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Thoughts on My Way to Israel

I’m writing to you on my way to Israel, where I’ll meet with our partners and look at how we can make an even greater impact on Israel’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

We all should be proud of our impact on Israel’s past, present and future. Our community played an important role in the establishment of the State of Israel and the rescue and absorption of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, including Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.

Today, through our powerful partnerships with the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) and Unistream, we have taken on the challenges faced by Israelis of all backgrounds dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and work to help young Israelis living in Israel’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods gain the skills they need to succeed.

We continue to send hundreds of young people to Israel — from sixth-graders to young couples. Most everyone knows about our partnership with Birthright Israel and our highly successful School Twinning Program. But have you heard about MASA, which includes hundreds of extended programs in Israel? Or Onward, which is a very successful internship program that provides young adults in our community to live, work, and study in Israel? Or Honeymoon Israel, which brings young couples to Israel to explore the Jewish state, their relationships, Judaism, and the role it will play in their lives when they return and start their families.

Next week, after my meetings with our partners in Israel on behalf of our Federation, I will help open several Unistream Centers, including four in Jerusalem with Mayor Nir Barkat. I will also meet with leadership from the Ministry of Education to explore how we can make our School Twinning Program even more effective and spend time with 80 Honeymoon Israel participants.

Closer to home, last week, I was doing an errand at The Grove and a woman approached me to talk about my podcast, Jay’s Four Questions. She detailed my conversations with comedian Bob Saget, Olympic Gold Medalist Lenny Krayzelberg, and Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, and she had just listened to my podcast with Congressman Adam Schiff. Although she admitted that “he is too liberal for me,” she appreciated the intentional diversity of guests. I told her to tune in to this week’s guest, Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief David Suissa, and suggested she stay tuned for upcoming guests: national talk show host and author Dennis Prager, New Orleans chef Alon Shaya, Food and Wine and Top Chef’s Gail Simmons, and Rabbi Steve Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. She shouted “babka,” as we walked towards our cars.

I hope you’re one of the thousands who are listening. If not, this weekend is a good time to catch up! Our podcast is available on whichever platform you choose! Find it on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Soundcloud, or Stitcher. Full episodes are also available on our website.

I look forward to writing you more upon my return.

Thanks for always reading (and listening)!

Shabbat Shalom,

Jay Sanderson
President & CEO

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