September 12, 2019
by Cantor Cheryl Wunch, NIFC Naomi Chazan Fellow
Published on Reformjudaism.org
This year, I was chosen by the New Israel Fund of Canada as one of three “young” adults to be the country’s Naomi Chazan Fellows. Honoured to be selected, I am charged to learn about the work of some of the New Israel Fund (NIF) grantees and share that knowledge within my own community.
We began the year with a study tour that took us, along with the fellows from Australia, the U.K. and the U.S., on an eye-opening journey through Israel and the West Bank, where we met with grantees who are working in six distinct areas:
- Social and economic justice
- Shared society and combating racism
- Religious freedom
- Safeguarding human rights and democratic infrastructure
- Palestinian society
- New initiatives for democracy
As both the oldest participant and the only clergyperson on the tour, I found many of my opinions and perspectives differed from the other fellows. I have always been socially and politically left-wing in my personal beliefs, but when it came to Israel, I had been brought up to believe that “wherever we stand, we stand with Israel.”
Questioning and critiquing Israel was not something I felt was appropriate for me to do, and yet I always knew there had to be more truth than what I had learned. I finally came to the realization that if I want to call myself a leader of the Jewish people, I need to learn the facts, on-the-ground, about the Jewish homeland.
This fellowship is the first step in that process.
Cantor Cheryl Wunch, is a cantor and educator in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2011 and prior to returning to Canada, served congregations in the U.S. and the U.K. She is a member of the American Conference of Cantors and serves on its ethics committee and as chair of the Women in the Cantorate task force. Cheryl is a 2019-2020 Naomi Chazan Fellow with the New Israel Fund of Canada.
Learn more about Cheryl and the other Canadian fellows here. Applications for the 2020-2021 fellowship open in February 2020.