A collaboration between the Sapir Center and Gesher aimed at encouraging influencers and public opinion leaders from a variety of Israeli social sectors to create programs and projects that promote bonds between different parts of society.

The program seeks to encourage the graduates of the Gesher Leadership Institute – approx. 280 influential people from all spheres of society – to create diverse programs that reinforce the bonds between Jews from different sectors of Israeli society.

The project is based on the assumption that the graduates’ activity in their field of influence and expertise will produce projects that are adapted to the target audience, will increase the scope of influence, and will expand the circles of discussion and connections between different social sectors and groups.

Goals

  1. To increase the scope of the projects and initiatives aimed at connecting different sectors.
  2. To expand the circles of Jewish Israelis from different sectors who encounter others in meetings that change mutual perceptions.
  3. To encourage Gesher leadership graduates to be active in their circles of influence with the aim of connecting Jews from different backgrounds in Israel.

Target Audience

The program’s target audience are the Gesher Leadership Institute graduates’ spheres of influence and belonging. The Institute strives to create connections between the different sectors of the Jewish People, both in Israel and in the Diaspora (in government, the media, education, the army and police, academia, culture, and others). This is achieved by fostering and training leaders and influential figures in Israel, and by promoting projects they lead within their circle of influence.

Results

Some of the projects created by graduates as part of the program:

Connecting Identities among Ministry of Education Staff

a series of meetings of senior Ministry of Education employees from diverse backgrounds and possessing a range of different identities, with the aim of understanding the unique needs of different identities, reaching agreement over common points and different ways of life, and developing an inclusive and joint modus operandi.

Midrash Yonati

a project based on the work of Israeli composer and musician Meir Ariel that combines in-depth study groups examining the content and ideas of Ariel's work and cultural events for the general public. The project is aimed at studying and discussing different Jewish identities within Israeli society and at conducting a dialogue between them.

Shevet Achim

meetings between university-level students from different sectors of Israeli society that enable the participants to get to know "others", examine preconceptions, and develop a more complex viewpoint. Concurrent with the study and social encounter, each group also develops a group project.

'Movilot'

a community of secular and traditionalist ('Masorati') women mentors for the 'Movilot' program – a program for Ultra-Orthodox women that includes a core program for vocational excellence and a professional-social network of leading women professionals.

Jewish-Israeli Identity in MANHI (Jerusalem Educational Administration)

– seminars for teams of supervisors and facilitators of the Youth and Society Administration in Jerusalem districts that address Jewish-Israeli identity and familiarity with the different movements within Judaism. The seminars emphasized work practices and analyzed specific educational cases related to these issues.

Developing and Assimilating Educational Tools in SAHI (Special Grace Unit)

development of a program to enhance the knowledge of the SAHI guides and coordinators about the Israeli Ethiopian community, while developing practicable educational tools and assimilating them within the organization. SAHI works with at-risk youth and "recruits" them for Chesed units in their own neighborhoods.

'Family Meetings from Afar'

a project operating throughout the past year of the Covid crisis, that sought to strengthen connections between families from different sectors of the population by inviting them to a respite from the long hours of lockdown, thereby reinforcing their sense of belonging and mutual responsibility. The structured sessions were aimed at enabling joint parents-children activity. Two families from differing backgrounds participated in each Zoom meeting led by a facilitator.

'Next Door' Campaign

the 'Onlife' website and the National Council for Volunteering in Israel founded by the State of Israel and the 'Joint', created an awareness campaign aimed at proposing ways for people to assist needy elderly or disabled neighbors living 'next door', especially during the COVID crisis. The campaign seeks to strengthen bonds between different generations and sectors.

Two Minorities Equal More

Connecting women leaders from two minority groups: Ultra-Orthodox and the Israeli Ethiopian Jewish community. The meetings, conducted via Zoom, were held during the Covid crisis and out of a feeling that the undermining of daily life constitutes an opportunity for direct one-on-one meetings that can diminish the stereotypical or racist perceptions between the two groups. Each pair of participants was asked to prepare a video clip about their meeting.

A Connected City

On the 70th anniversary of the city of Bet Shemesh, the mayor – a Gesher Leadership Institute fellow – led a project promoting dialogue between the city's various communities. 35 dialogue meetings were conducted in private homes throughout the city, in which participants met to converse, to hear a lecture, or to study together with someone from a different community. Approximately 500 people participated in these meetings and the project's celebratory final event was held at the President's Residence.

Shabbat in the Community

The Meitarim organization recently held a 'Mixed Communities Shabbat', to celebrate their diversity along the secular-religious spectrum and to seek ways in which the Shabbat can become a uniting factor rather than one of division. During the Shabbat, community members met each other, and an 'Oneg Shabbat', joint meals and study sessions were held. Twenty three communities participated in the project, most of them from Meitarim. The Shabbat experiences and conclusions will be developed into a model for a community dialogue Shabbat.