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Giving JCCs the tools to “do” Israel

This story was originally printed in the Summer 2014 issue of the JCC Circle.

It started with a kernel of an idea: How can JCCs increase their engagement with Israel, both for the institution and for the people it serves?

The result was Israel & Your JCC, an all-in-one guide to finding ways for the Jewish homeland to permeate the offerings of the J.

Funded generously by George and Harriet Blank, each JCC will receive three copies of the spiral-bound, hardcover. Richly illustrated with both images and ideas, it is meant to be a toolkit, offering JCCs concrete ways to better connect with Israel.

“I was born in Europe and came from the Holocaust era, even though I am not a survivor,” says Harriet Blank, chair of JCC Association’s Israel Committee for the past two years. “I understand the importance of Israel to our people.”

And she wanted to find a way for younger generations to share that pride, get them beyond negative headlines and see Israel with a deeper appreciation of its significance. What better way to do that than have JCCs incorporate Israel into all that they do?

The book is divided into eight easy-to-flip-to sections. These include Suggestions for Israel programming, Travel to Israel, and A shaliach at your JCC, How to fund Israel programming, Engaging Israelis at your JCC, and more. The opening chapter, Israel in the air at your JCC, addresses the issue at a fundamental level: How to boost Israel’s presence in public spaces, in early childhood and camp programs, even in your fitness center. Suggestions include: highlighting something like Maccabi Tel Aviv’s surprise win over Real Madrid in the Euroleague basketball championships, or offering Krav Maga, the Israeli self-defense discipline.

In addition, the guide details the benefits of hosting an Israeli shaliach, or emissary, who can become the face of Israel for your community. And engaging the 750,000 Israelis who live in North America today is a laudable goal that will increase their connection to diaspora Jewry and its connection to them.

“I think the guide offers enough information for people to make intelligent decisions for a whole variety of programs,” says Blank, who was very pleased with the results. “This provides guidelines, gives contacts and touches on culture, the arts and concrete things you can bring to the JCC.

“We wanted to give JCC leaders something tangible, something they could use.”

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