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In light of the growing challenges between global Jewry and Israel, The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ruderman Family Foundation are launching a new initiative that will train former Jewish Agency shlichim (Israeli emissaries) to connect Israelis to the Diaspora after returning from Jewish communities around the world.

In groups on campus, some 20 returning shlichim will receive professional guidance and financial assistance to promote projects that deal with strengthening connections and deepening Israelis’ understanding of Diaspora Jews in general, and the American Jewish community in particular. Others, who are no longer students, will have the opportunity to receive micro-grants to advance projects connecting their surroundings with the American Jewish community. The United States is home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel, with around six million members.

Each year, The Jewish Agency sends around 2,000 young Israelis to communities around the world, where they have a meaningful experience that stays with them forever. They work to strengthen the connection of Diaspora Jews on campus, in Jewish youth movements, day schools and summer camps. During this time, the shlichim themselves gain a deep understanding of Jewish life overseas, and when they return to Israel they are highly motivated to continue working on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people.

As part of the joint Jewish Agency – Ruderman Family Foundation initiative, leadership training groups will be developed for Israeli university students who have returned from service as overseas shalichim. They will develop innovative projects and use social media channels to expand Israelis’ knowledge about Jewish communities across the ocean. Another component of the project will provide former shilchim with grants for projects promoting Israel-Diaspora relations. Additionally, a strategic forum of former shlichim will develop measures to change public discourse in Israel about Diaspora Jewry.

“There is much ignorance in Israel about Jewish life overseas,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog. “The shlichim are a powerful tool for spreading the message about our sisters and brothers in the Diaspora. Overseas Jewry is a strategic asset for Israel, and the service of Jewish Agency shlichim is a central component in strengthening Israel’s standing in in global Jewish communities. Through this initiative the shlichim will continue their service even after they return to Israel and will act to strengthen the standing of overseas communities among Israelis. The returning shlichim will join an elite group of former shlichim whose members will act as agents of change in Israeli society and serve as bridges between Israel and Jewish communities overseas.”

Shira Ruderman, Director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said “The connection between Israel and Diaspora Jews in general, and American Jews in particular, is imperative, both morally and as part of Israel’s national security. In recent years we have witnessed serious challenges between the two sides, and it is up to us to change the discourse and the direction. Israelis who were shlichim and then returned to Israel are a tremendous force. Together we can transform them into an army of social change, that will connect Israel to American Jews. With their help, I hope we will bring the dialogue from a place of crisis to one of positivity and construction.”

“Many thousands of Israelis from all over the country and from every social sector have undergone a meaningful experience as a shaliach,” Ruderman continued. “We believe in their ability to connect Israeli society to overseas communities and to strengthen this strategic bond.”