Hakhel Newsletter: November 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities,

In this week’s parsha, we read the famous story of two brothers, Jacob and the elder Esau, sons of Isaac. Jacob convinces Esau to sell him his birthright in exchange for a pot of lentil stew, and under advisement from his mother, Rebecca, he tricks his father into believing that he is Esau by dressing in furs in order to resemble his hairy brother, thus gaining his father’s blessing for his firstborn.

Strife in families – never mind in communities! – rings quite realistically, from historically until the present day. We all have many types of people in our communities, from hunters and scholars, to mothers and fathers, and a whole range of emotions, from jealousy and rivalry to hate, loyalty and love, are present at any given moment. How do you accommodate the needs of such a parade of humanity in your own community? How do you solve conflicts that arise in the community, from minor grievances to those frightful moments where, as Esau did after this incident, members want to kill (figuratively and literally) each other?

The fact that these familiar and complicated community issues are discussed in the Torah may offer us a sense of being “seen” as community leaders and suggest compassion, towards our community members and towards ourselves as the stewards of the work of relationship-building. We may also be able to share stories and feel bolstered in our community-building work at several opportunities Hakhel is convening starting this coming month, including the Hakhel Creative Gatherings Trip to South Africa, the Z3 Delegation to Palo Alto, and the Hakhel Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition Community of Practice. Read more on them below. Wishing the participants good luck in your adventures!


Deborah Fishman, Hakhel Network Manager

This month, Hakhel’s Network Manager Deborah Fishman sat down with Tamar Levi, shlicha (emissary) of Habonim Dror North America (HDNA), a progressive Labor Zionist youth movement. She is based in Philadelphia, USA. HDNA’s mission is to build a personal bond and commitment between North American Jewish youth and the State of Israel, and to create Jewish leaders who will actualize the principles of social justice, equality, peace, and coexistence in Israel and North America. 

Tell us in a few words about your community and what is special about it.

Our community that is participating in Hakhel is made up of members and recent graduates of Habonim Dror North America, a youth movement that has been operating for over 90 years. One thing that makes it really unique is the way that our community impacts the larger Jewish community, in two ways. First, our members work for youth movement camps and activities, and so they help youth build Jewish identity from a young age. Second, members take their experience and apply it to becoming leaders in the Jewish community and to doing outreach and social justice activism. I think the emphasis on community that you experience as a child in the movement makes us unique. People are also strongly emotionally connected to our movement, as are people who grew up in our summer camps.

How is Judaism part of your community’s life and identity?

Trying to figure out how to make Judaism alive for young people is one of the specific missions of our community. Every time there’s a drop-down list and we have to choose our stream of Jewish practice, our community members say that the way they celebrate holidays and talk about Judaism and their connection doesn’t fit into any of the streams talked about in the American Jewish community. We celebrate Judaism culturally, not in the sense of “bagels-and-lox Jews,” but we are passionate about engaging with Jewish history, values, and ethics, plus like everybody else, we love a good Shabbat dinner.

As an example of our form of Judaism, our Vancouver community did a “Spook-ot” Halloween-Sukkot event, where they talked about being Jewish in the non-Jewish society around them. They connected Sukkot with the indigenous struggles in Canada. In this way, we bring elements of our world into life and understand them through a Jewish lens.

What is Hakhel’s added value for your community? In what ways does being part of a global network benefit you?

It’s really awesome for our members to see that there are other people that identify with their value sets and what’s important to them and to be part of an organization that’s focused on Jewish communal living. They are in their 20s, and for them to see multi-generational community and people older than them still invested in these values is really important to them – likewise for them to see communities in Israel. The more exposure they get to Hakhel communities can help them round out their own vision of where they’re going.

What is one takeaway or lesson from your work that you would like to share?

I think that people are really searching for community. They have a hard time figuring out how to navigate between individual desires and being part of a community. The population I work with wants community, but they aren’t always sure how much to invest in it, because it seems fleeting, especially in the world of COVID and climate change where nothing feels stable.

Community is 100% dependent on how much you put into it, but it’s hard to make that leap of investment when you’re young and without knowing where it’s going to go. So the biggest challenge is to build communities where people understand that the more they invest in it, the more it will make the community sustainable and long-lasting.

Hakhel Communities are invited to join the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition!

We are proud to announce that Hakhel will be convening a “Community of Practice” in the framework of the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition, a collective of Jewish community organizations who recognize the existential threat and moral urgency of climate change and are committed to taking action.

Your community is encouraged to register for the Hakhel Community of Practice of the Coalition.  As Coalition members, you will be developing a Climate Action Plan, detailing climate actions taken to-date and outlining your goals for reducing your greenhouse gas emissions and mobilizing the broader Jewish community in climate action in the coming year. You will update and publicly share your Climate Action Plan annually.

The global climate crisis is an historic inflection point for our planet, our communities, and our people. Jewish tradition compels us to respond. With 140 communities in 36 countries across the globe, we are poised to have an impact in the movement.  Over the past three weeks I hosted informational meetings, spread across time zones to hear from you about how this initiative can best serve your communities.  With this feedback in hand our next step is to build our community of practice to launch in January 2024.

To learn more about this initiative, visit hazon.org/coalition. To sign up for the Hakhel Community of Practice, you or the appropriate contact from your community should fill out this form.


Israeli Election Zoom Meeting – Thursday, December 1 @ 2pm ET

Our communities from around the world are seeking an opportunity both to understand the Israeli election results better, and to voice their thoughts on the matter. Many are concerned about the impact the new government might have on the Israel-world Jewry relationship in general and on Israel engagement in Jewish communities around the world.

To meet this need, we would like to invite you to attend a special Zoom meeting that will take place on Thursday, December 1st, 9:00-10:00 PM in Israel, 2:00-3:00 PM ET. This program is open to all members of the Hakhel network, and we especially would love to see our Israeli friends in attendance. Your voice is important in this dialogue.

Please save the date and RSVP to moshe.samuels@hazon.org


Many thanks to Hakhel for the opportunity to share our creation with you!

My name is Inbal, headmistress of “Ivritli,” an online Hebrew language school. I’m proud and excited to tell you that this is the 3rd year that the virtual gates of our school are open for students from all over the world!

As a mother to a child who was born in Barcelona, I am closely familiar with the need to learn and improve the Hebrew language for those who reside outside of Israel. Knowing the holidays and the Israeli culture is important to me. Therefore, alongside my business partner, Mila Dori, we established a school that will provide the best conditions to fulfill this goal.

Together with our pedagogical team we prepared original, creative and enjoyable programs for all ages and levels, as early as 3 years old to groups of adult learners.

We also have groups for those who do not speak Hebrew, groups that are designed to enrich the language, elementary reading, writing and diving into complex and rich texts. Each group embarks on a magical and fascinating journey, guided by our experienced teachers, to discover the depths of the Hebrew language. The subjects learned are custom design for the different age groups so the students always want to learn more and more. At the same time, students from all over the world are bonding with each other and the Hebrew language is associated with enjoyment and pleasure.

In addition to our classes, every month we uphold enrichment activities which make the student’s experience whole and build strong connections with the Israeli culture and the

Hebrew language. We celebrate the holidays together, watch plays, listen to stories and

music, cook together and we have sessions to practice Hebrew and more. All the activities are for Ivritli’s students, free of charge, and for all those who desire to take part.

Visit our website: www.ivritli.com. You are welcome to get to know us, our methods and our various programs. On the website you could sign up for a trial class, without any commitments. Those who are interested can book an online consultation session (via Zoom) with me, in which I’ll tell you about the school and if you want to, we could schedule a trial class. Just click here to book a session

Visit our Facebook page and on Instagram: https://www.facebook.com/ivritli / @ivritli

We wish you a wonderful year, full of Israeli culture and boundless friendship!


Inbal Gilad


Hakhel Creative Gatherings in South Africa

We are so excited that the Hakhel Creative Gatherings Trip is finally happening!

The program will run November 28 – December 5 in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Through the support of Hakhel and the Shalom Corps, the gathering will include participants from the Hakhel network from all around the world, as well as local participants from South African communities, namely 9th Street and Creative Gatherings. 

The content of the program will be a twofold approach of identity and cultural exploration as well as volunteering culminating in a performance showcase at the end of the program at the site where participants will be volunteering daily called the Creative Arts Space. This is a local arts community in Freedom Park, Soweto whose members turned a dumping ground into a safe space for community members and especially children to develop their craft in arts, music, engineering, science, etc.

Furthermore, throughout the tour participants will explore the South African context by visiting museums, the local Jewish community and ask reflective questions relating to Israel, diaspora relations, the environment and concepts such as the South African Rainbow Nation and the Israel Mosaic. 

Hakhel wishes all the participants a meaningful experience!


Global Training Seminars

Over the last week, Hakhel joined forces with its global partners to run two exciting training seminars:

Last weekend Hakhel’s Michal Guttman led the community building professional training at the European conference of Israeli communities, held in Amsterdam. This was somewhat an historic event, as both Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and the World Zionist Organization joined forces to support Israeli communities outside Israel.
Between Sunday and Tuesday, Hakhel’s Gabe Freund and Aharon Ariel Lavi attended the LaunchPad retreat in Australia (just outside of Sydney), in collaboration with the Australian Jewish Funders. This retreat brought together some 70 exceptional leaders from across Australia, for their first in-person gathering in three years. Hakhel provided, as usual, some groundbreaking and inspiring training on community building, and together with AJF we are now thinking how to take this network forward in 2023.


From December 8-11, representatives from Hakhel communities worldwide will gather in Palo Alto, California as a delegation in an inaugural partnership between Hakhel, The Varda Institute for Community Building, and Z3. Each of these organizations brings forth its specialty to enhance the experience of deep Jewish community building, with Israel-Diaspora relations and peoplehood as key factors in the community’s evolution.

The delegation will learn about the models, approaches, and methodologies of all three partner organizations, culminating in the Z3 conference on December 11. Members of the delegation will learn, share and discuss ways to bring the conversation about Israel-Diaspora connection and Zionism to Jewish communities worldwide, in a way that embeds community-building principles. With outtakes from the seminar and the Z3 conference, a model for Z3-inspired programs will be developed, strengthening the community’s shared identity and supporting its development. Hakhel communities will be invited to pilot such programs in their communities. 


Ruderman Family Foundation Releases New Research Report on Jewish Community Engagement

The Ruderman Family Foundation recently released a new research report, “The American Jewish Community: Trends and Changes in Engagement and Perceptions.” The report is based on surveys conducted on American Jews in 2019 and 2021, regarding Jewish identity, community organizations and institutions, and Israel. The slides shown above are from a meeting presenting the results of the research. You will note that the Strategic Conclusions are quite relevant to the work of Hakhel, which engages unaffiliated young adults in a grassroots way. The research backs up our own observations in the field that community and its potential impact on Jewish identity is only growing in importance following the COVID pandemic and events of the last few years.

Click here for the full report.