Madison Jewish Leaders Attend General Assembly in Israel

This year's General Assembly (GA), annually hosted by Jewish Federations of North America, brought together 3,000 Jewish leaders of diverse backgrounds to foster productive dialogue and debate. Attending from our community's leadership (pictured above left to right) was Jewish Federation of Madison executive committee members Joel Minkoff and Deborah Minkoff, Jewish Social Services of Madison executive director Kai Gardner-Mishlove, Edot Midwest Regional Jewish Diversity and Racial Justice Collaborative executive director Shahanna McKinney-Baldon, and Jewish Federation of Madison executive director Alan Klugman. The historic GA celebrated 75 years of partnership between North American Jewry and Israel and Jewish Federations' decades-long investment in building and supporting a flourishing Jewish state.Kai and Shahanna additionally participated in the Jewish Federations of North America's first-of-its-kind JEDI (Jewish Equity, Diversity & Inclusion) Leadership Mission to Israel for nearly 30 Jewish leaders of Color, which preceded the General Assembly. As the first mission to be curated and hosted by Jews of Color in Jewish Federation history, this experience aimed to deepen the participants' understanding of Israel's diverse society and connect them with racially and ethnically diverse leaders from across North America and Israel. During the mission, participants explored what it means to be Jewish as a multiracial and global people.Finding Inspiration and Pride during Challenging Times
By Alan Klugman, Executive Director, Jewish Federation of Madison

Like so many members of our local Jewish community, I've watched in pain as Israel struggled through weeks and weeks of political turmoil following the last election. As an American/Israeli dual citizen, I worried about close family members and friends, and the ramification of 16 weeks of demonstrations on their future.

It was with this trepidation in mind that I landed in Tel Aviv on April 21 to participate in meetings of the Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency for Israel, and the Jewish Federation system's annual General Assembly, held every five years in Israel. Joined by Jewish Federation of Madison past presidents (and current executive committee board members), Joel and Debbie Minkoff, and colleagues Kai Gardner-Mishlove, executive director of Jewish Social Services, and Shahanna McKinney-Baldon, executive director of Edot Midwest Regional Jewish Diversity and Racial Justice Collaborative, we wanted so badly to see something we could be inspired by.To be sure, Israelis are struggling to deal with this crisis, and hundreds of thousands of people have descended to the streets in protest for 17 weeks. It is one of the most difficult times Israel has experienced as a modern democracy, with the negative effects growing worse by the day. I marveled at the diversity of demonstration participants - young and old, Ashkenazi and Sephardic, straight and LGBTQ+, secular and modern Orthodox. Their passion for the future of Israel is overwhelming, and their devotion to the cause is inspiring on so many levels.

At the same time, I was beyond inspired by the work that continues every day, funded in part by our Annual Tzedakah Campaign. Hundreds of Ethiopian olim and thousands from Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine are welcomed to Israel. We spoke to young people participating in the MASA program run by The Jewish Agency for Israel – which provides them with Hebrew classes and professional guidance while deciding to make Aliyah.

Witnessing the passion, innovation, and strength of the Israeli people firsthand while at the GA reinforced the importance of our community’s contribution for me. The work we support to help vulnerable populations and pluralism day in and day out in Israel is inspiring. We should all be proud of the country that  Israel is and continues to be - and what our community’s commitment makes happen.Editorial Note: Alan attended his first Board of Governors meeting with The Jewish Agency for Israel as a newly elected member before the General Assembly. In this role, he will serve as a liaison between The Jewish Agency for Israel and the mid-size Federations and report on the outcome of two annual Board meetings. At the GA, Alan attended special sessions on "Celebrating Racial Diversity," "Religion and State @ 75," and "Trends in Shared Society."

More About the GA and JEDI

Federations promote dialogue, deepening engagement at General Assembly
FedBeat | April 24, 2023
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Israel at 75: How Israel's political crisis took center stage at a major American Jewish conference
Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) | April 27, 2023
Deborah Minkoff, Jewish Federation of Madison executive committee board member, lobbied to exclude all politicians, except for Israel's president, from the General Assembly stage in order to remain neutral. Attending sessions where anti-overhaul activists spoke and being in Israel for the conference gave her an opportunity to stand with the protesters. She believes that seeing Israelis fighting for democracy and equity is something our community can connect with. "As we articulate what it means to be a free, equitable, democratic society, I think it resonates with the community who has been critical of Israel in the past."
Read Article >

Federations Lead 1st JEDI Mission to Israel with 30 Jews of Color
FedBeat | May 4, 2023
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Jewish Federations' JEDI Initiatives exist to support the Jewish community in creating a culture of belonging for all Jews and their loved ones, and to advance a transformation in the North American consciousness amidst political divides by centering social/racial justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion with a Jewish lens.
Read more about the JEDI strategic framework >