From the Professional Team

What We Learned During Our Time in Israel – Part 2  

– by Professional Team

September 3rd, 2015

Editor’s Note: As we shared previously, the Jim Joseph Foundation Board and professional team traveled to Israel this summer for a week of special immersion activities and our regular quarterly board meeting. Conducting a Board meeting in Israel was part of the Foundation’s ten-year anniversary and an important opportunity for the Foundation to pay respect to Jim Joseph, z”l.

Upon returning, each member of the professional team was asked to share reflections on their time in Israel and visits with grantees. Sharing excerpts with you, we believe, offers insights to the field about the place of Israel in the Foundation’s grantmaking strategy; the knowledge gained from site visits; and the benefits of Board and staff engaging in an immersive experience together. Below is part two of a two-part blog series of reflections from the professional team:

There is no question that an immersive trip to Israel provides an exceptional opportunity for participants to deepen their relations with one another and bond as a group. This was certainly my experience from nine intense days with staff and Board colleagues at the Jim Joseph Foundation. I am deeply grateful we were able to travel together and learn as a team. l am already seeing ways in which these deepened relationships are strengthening our ability to advance our work together.

While in Tel Aviv, with the help of a colleague from The AVI CHAI Foundation, I had a chance to visit with a select group of Israeli entrepreneurs working to advance the field of educational technology, including Avi Warshavsy from MindCET, and Gil Ilutowich from Compedia. There is no question that Israel is home to world-class talent in this area, and the infrastructure these industry leaders are building is a resource that has yet to be fully tapped. Israel is an important place for American Jewish leaders to turn when seeking partners to help understand how to apply cutting edge technology tools to improve Jewish education or to implement technology initiatives that require developers with Jewish expertise.

The talent, the vibrancy, and the thoughtfulness of everyone with whom we met—these are the sentiments I take away from our trip to Israel. They provide the foundation for important new knowledge that informs my work with grantees to foster even more Jewish learning experiences.

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I have traveled to Israel multiple times while employed within the Jewish community.  I lived in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, and Arad for a year.  Still, I had never experienced Israel quite like this.

Throughout the trip, there remained a tenor of humility.  Only one educational building in the world bears the name of the Foundation’s benefactor.  The gravesite of Jim Joseph (Shimon ben Yosef z’’l) is lovely yet unassuming. This attitude of humble reflection and introspection made this experience what it was meant to be, a tribute to a man who achieved greatness in quiet benevolence.

This visit afforded the professional team the opportunity to further our efforts in relational grantmaking by finally putting a face together with a name for many of our international grantees at Taglit Birthright Israel, Pardes, the Shalom Hartman Institute, the Israel Museum, and Bar Ilan University. It is rare to have the opportunity to participate in discussions and attend site visits with Foundation Directors.  We were able to hear the questions asked by Directors of our grantees and vice versa and to learn firsthand from the discourse among veteran and newer members of the Foundation’s Board.

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