” – Winston S. Churchill, November 11, 1947
It is no secret that elections in the US and Israel result in strong emotions. Certainly in the Washington region, many of us are deeply engaged with political parties and causes. We have different views and may work hard in support of a particular agenda whether on the local, state, or federal levels. Because we know that elections matter in our lives, the lives of others, and the future of this country, we engage.
When Israel faces elections, many of us care deeply about these results as well, though we do not have a direct vote on the outcomes. As we anticipate the final government structure on the heels of this week’s elections in Israel, some in our community have reached out to me expressing frustration and disappointment at the results. Others have said, “wait and see.” (People who are happy rarely reach out to me.) The diversity of perspectives on the subject reflects relationships with Israel as unique as the individuals who hold them. In our Federation approach to Israel, we strive to hold space for these diverse perspectives.
First and foremost, we believe it is critical for the American Jewish community to continue to engage and connect with Israel. We believe in Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, and as the democratic and vibrant home to many other peoples as well. Israel is a place of Jewish life, creativity, energy, innovation, and home to half of world Jewry, where modern society walks amongst rich history and traditions. It is a center for Jewish identity and Jewish aspirations. When Israel is threatened, we respond. And when it achieves a great outcome, we celebrate. We view Israel as a reflection of our communal values and aspirations, and when it challenges those aspirations, we struggle.
And so, while we as American Jews may not be able to vote in Israeli elections, we continue to engage with Israel in other ways. Above all, Federation is committed to the relentless pursuit of a strong and secure Jewish and democratic state of Israel.
Locally and around the world, Federation fosters our connection to Israel and Israelis in meaningful ways, including through our prioritization of immersive travel experiences and extensive Israel programming in our local community. We partner with Israeli organizations to build a more just, equitable, and inclusive society, prioritizing issues of religious pluralism, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, building shared society, creating social change, enhancing dialogue, and more. Most recently, we also increased our support for organizations seeking to build a stronger civil society in Israel and break down the barriers that threaten to split the country apart.
Over the past year, Federation’s diverse Israel Task Force helped define our overarching Israel strategy moving forward. Together, this group of lay leaders focused our priorities to bridge the growing gap between American Jews and Israel through engagement, immersive experiences, and building civil society. This led to an $800,000 investment in 21 organizations that will help showcase the diversity of Israeli society.
I am perhaps most proud that through this strategic and ongoing work, we seek to engage our community members in deepening their relationships with Israel and Israelis from wherever their individual vantage points allow. As we look ahead to our own country’s elections, may we continue to engage passionately as citizens, as Jews, and with one another.
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