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In just two days Passover will be here, a holiday that invites us to explore all the ways we are still striving for freedom in our lives and community and ways we can bridge our differences to enable this to become more of a reality in the future.
One bridge we have been building is the Ruderman Fellows program which wrapped up last week. Now in its second year, the program, in partnership with Brandeis University, brings members of Knesset from across the political spectrum to the US for an intensive week of meetings with many top leaders in the fields of government, academia and the organized Jewish world. The goal: to send these Israeli policy-makers home with a new understanding of their American cousins and the reality of what it means to be Jewish in America today.
In back-to-back briefings, panels, site visits and meetings in New York and Boston, the Knesset members heard from the top leadership of the organized Jewish community and some of the brightest stars in academia, as well as senators, congressmen and mayors. Busy people all, they nonetheless took the time to share their experiences, passions and insights with the Israeli leaders, painting a composite portrait of the current state of American Jewry.
And the message got through. As Ruderman Fellow MK Leah Shemtov of the Yisrael Beteinu Party put it, “Especially during these times when anti-Semitism is on the rise all over the world, the encounter with American Jewish community representatives from all religious and political streams revealed that the security and future of the state of Israel remains among their top priorities.” As she and the other Ruderman Fellows learned directly from so many American leaders, “this exposure is certain to strengthen the ties and cooperation between our two countries.”
By emphasizing both the differences in the difficulties we face and, at the end of the day, the core values we share, we are able to move forward to face the challenges with a deeper sense of optimism, understanding and shared dreams for the future.
Here are two more of the MK’s observations: “This initiative was an in-depth, intensive and fascinating program. We now have a broader understand of the American Jewish community and the challenges they face.” — Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Ofir Akunis (Likud)
“The first-hand encounters and honest dialogue with a broad spectrum of leaders and representatives, and the sincere efforts of the organizers and the Ruderman Foundation helped us explore the realities and contributed to a deeper knowledge and understanding of the American Jewish community.” – Raleb Majadele (Labor)
On behalf of myself and the entire Ruderman Family Foundation, I’d like to wish all our readers a wonderful, meaningful Passover and, for those of you who celebrate Easter, a delightful holiday of your own.
— Jay Ruderman