The courage of their convictions

Midreshet Ein Prat hosts a pilot workshop aimed at training young leaders in Israel advocacy.

ein prat 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
ein prat 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
Yair Talmon of Mevaseret is studying political science and economics at Ben-Gurion University. He is planning a career in public service but is concerned about having the right skills to work in hasbara.
Talmon was one of a dedicated group of young Israelis that gathered in the heat of the Judean Desert this summer to strengthen their ability to express their beliefs in the most effective and convincing manner possible.
They were participating in a unique pilot program, a joint initiative of the Lilyan Wilder Center for Communication Excellence, the Israel Independence Fund and Midreshet Ein Prat in Alon near Kfar Adumim.
Speaking with Impact is designed to ensure that today’s young leaders acquire the tools of communication necessary for successfully stating their case for Israel to the Jewish Diaspora and the world.
The project was conceived by the president of the center, Eva Rosenstein, together with Aharon Pulver, the executive director of the Israel Independence Fund, a USbased philanthropic umbrella that raises funds for a host of Zionist organizations and initiatives in Israel.
“This workshop was excellent,” says Talmon, a graduate of an Ein Prat program.
“Although we have experience in speaking as counselors or in the army, it is different speaking for hasbara. Sometimes we have to face hostile audiences. In the workshop, we learned how to present and organize our thoughts before different groups, where the purpose is to convince others.”
Midreshet Ein Prat, founded by Dr. Micah Goodman, offers post-army Israelis two flagship programs: the four-month Graduate Academy Program and the 40-day Elul Program, which this year is also taking place in the Jerusalem Forest, Sde Boker and Tel Aviv.
The Graduate Academy Program “strives to go past the stereotypes, past the binaries of the religious-secular divide,” says Leah Beinhaker, Midreshet Ein Prat’s director of strategy and development. The graduates of the Elul Program, she says, are “assuming leadership positions in areas such as nonprofits committed to social change, student councils in Israeli universities, and in founding new forums for pluralistic Jewish study, prayer and celebration.”
In addition to nurturing intellectual independence among the students, Midreshet Ein Prat aims to strengthen their leadership capabilities. Workshop instructors are Lilyan Wilder’s protégés, fully trained in her methodology and determined to fulfill her bequest to train speakers representing Israel.
Wilder was a speech therapist and actress who studied with legendary acting teacher Lee Strasberg. She attributed her success in teaching public speaking to her extensive training, teaching voice and speech development, as well as her years of study with Strasberg.
Participants in the workshop were led expertly through exercises, presentations about the Seven Steps to Fearless Speaking, based on the method of communication formulated by Wilder. Among the steps are experience your voice, establish a dialogue, tap your creativity, learn to persuade and give the gift of your conviction. The participants’ presentations were videotaped throughout the workshop, so they could receive input from the instructors, analyze each other’s presentations and see the resulting improvements.
Brian Seidner, 25, of Tekoa, came to Israel with his parents in 1995 from Nashville, Tennessee. In his post-IDF trip abroad, he met people with a negative view of Israel.
“In the workshop, I learned the importance of conviction – to be honest about what you feel, to show that it comes from your heart so others see it, too.
You have to do research and know what you’re talking about. We learned how to convince our audience and make them see how they would feel in a similar situation as ours.”
Israel Moskowitz, one of the instructors and a director of the Lilyan Wilder Center, says, “There’s a continuum of audience orientations – from those who are interested and accepting to those who don’t want to hear Israel’s message. Your goal is to reach the maximum number of people who would be receptive to Israel’s message, no matter their initial point of view.”
Talmon, while articulate in Hebrew, finds the effort of choosing the precise word in English a stumbling block to his natural public speaking skills.
In the workshop, he learned to think about his presentation in English. “Although the workshop’s purpose wasn’t to teach English, this tip helped me organize my thoughts better and significantly improve my presentation.”
As an ardent supporter of Israel, Wilder was inspired to establish professional workshops in communication excellence designed for spokespeople for Israel so its message would be properly heard and clearly understood. Among the Israeli students whom Wilder coached were Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Naftali Lau-Lavi, Zalman Shoval, Dore Gold and Alon Pinkas. Among Wilder’s US clients were thousands of political, media and broadcast journalists, such as president George H.W. Bush, journalist Maria Shriver and acclaimed television host Oprah Winfrey, who sought Wilder’s guidance from the beginning of her career.
Wilder, who died in March 2009, is buried on Har Hamenuhot. In his eulogy to his former coach, Netanyahu said, “Her commitment to Israel and the Jewish people was absolute and indefatigable.
Lilyan sought to help Israel roll back the slanders by its enemies and puncture the lies of its detractors. She did so by giving freely of her talents to many of Israel’s representatives stationed in the United States. I consider myself lucky to have had such a teacher.”