Israel Trip, One Year Later: Promises Made
One year ago, an extremely diverse group of Atlanta Jewish community leaders spent a week together in Israel on a Learning Journey that focused on Israeli social innovation. Right before they left, Federation President & CEO, Eric Robbins framed the trip this way: “We are traveling to Israel with a unique kavannah (intention), not as tourists, but as curious and committed partners. We have a mindset to build bonds as a community of leaders, affirm and deepen our ties to Israel, and immerse ourselves in Israeli innovation. Our trip has prioritized time for difficult conversations, for small group work and personal reflection. We’ll be creating a precious infrastructure of human capital and relationships, so that when we come home, we’ll be primed and ready to co-create the 21st century Jewish community Atlanta needs to become.”
When the group returned, they had indeed bonded. So much so that they wrote a brit, or covenant committing our community leaders to “work collaboratively, to take each other’s phone calls, to assume the very best of each other, and model respectful dialogue when issues divide us.” As they continue to work together, this seemed like a good time to ask some Israel trip participants if we’ve fulfilled the mandate of our brit.
Gabrielle Adler, Senior Regional Manager, Southeast Region of Moishe House
Once coming home from our trip I felt that I had gained a wealth of knowledge about all of our amazing community organizers and future partners. It has been instrumental in allowing me to provide resources and new programmatic partners to our three Atlanta based Moishe Houses. A few examples have been Russ Shulkes, the Executive Direcor of Hillels of Georgia, connecting me to a graduating senior who later became one of our amazing residents in Toco Hills. I was also fortunate to meet Justin Milrad of the Blue Dove Foundation on the trip, and we recently did a partnership with our Buckhead location to host a Substance Abuse Awareness Shabbat. Having spent a week together in Israel was beneficial in helping to create these relationships and partnerships.
Rabbi Peter Berg, The Temple
When we returned from our mission, I immediately hung a note on my desk: Always assume the best of each other. It is a direct quote from the brit we all signed together. This is a mantra I turn to before returning calls and emails – and it has been a transformational practice for me. I’m proud to be a part of this Atlanta community where we live the values of our covenant every day.
Hope Chernak, Chief Program Officer MJCCA
After Israel our community leaders still connect with one another on a regular basis. As an example, we still receive weekly Erev Shabbat text messages on our What’s App group, we share articles of interest and continue to find ways to support one another’s agencies. Our trip activated this newfound energy that has bonded us together. When we see each other at a community event or run into each other at the gym at the MJCCA, we embrace. We are linked to one another. I personally miss being together in Israel and look forward to small reunions as we work together to support Israel and make Atlanta stronger and better.
Richard Kaplan, President, Congregation Shearith Israel
It’s hard to believe our incredible journey occurred almost a year ago. During that amazing week, I began to comprehend and better understand the various parts of our growing community, gaining respect for the diverse passions and views of my fellow Atlanta Jews. Since then, I feel more respectful and open to views and passions that differ from mine. One thing became clear from our time together: what a wonderful, committed and exciting Jewish Community we have in the metro area. The potential for what we can accomplish together is almost unlimited!
Rabbi Ari Leubitz, Head of School, Atlanta Jewish Academy
Following the Israel trip, it has been meaningful to have the support of my fellow community Leaders. It was great to host them at the school for events and tours, including the Rabbinic leaders who joined their young congregants here at AJA for lunch. When we opened the doors of our new Minsk Gymnasium, we were honored to have many of these leaders in attendance, along with ongoing mutual support through email and social media. We have also met with two of the partner organizations to discuss possible strategic alliances. It’s rewarding to me that the hard work and brit from the trip has continued here in Atlanta.
Deborah Maslia, Board Chair & Harley Tabak, CEO Jewish Home Life Communities
We continue to work with different organizations as we further develop programming at JHLC, both at the operational and board levels. These partnerships definitely are stronger, and were created more quickly, due to the time we spent in Israel getting to know our Atlanta colleagues. Certainly, the relationships formed cemented trust that is essential for joint programs. Examples of continued partnerships include AgeWell and joint programming specifically with JF&CS for seniors needing services from both organizations. Lastly, as we create our new JHLC Advisory Board, many of our founding members come from relationships formed on our trip to Israel!
Eric Robbins, President & CEO, Federation
The brit sits pinned next to my desk as I reference it constantly. It has reminded me the importance of communication, making a call before acting on an assumption, bringing all perspectives to the table when working on challenging topics. I think the culture of our community is becoming one where we trust each other better and are beginning to operate as an ecosystem with a more collective agenda. We have a ways to go, but I think the experience in Israel set us in the right direction and the brit has helped us to create some rules of the road.
Rabbi Adam Starr, Young Israel of Toco Hills
In a large diverse Jewish community like ours in Atlanta, relationships among our leaders is key. The Israel trip enabled us as leaders to get to know one another personally, so that when an issue comes up in the community we have the connection and mutual respect to work through it together.