Shep Englander — Strategic Initiatives
Honeymoons, Israel, and Punching Above Our Weight: The Scoop in February
I recently returned from Israel, where I was helping finalize a new strategic plan for Israel’s largest and most historic national nonprofit, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). Since we allocate funds every year from our annual campaign, I’m motivated to help JAFI get as much focus as possible.
But by happy coincidence, the timing overlapped with Cincinnati’s second Honeymoon Israel trip, a 10-day immersive journey that brought together twenty young couples, few of whom had previously been involved with Jewish organizations or congregations. The Jewish Foundation, Federation, and JCC partnered with Honeymoon Israel to subsidize and facilitate the experience. (Click here for a short video of the trip.)
The group carved out 15 minutes on Friday morning for me to hear about their experience. It was inspiring to hear how Honeymoon Israel is powering their Jewish journeys at exactly the right moment. One articulate participant said:
“The love, community, and family created on Honeymoon Israel is hard to describe. We all bonded by letting down our guard and opening up our hearts. We shared many experiences of culture, learning, landscapes, food, music, and fun with each other!… It’s the beginning of many more meaningful experiences with our new Jewish community and family we created on our journey!”
What made that day even more inspiring was a surprise engagement—our young adult director, Jaynie Levinson (who was co-leading the trip with Rabbi Shena Jaffee of the JCC). Jaynie was totally shocked by her boyfriend, who secretly flew to Israel, appeared alongside her at a beautiful park overlooking the Mediterranean just before Shabbat dinner, and proposed. Fortunately, she immediately accepted, and the whole group celebrated with her.
Cincinnati’s Got Community Relations Talent. For more than 80 years, our community has relied on the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) to be a leading voice for its public affairs concerns. The toxic state of today’s public discourse makes the JCRC’s job more difficult but even more important.
That’s why I’m proud that our JCRC is leading the nation in zeroing in on the common-denominator issues and demonstrating that it’s possible to take on tough issues and still be respectful and make room for a diversity of opinions. Top on our JCRC’s list is reducing antisemitism in ways that also reduce hate overall. The mission of the JCRC remains the same—to protect Jewish security, recognizing that Jewish security depends on a just society for all.
Our JCRC’s success in finding the right focus was recognized last week at the national conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), where our leaders’ contributions were oversized. JCRC Past President Walter Spiegel cochaired the entire national conference. JCRC President Ronna Greff Schneider lent her expertise on church/state issues during two standing-room-only sessions. We were proud to also be represented by Mark Barsman and Amy Susskind Weiskopf.
JCRC Director Jackie Congedo was asked to share the program our JCRC led last April—the Cincinnati Regional Summit on Antisemitism and Hate. She also cochaired this year’s JCRC Directors Association meeting for all JCRC directors across the country.
They wrapped up a busy few days with meetings on Capitol Hill with members of our Senate and House delegation: Senator Rob Portman, Senator Sherrod Brown, and staff of Rep. Steve Chabot and Rep. Brad Wenstrup.
Thanks for caring about our community and what we do.
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