(photo credit: ICCI)
The Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, an interfaith organization within the Rabbis for Human Rights NGO, has appointed a director to take over from outgoing director and founder Rabbi Ron Kronish.
The new director will be Yonatan Shefa, who has for the last four years worked directly for the Rabbis for Human Rights as the associate director for the organization’s Occupied Territories department.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
, Shefa outlined the approach he will seek to adopt for the interfaith organization.
“I want to work much more on building a sense of momentum and development in the work we do,” he said “There can often be a sense of a lack of forward momentum in interfaith work and I want to build growth in terms of impact, to explore what peaceful coexistence looks like, and forge a group of religious leaders who can be active toward building peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.
Shefa also said that people frequently have a desire to participate in reaching out to people on the other side of a religious and political divide but do not know of appropriate avenues to express this inclination.
“I want to enable people from across the spectrum to express this desire and to help them take steps along the continuum of engaging in real peace building,” he said. Shefa added that he will work on efforts to both utilize academic research in the field to increase impact as well as working hand in hand with researchers to “develop a body of work that will help understand what has a real impact on people’s lives and society at large.”
A native of Toronto, Shefa was educated at McGill University in humanistic studies, and obtained a masters degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
“Yonatan comes with a rich background of experience and interest in the interrelated fields of interreligious dialogue, education and action. Most importantly, he comes to ICCI with enthusiasm, energy and effective ideas for the future,” ICCI said in its announcement.
“He has decades of experience as a group facilitator and as a Jewish educator. In addition, he has a proven track record as an activist, both in various professional capacities and as a volunteer.
Shefa is currently studying to be ordained as a rabbi at the Orthodox Sulam Yaakov (Jacob’s Ladder) yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Kronish, the Founding Director of ICCI and now Senior Advisor to the organization, welcomed Shefa to this position, saying that he believed he would be able to capably address the challenges of interreligious relations in the country during the difficult circumstances facing the region.
“My colleagues at RHR and I are impressed by Yonatan’s commitment and dedication to the interrelated causes of peace and human rights, and I believe that he will be a great director for ICCI, for now and for the future,” said Kronish.
An umbrella organization itself, ICCI comprises 60 Christian, Muslim, and Jewish institutions, including Jewish- Arab coexistence organizations, museums, universities, and other interreligious organizations.