(photo credit: Courtesy)
Could $10,000 bring Israeli and Diaspora Jews together again?
Bat-Galim and Ofir Shaer are willing to find out.
The couple, parents of Gil-Ad Shaer, one of three teens who were abducted and murdered in the summer of 2014, have launched the “The Global Connection Competition,” an international competition to find the most original and creative project to strengthen the connection between Israeli and world Jewry. The winning concept will receive a $10,000 prize and the couple’s nonprofit, the Sonshine Organization, will implement it.“After Gil-Ad was murdered –
and during the time they were searching for him – we received a large hug from Jews around the world,” Ofir told The Jerusalem Post. “Telephone calls, emails, albums of letters of support from people around the world poured in.”
He and his wife said that this concern and attention, coupled with the familiarity they gained in recent years with world Jewry in all its diversity and complexity, has sharpened for them the significance of being part of “the family that is the Jewish people – wherever they may be.”
“To this day, we have a wonderful relationship with communities and individuals from all over the world,” Bat-Galim said. “We are exposed time and time again to the warm Jewish heart of those who don’t live in Israel but care about its welfare and the welfare of its residents.”
The couple started Sonshine
a year and a half ago to focus on strengthening the connection between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Ofir highlighted what he describes as “increasing tensions” between Israel and world Jewry, who he said are facing a time of heightened antisemitism around the world and growing diplomatic and military threats to the State of Israel.
“Jewish unity is more important and more tenuous than ever,” he said.
Sonshine is crowd sourcing the dilemma to encourage the brightest and best to come up with an effective strategy to help re-establish the traditional and crucial close relationship between Jews in Israel and abroad. The organization reached out to 40 Jewish organizations, from Keren Hayesod to ROI, to market and recruit ideas. They have likewise advertised throughout social media.
So far, they have received nearly 400 proposals from people, ranging in age from 12 to 70. The deadline for proposals is March 14.
By March 31, an advisory team will have selected the top 20 to 30 proposals, which will be asked to flesh out their ideas. Those proposal will be reduced to three until, on May 23, the winner is selected via an open vote for all the world’s Jews through the competition site and by the advisory committee.
The committee and judges include top Jewish leaders, such as Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul-General of Israel in New York Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt and the Chief Rabbi of Moscow Sam Grundweg.
“There are an estimated 14 million Jews around the world, of whom about half live in Israel,” said Ofir. “For several reasons, the connection between those Jews living in Israel and those outside of Israel is becoming strained. By every significant measure, statistical data show that the bond between Israel and Diaspora Jews is fraying.
“Along with the enormous personal tragedy we experienced when Gil-Ad was missing and until his murder was discovered, we experienced tremendous support from Jews all over the world,” he continued. “We hope that this initiative will stimulate discussion and awareness of the importance of the bond between Israeli and world Jewry – a bond we cannot forsake.”
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