Lisa Lisser is a longtime GMW lay leader. Currently VP of Education for Women's Philanthropy and Board education chair, she is also the incoming deputy chair of the Kedma platform of Global Connections which supports our vision for shared society. Traveling in Israel for a Wexner alumni summit, she spent a day meeting with Greater MetroWest partners across the spectrum of our shared society work, from religious pluralism to Arab and Israeli joint projects. Here is a letter describing her visit.
Shalom from Eretz Yisrael. I had a wonderful visit with Amir, Michal, and many of our partners that showed the real power of our Kedma platform. It both inspires me and gives me great pride to see the work we do with incredible partners on this side of the ocean through our vision of Kedma.
My first meeting demonstrated the power of women in all the work we do. Around the table sat Michal Barkai Brody, who will be leading the proposed Women’s Empowerment retreat for young women in our partner communities. Michal has designed this program to train these women toward self-reliance, Jewish inspiration and community leadership. Next to her, sat Yael Racov, Israeli Lion of Judah and chair of the Alpha Fund for economic development in Israel. Yael told us about a project in Ofakim, that a group of high school students, girls participated in in which they designed and built a nanosatellite that went into space from the Kennedy Space Center just before Pesach. Ruthie Saragosti was there; she is the director of Rashut Harabim, which is receiving our flagship grant from Religious Pluralism for developing a hub for women’s empowerment in Jerusalem hosting women’s groups from secular and Haredi communities. Beside Ruthie was Esti, a Haredi woman who is working to empower Haredi women to find their voices. Esti began her journey by writing for a Haredi newspaper – only she had to write under a man’s name. And then there was Afaf, a Druse woman from Horfeish who is leading the women’s empowerment project there. Hopefully, Afaf will be bringing a group of Druse women to GMW to meet us and share their stories and their lace making. Of course, my partner in P2G Renewal was there as well, Dalia Yosef. Dalia will take on the role of chair of the International Steering committee for P2G. Such incredible women! This powerful roundtable will become a place to share ideas, strengthen each other, and build Israel from the inside out. I was so proud to be amongst these women who are change makers and whom I call my friends.
We visited the Hagar School in the Negev in which Arab and Jewish Israeli children learn together. The student body is 50 percent Jewish Israeli and 50 percent Arab. We visited on Yom HaShoah. It was remarkable to see the huge poster in the lobby of the school which said “remember” in both Hebrew and Arabic. This school is teaching not simply tolerance, but acceptance and friendship and the concept that multicultural learning in Hebrew and Arabic can only strengthen the Israel as a nation.
Our next visit was to Ofakim to participate in a Youth Futures Steering Committee meeting. The Steering Committee consists of educators who partner with the Trustees, and who care deeply about seeing their struggling students get to the next level. We heard about Baby Youth Futures, which will be an immersion program from a much younger age and will impact the whole family. We saw a video which displayed all of our partner Youth Futures communities and truly blew me away in terms of the numbers of communities we touch.
Back in Beer Sheva, we visited Bina, the secular yeshiva in the heart of the old city, the hip new place to hang out. We studied with students who chose to do their year of service by exploring their Jewish identity. One of the girls we met was a graduate of the Eilat Diller Teen Leadership program. She said that after completing Diller, the only type of program she would look for was one that would help her explore her Jewish soul. We learned together with Simon and Noga, the Rosh Yeshiva and the director of the school.
I ended the day with coffee with Tal Morag, and my friends who have completed Peoplehood Project cohorts 1 and 2. All of us are now volunteers and leaders in our respective communities. Additionally, two graduates of the Peoplehood Project were on the Steering Committee of Youth Futures. The programs we are funding and developing are changing lives every day, inspiring vision and new leaders.