Shir Hadash Communities Project
What is the mission and purpose of this program?
The Shir Hadash Communities
Project strives to bring the English speaking Israeli community
together with other Israeli communities for opportunities of conversation and
engagement. The project aims to create a time and space to reflect on what
insights and experiences various groups have brought with them to Israel
through the often chaotic process of the in-gathering of the exiles that we
have experienced over the past century. One goal of the project is to help
English speaking olim break out of the sometimes monolithic social bubble they
can find themselves in in Jerusalem by creating points of contacts with other
communities through organized joint discussions and activities. A related goal
is that by gaining knowledge and nurturing appreciation of other groups within
Israel society the project will work to trigger deeper consideration of the
particular values, commitments, and qualities various English speaking
communities have brought with them to Israel as well. This second goal pushes
up against the cultural phenomenon of seeing many Israeli groups as possessing
valuable cultural heritages, while not always affording this recognition to
English speaking communities. Indeed pursuing encounters with others for its
own sake, often produces knowledge of the self which will then be pondered
through follow-up processes also included in the project's activities.
In the pilot year (2019-2020) the project aims to plan and implement at least 5 events that allow Anglo-Jerusalemites to engage with different communities, learn from them, and thereby be changed in how they move through Israeli society. While the majority of the communities in the project will be Jewish (e.g. Ethiopian Israelis, Iraqi Israelis, French Israelis, Russian Israelis etc.), about 1 in 5 meetings will be with non-Jewish communities in Israel to reflect the need and opportunity to engage with all Israeli communities from all backgrounds.
The project will be housed in Shir Hadash's new facility which was built for their early childhood center. In order to maximize its usage, this beautiful building will hopefully also house SH's synagogue and be utilized further for other programming as well. The location of the new facility is on the edge of the "chorsha" in Talbia, which offers an inspiring view and premises for creating these chances for new and deeper human connection. Through developing understandings and relationships it is hoped that the Shir Hadash communities project will contribute to the unique role Jerusalem can play as the center of the Jewish world. Further, through creating these opportunities for interaction, reflection will take place, new connections will emerge, and new collaborations between the diverse communities of Israel will be fostered.
Our experience working with Anglo-olim for the past 20 years has demonstrated to us the challenge that this community sometimes faces in integrating into broader Israeli society. Often a blessing, the wide spread use of English enables Anglophone Israelis to function within English speaking circles without having to venture out into other cultural and social arenas. This softening of the landing in Israel however, should be supplemented with activities that enable English Speaking olim to engage with other parts of Israeli society to not only enrich their own lives and experiences, but also enable them to share with others all that they have to offer.
While the Communities Project has not yet begun, its host organization Shir Hadash (SH) has a track record to prove that it can serve as a hub for English speaking olim, with members ranging in age from those in the gan yaladim to senior citizens, yielding opportunities for exciting inter-generational inter-cultural interaction. In terms of bringing the English speaking community in dialogue with other communities this has taken place in SH over the past two decades through its successful spiritual diplomacy program in which member of the synagogue have interacted with thousands of people from around the world who have come to visit Israel and put getting to know Jewish Israelis at SH on their itinerary. For example, Shir Hadash has hosted delegations of political, social, and religious leaders through groups such at the Telos Group and the America-Israel Friendship League-- including for instance memorable experiences with delegations of Muslim leaders from Indonesia who came to services and Friday night dinner and surprised us at the end with a rendition of hatikva. Similarly, learning sessions with Rabbi Ian Pear have become a mainstay of the Mennonite missions that brings students and pastors to Israel every few months. While outward facing dialogue projects have been extremely enriching for the community we believe it is important to now turn inwards to the other Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Israel and begin working on this domestic frontier.
How do you measure the success of your program?
We plan to measure success by the extent of involvement of a wide cross section of English speaking Israelis in the activities of the project through promoting and attending events, as well as being involved in follow up activities online and in person. Additionally, we plan on assessing the extent of the network that has been created, the grassroots interest and support that has developed, the web and social media presence and activity, and in the impact of the project on Jerusalem and the joint ventures taken on by those who have come together through the project (magnifier/ripple effects).