The future generation of Zionist leadership is taking shape, thanks to a new initiative launched by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund in conjunction with the World Zionist Organization and other bodies: the establishment of a Zionist Leadership Academy, where fifty young leaders chosen from all over the world will study and prepare themselves, upon graduation, to assume significant roles in their communities and in KKL-JNF offices worldwide
“Connecting members of the young generation to Israel and recruiting them for Zionist and fund-raising activities for the benefit of the State of Israel is a meaningful challenge that KKL-JNF has been meeting for years,” said Shariel Gon
, Director of Resource Development at KKL-JNF, who is coordinating the initiative on its behalf. “This new program is designed to put the young generation in touch with Zionist values
and a love for Israel. This is a need that has been expressed by KKL-JNF offices around the world.”
The curriculum will equip the participants with tools that will enable them to lead in their communities, and advance the State of Israel and the Jewish People at large as part of an international forum. The plan focuses on several primary areas: Judaism, Zionism, social and environmental responsibility, leadership, leadership (how to lead a project and instill motivation); and the creation of active and involved ambassadors for KKL-JNF and the State of Israel. Study topics will include ecology, the environment, Zionism, general knowledge of Israel, current affairs, prominent Israeli personalities, and professional training in fundraising.
As fifty participants are expected to undergo training each year, it is hoped that within just a few years a nucleus of several hundred active young leaders will have been created. “It’s very important to us to produce a cohesive group that will work together in the long term,” emphasized Gon. “Members of the group from different parts of the world will be able to share ideas, learn from one another, develop joint initiatives and promote mutual assistance between the different Jewish communities worldwide.”
“The Jewish People’s national team” is how Ariel Goldgewicht, director-general of the World Zionist Organization’s Pioneer Youth and Future Generations Department, describes the Zionist Leadership Academy. “This is a team of people who work together and learn from one another.”
Goldgewicht regards the collaboration between KKL-JNF and the WZO as a very natural step: “We are duty-bound to cooperate with each other, because we share the same values and objectives that are common to all Jews and the Zionist world.”
Regarding the challenge of mobilizing members of the younger generation, he added: “We are in a young Zionist leadership crisis. We all understand that if we lose the youth, we lose the future. Members of the older generation who were active in the early days of the State still feel renewed emotion every time they hear about Israel. But those who were born when Israel was already strong and powerful don’t always understand how important their involvement is, both for Israel and for themselves. The last Zionist Congress was attended by over 570 representatives from all over the world. In the natural course of things, there were a great many varying opinions on every topic that came up for discussion – but everyone agreed on one thing: the need to create young Zionist leadership.”
Lecturers for the program include a whole range of inspiring figures: KKL-JNF officials who hold a variety of positions; Israeli leaders, public figures, media pundits and academics. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Reichman University and Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs will all provide lecturers.
Lectures and meetings will take place on Zoom, and participants will also attend two in-person conferences: the first will be held midway through the year in one of the participating countries, and a large concluding conference will be held in Israel. Throughout the program, participants will already be helping to promote local and international projects as part of joint work teams.
The first meeting is scheduled for November 28th, the eve of Hannukah, and the program will continue for ten months thereafter. The organizers are currently engaged in locating and assessing candidates, while KKL-JNF offices throughout the world are making their recommendations for 25-35 year-olds who are prominent in their home communities. The academic staff will interview the candidates and select the most suitable.
Goldgewicht explained that while ‘meticulously’ selecting high-quality candidates and creating meaningful content with leading experts are of prime importance, the real key to the program’s success is its social aspect: “One of our tasks is to foster a genuine connection among the participants themselves, so that graduates of the Academy will remain involved for many years and will continue to work together,” he said.
“The participants come from different communities, but, of course, there are challenges that are common to all of them,” said Dikla Stanger, the Zionist Leadership Academy’s coordinator. “We shall give them tools to identify the challenges specific to their community, come up with ideas of how to tackle them and enlist partners and resources to help implement these ideas.”
She added that the candidate interviews have aroused tremendous excitement and a sense of anticipation. “These meetings reveal what a positive thing our plan is. We’re hearing from the candidates about how they’ve been waiting for an initiative of this kind to help them become involved and active in contributing to the community. Among the issues that interest them are getting to know other communities worldwide, studying together and networking. Ecology is also an important issue for many of the participants.”
“There’s a sense of pride and mission at being a part of an initiative that guarantees the future generation of Jewish leaders,” said Goldgewicht in conclusion. “Together we shall strengthen their connection to Israel, to Zionist values and to the values of KKL-JNF.”