In November, a group of eight dynamic young leaders from Haifa came to Boston through CJP’s Boston-Haifa Connection for a week of eye-opening learning about Jewish identity and pluralism, community and innovation.

Among the many activities that the mission took part in were visits to organizations that linked Boston and Israelis, including the Israeli American Council’s Merkaz community center, as well as an opportunity to meet with the Consulate General of Israel to New England. Given the different nature in which people live their Judaism in America and in Israel, the mission had the chance to learn about pluralistic approaches to Jewish education at Gann Academy. Later, the mission met with a group of Northeastern University Hillel students, and had an enlightening conversation about what Jewish student life on campus is like, how Hillel engages with Jewish and non-Jewish students, and how college students address the BDS movement on campus. On Shabbat, the mission visited the historic Vilna Shul in Beacon Hill for kabbalat Shabbat services. There, the service was led by other young volunteers, again reflecting a difference in approaches to Judaism between young communities in Israel and Boston, as lay-led services are less common in Israel.

A mission participant by the name of Or, mentioned how impressed he was with the open approach to pluralism in the Boston Jewish community. Or noted that “the Jewish community in America is more mature (than Israel) in many ways, with more diverse layers of living Jewishly. Israel is a young country, and in some ways, there is a lot about Judaism that we can learn from the American community.”

mission-at-vilna-shul
The mission group had the chance to take in a kabbalah Shabbat service at the historic Vilna Shul.

Among the mission participants were members of the Israeli Young Leadership committee of Boston-Haifa Connection, other participants included alumni of Haifa’s Social Tech Lab, a newly formed accelerator for technology ventures with a social impact, and Boston-Haifa Connection’s Supersonas program, designed to network, mentor and engage more women in executive leadership positions. The focus of these participants was heavily influenced by the fantastic start-up and tech scene in Haifa that fosters business innovation, so they were all very excited to learn from and about the tech scene in the Boston area. One of the best-known of these social and tech innovators is the Mass Challenge, and the mission had the opportunity to learn more about their programs and the possible bridges that can be built with Haifa-area innovators. At MIT, the group was privileged to meet with Edward Roberts, Founder and Chair of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. Edward, who has long been involved in work to promote entrepreneurship in Israel, spoke about the state of entrepreneurship in the Boston area and how it compares and complements entrepreneurship in Israel.

The mission wasn’t all “work” however… the group had the chance to take in a Celtics game, as well as go on a Duck boat tour on the Charles River! Before long, the mission trip wrapped up, and the group returned home to Haifa with a renewed and strengthened connection between America and Israel, as well as many new relationships that linked their work and lives in Haifa with Boston.