by Leora Ezrachi-Vered, 2012 Threshold Fellow
Growing up in the Reform Movement in Israel I’ve found a community at nearly every time of my life. These communities and activities enabled me over the years to find an outlet for my beliefs, social activities and creating social change. As a child and a teenager it was easier and what we wanted was clearer. In creating the next stage of community I was happy to find Threshold, a program and a group of peers who can help me hone my vision while opening my eyes to other wonderful projects and ventures, finding inspiration through other peoples success and challenges.
Shonim is all about finding that next community, the next phase of changing Israeli society and creating a home for young adults who either grew up in the Reform Movement in Israel, are drawn to its ideals and values as young adults or who grew up Reform in the Diaspora and are now looking for a new liberal, Jewish home in Israel. It is not one program but an umbrella organization of many small programs and activities that are geared toward young adults in the Reform movement in Israel.
How do we do it? Shonim as a venture and young adults as a social group are all about choice, accountability and taking action. Besides offering existing programs like Tnufa, Beit Midrash Baderech and the summer Yeshiva, Shonim is creating a young adults community and Ammuta (non-profit organization).
Working with young adults in Israel is all about meeting them where they are and with what they are interested in. Some of them want to work in a meaningful educational environment. Some want to study Jewish texts in a liberal, Reform context. Most want to socialize and have Jewish communal experiences while others want to engage in social activism.
And that’s what Shonim is doing- offering as many options as we can. First of all we are creating a national young adults community (NPO) that is led by volunteers who want to create activities for the target group. Our steering committee has recently met and we are busy building a startup plan, creating national activities and local activities in Beer Sheva, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that include prayer, study and Shabbat dinner (Likrat Shabbat), Beit Midrash and social networking.
We are also offering different programs: “Tnufa”, a training program for young adults in the early stages of their professional live is already being run by the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. “Beit Midrash Baderech”, a program that combines agricultural work in the Arava with Jewish study and community building is already organizing its third group. This summer we will launch a summer Yeshiva program in early August. The first young adult’s newsletter has already been sent out and we are working on the next.
We are only in the beginning of Shonim and it is already clear that it will be bigger and more complex than we think it is.
Hopefully, Shonim will help bring Israeli society to be a more religiously pluralistic and tolerant society and will make on impact on the next generation of Jewish leaders.
Leora Ezrachi-Vered was born in Jerusalem to an American mother and an Israeli father. She grew up in the Israeli Reform Movement and after many years of moving up the ranks is now the National Director of the Reform youth movement. Leora was an education officer in the I.D.F. (tank unit) and a Madricha and volunteer coordinator for the Mechina in Jaffa. She has a B.A. in Jewish History and is pursuing an M.A. in the same field. Leora has been a counselor for the Reform movement in Israel, the U.K, Belarrusia, Ukraine and Russia. She is married and has a baby boy, Eitan.