Yuval Steinitz at the Masa leadership summit..
(photo credit: YANAI RUBAJA)
Some 150 young Jewish adults from around the world attended a gala event in Jerusalem on Sunday night to kick of a five-day MASA leadership summit sponsored by the Wilf Family Foundation.
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz addressed the audience at a dinner held at the Israel Museum, where he spoke about Israel’s situation in the Middle East and of the importance of the nation’s bond with the Diaspora.
Speaking of the necessity that Israel take into consideration the sensitivities of some eight million Jews living in the Diaspora, Steinitz said: “I hope in the future we will understand it even better than the past.”
Steinitz’s speech hit the right notes at a time when Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry has deteriorated following the canceled Western Wall agreement
and recent offensive remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely
. As The Jerusalem Post
reported Monday, Steinitz has been shortlisted
to become the Jewish Agency’s next chairman.
“I’m among those who really realize the importance of our bonds with the Jews in the Diaspora,” Steinitz told the Post. “Some Israelis tend to neglect the importance of the Diaspora and I, for example, was vehemently against the decision to cancel the Kotel compromise because I realize how sensitive it is for Jews elsewhere.”
All participants of the summit are taking part in the various leadership tracks of the MASA Leadership Academy, which include sessions on: women’s empowerment; business and innovation; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the former Soviet Union; the Jewish Federations of North America; and Hillel.
MASA’s Israel programs seek to empower participants to develop as individuals, while also helping them develop a global professional network that includes Israelis and Jews from around the world. MASA Israel Journey is an initiative of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Government of Israel Krisztina Mike, 29, from Budapest, is a participant in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict track of the academy. She is doing an internship as a photojournalist and videographer for NGO Haemet Sheli (My Truth), as part of the Destination Israel program.
Haemet Sheli documents the testimonies of IDF reserve soldiers and was founded as a counter-initiative to the left-wing NGO Breaking the Silence.
“I’m very passionate about Israel and the IDF,” Mike told the Post
, noting that she is related to Zoltan Miko, who worked with Raoul Wallenberg to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.
Mike wants to volunteer in the IDF, explaining that it’s important to her to help protect other people.
Mike was raised Jewish, but her family does not have the relevant papers to prove her religion.
She is conducting family research to try to find evidence, though she also intends to convert and to immigrate to Israel, and is at peace with undergoing the process to become Jewish according to religious law and in the eyes of the state.
In Israel, she hopes to continue along the same trajectory on which she has started, hoping to disseminate the realities of Israel to the world through photography and video journalism.
Alissa Brown, 27, from Chicago, is on the women’s empowerment track of the academy and is interning in management and events coordinating at a yoga studio in Tel Aviv as part of Destination Israel.
“The main question that we’ve been asking ourselves is how we can combat challenges women face as they move up in leadership roles, against issues such as sexism and uneven pay,” she said. “What do you propose to do to solve them? I hope to try to help answer these questions.”
Brown hopes to put those conclusions into practice in her daily life. “It can only make me an effective leader,” she said, adding that it will also help her navigate the cultural sensitivities of Israel.
“I want to learn how to be a woman of the world, here in Israel, without being belittled or feeling like someone is not taking me seriously,” Brown added.