Atidim, Hebrew for “futures,” is a focused initiative to educate and instill students temporarily in Israel about the importance of Jewish and Israel activism as they transition from their adolescent communities into their academic and professional spheres of influence.
The supervising organisation for Atidim is the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS). WUJS is a vibrant, global, representative, cross-communal and respected peer-led movement of Jewish students that has developed, over its 90 years, an unparalleled network of educators, global politicians, and diplomatic relationships with preeminent international government organizations and NGOs.
What is the mission and purpose of this program?
The mission of Atidim is to be the catalyst for early involvement in university and civic engagement with regards to matters affecting the Jewish community. Existing organizations enter the picture once students are already on campus, hoping to create activists in a tense environment. Atidim is preemptive activism, which will invariably lead to a more effective and impactful Jewish leadership, with our students exemplifying the fostering of unity of Jewish students campuswide.
We aim to fill the gap and respond to the challenges in Jewish activism on university campuses - namely, a gross lack of preparation for rising hostility against Israel and Judaism.
We seek to create the most innovative pre-campus Jewish leadership development program - an incubator for Jewish student activism in the Diaspora. Participants will fuse their experience living in Israel with important skills to take back to their university campuses upon their return.
We anticipate that 100% of our participants will go on to leadership positions in their Jewish student communities upon their return to university, with a growing network of contacts that they can depend on to create a safe and vibrant campus life for Jewish students.
Atidim is a pre-campus leadership training fellowship for young people spending their gap year in Israel. Graduates of the programme will become the first cohort of Atidim Fellows. The course is set to commence in September 2016, with three mornings and a shabbaton spread over three months. Atidim will provide the fellows with the leadership skills and tools to become successful, empowered leaders on college campuses upon their return to the diaspora.
The sessions will cover important topics such as leadership, marketing, launching a big idea off the ground, Israel Advocacy, public speaking, diplomacy and Jewish education. Sessions will be presented by a mixture of seasoned student activists and guest speakers who are experts in their field. One of the mornings will take place in Knesset and will feature MK’s and senior government officials.
Atidim will be framed around two core values: Am Yisrael (Jewish peoplehood) and Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Lazeh (That all Jews are responsible for each other). The initial cohort of Atidim Fellows will be made up of 60 participants. The fellows will be drawn from 4 geographical regions; 15 from North America, 15 from Europe, 15 from South America and 15 from the Southern Hemisphere (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa).
Upon returning to campus at the end of their gap years, every fellow will be eligible to apply for a micro-grant (worth up to $250) to run follow up projects on their campuses or to be used for personal professional development. The follow-up projects are expected to be content-driven but can be focussed on any of the following areas: Judaism, Jewish peoplehood, Jewish education, social justice, Israel-engagement, interfaith or intercultural dialogue.
A special survey* in preparation for the 9th World Conference of JCCs revealed that JCC leaders around the world believe that their main challenge is to strengthen the connection of Jews to the Jewish People and the organized Jewish community. In a recent internal survey of past WUJS Congress** participants:
- 97% of respondents agreed that their experience attending WUJS Congress made them feel a greater sense of belonging to a global Jewish people.
- 94% of survey respondents agreed that their experience attending WUJS Congress increased their motivation to continue working with Jewish students.
It is a known fact that those young people who choose to spend their gap year in Israel before returning to study at university in the diaspora, often prove to be amongst the most active Jewish students on campus. WUJS has a proven track record of developing inspiring immersive experiences that fuel young Jews connection to the Jewish people. We believe that developing this program will inculcate a sense of Jewish peoplehood and mutual responsibility amongst a demographic who already have a huge potential to be active during their forthcoming college years.
**WUJS Congress is the flagship event of the World Union of Jewish Students - www.wujscongress.com
While there are gap year enrichment programmes, Atidim is a unique initiative in the the Jewish world, and will utilise the resources developed during the rich history of WUJS to catalyse the participants' engagement in Jewish student activism, through a lens of Jewish peoplehood.
How do you measure the success of your program?
We will measure the success of the fellowship using the following indicators.
How fellows feel they, themselves are progressing.
We will request feedback from the organisations or institutions running the programs that the fellows are participating on to see whether they are noticing a change in them.
Whether fellows are increasing their leadership activities and responsibilities. If they are increasing, how are they handling them.
We will assess whether there is an increase in activism in the communities fellows are returning to.