“…this first week together was already so enriching for me with all the new thoughts that all of you have put in my mind. I am really glad to be part of this cohort. I am looking forward to our projects and to the next meeting in Israel very soon.”
— Alexandra Nozik, 26, an emerging leader in TAMAR in Germany
Alexandra Nozik and 12 other young Reform Jews from around the world spent the last day of 2019 at URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, GA, where they heard from Director Bobby Harris about his vision for Reform Jewish camping. Their visit was the first of three different week-long intensives in the newly-launched cohort of the Klal Yisrael fellowship, a 10-month program designed to empower young adults in the Reform Movement around the world to realize their collective capacity to effect change inspired by the progressive Jewish values that unite our worldwide movement.
A partnership among the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), Klal Yisrael is made possible by generous funding from Betty and Arthur Roswell, who have been lifelong champions of global Reform Judaism. The participants are divided among the URJ the IMPJ, and the WUPJ, and their geographic diversity continues to grow. This year’s cohort comprises fellows from several new places, including Mississippi in the U.S., Kiryat Shmona in the north of Israel, South Africa, and Brazil.
As part of the kick-off seminar, an immersive experience in Atlanta’s Jewish community, the fellows met local Reform and other communal Jewish leaders, dove into topics including Judaism and social justice, and experienced the welcoming embrace of local Reform congregations and their young adult communities.
As a Reform Movement initiative, the program seeks to develop the meaning of “klal yisrael” – the Jewish collective – in the most inclusive sense. In Atlanta, this cohort of new fellows was inspired and challenged to consider their own part in realizing this vision through the people they met and the workshops and sessions professional staff from various organizations co-created with them.
For example, the seminar began with a hands-on exposure to young adult community-building as the fellows lit Hanukkah candles and made latkes with a Moishe House group. With Rabbi Lydia Medwin, director of congregational engagement and outreach at The Temple, the oldest Reform congregation in Atlanta, the fellows delved into exploring relational Judaism as the organizing principle for creating meaningful Jewish life in an ever-dividing world.
Also during the week the fellows took a a civil rights walking tour with Billy Planer, founder of Etgar 36, whose experiential program encourages and empowers teens to engage politically and socially to create change in the world. Fittingly, the week-long seminar wound down with Shabbat at two Reform congregations – The Temple and Temple Sinai – where Rabbi Sam Kaye and Rabbi Samantha Shabman, respectively, welcomed the fellows into communal worship and programming with each congregation’s young adults.
In March, the cohort will reconvene in Israel and then come together for the closing seminar this August in Europe. As the program seeks to have greater effect each year, this group is building a platform that will ensure increased global interconnectivity as the members implement their projects.
Visit URJKlalYisrael.org to learn more about the fellows and their unique backgrounds. For additional information or specific questions, email Rabbi Reuven Greenvald, the URJ’s Israel engagement director.
Originally published in Union for Reform Judaism website.