2015 Annual Shira Herzog Symposium
On September 9 2015, 600 people joined NIFC’s growing community of supporters for a vital conversation – the backstory behind what we know about Israel.
The sold-out 2015 Annual Shira Herzog Symposium brought experts and activists to Toronto and Vancouver to unpack the important issues Israelis are faced with today. Aluf Benn, Editor-In-Chief of Haaretz, Ronit Heyd, Executive Director of Shatil and Jonathan Kay, Editor-In-Chief of The Walrus Magazine examined how current events in Israel have a ripple effect on Israeli society and the world.
Laughing While Crying: A Conversation with Authors Sayed Kashua and Nancy Richler
NIFC presented Laughing While Crying: A Conversation with Authors Sayed Kashua and Nancy Richler to 600 people in Toronto and Montreal.
Interviewed by Canadian author Nancy Richler, Haaretz columnist and Arab Laborcreator Sayed Kashua opened up about his often humorous but difficult experiences living in Israel – from struggling with personal identity to segregation.
Photos from the event can be viewed here. All photos by Mark Tenenhouse.
Food For Thought: A New Generations Shabbat Dinner Series
With a focus on religious pluralism and heresy in Israel, 50 people across Canada joined New Gen hosts in their homes for Shabbat dinner. The dinner was the first of a series specifically made for people under 40 who are looking for a safe space to have complex conversations about Israel. More to come!
Against the Grain: Orthodox Feminism in Israel
February 22 and 23 2015 in Toronto and Vancouver
NIFC was pleased to welcome Hannah Kehat, founder of Israel’s first Orthodox Feminist organization, Kolech. Kehat spoke about the callenges posed by the rabbinate’s hold on issues pertaining to personal status in Israel. Her long history of challenging the institutions that have held women back illustrated the trajectory of Koelch and the challenges ahead.
Gimme Shelter: Closing the Middle Class Housing Gap in Israel and Canada
November 20 2014 in Vancouver
This exciting evening in Vancouver featured urban planning expert Penelope Gurstein of UBC, Gil Gan-Mor of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Paul Kershaw, founder of Generation Squeeze. The conversation touched on the lack of affordable housing for young people, its impact on the racial/ethnic diversity of a city and ideal models of infrastructure to accommodate growing cities.
Women as Agents of Change: Maintaining Tradition, Realizing Potential
November 10 and 11 2014 in Ottawa and Toronto
To learn more about Bedouin women’s strides in recent years, New Israel Fund of Canada invited Amal ElSana Al’hjooj, Rania Okby, Kher Albaz and Ariel Dloomy of AJEEC-NISPED, The Jewish-Arab Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation. The conversation touched on women’s health concerns, equal opportunities for Bedouin women and changes in Bedouin family structure.
2014 Symposium: The Future of Israel Starts Here
New Israel Fund of Canada welcomed the foremost experts on the issues gripping Israeli society today.
The event featured Ari Shavit (via live web feed), J.J. Goldberg, Joseph Rosen and Akiva Eldar. With over 1000 people registered, guests heard from speakers with divergent opinions on where Israel is headed and what it needs to see the success we all desire.
Listen to excerpts from the symposium here:
Symposium Podcast #1 with Joseph Rosen
Symposium Podcast #2 with Ari Shavit and J.J. Goldberg
All photos by Mark Tenenhouse. More on Facebook
Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, June 8-10 2014
In Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal and at a New Generations Canada event, Itamar Hamiel and Mohammad Darawshe (see photo at left) expertly guided audiences through the state of affairs of Arab-Israeli citizens and their effective, inspiring initiatives to create more equal, shared societies.
New Israel Fund of Canada was proud to feature the work of Israeli NGO Mahapach-Taghir, for whom we have provided over $170,000 in support over 4 years.
Mahapach-Taghir is an Jewish–Arab Israeli non-profit organization dedicated to equality. The vision of Mahapach-Taghir is a just Israeli society with equal socio-economic and educational opportunities for all. To achieve these goals, Mahapach-Taghir nurtures an ongoing dialogue among marginalized communities that develops cooperation and organizational effectiveness.
NIFC supports their work with local residents and volunteering academic students in two marginalized communities (Yaffat el-Nassera and Tamra), with an emphasis on children, youth and women. Mahapach-Taghir is run by one Jewish and one Palestinian-Israeli women co-directors, which reflects the organization’s vision and is a living proof of the possibility for Jewish-Palestinian shared society.
Some comments we received from people who attended these events:
“What a positive experience listening to and exchanging with Mohammad and Itamar in Montreal last night – NIFCAN’s raison d’être is working so well!”
“That was an incredibly inspiring presentation! Thank you!”
“Two great speakers doing very interesting work. I’m impressed by the way these projects undo the cliché categories of the conflict.”
“It was a great and informative evening.”
Many thanks to our community and marketing partners Temple Sholom, Mile End Chavurah and First Narayever Congregation.
Trailblazing Women in Toronto & Vancouver
With activist Hamutal Gouri, participants in Toronto and Vancouver heard about leaders in feminist activism in Israel and what has nurtured them.
In Toronto, Rabbi Miriam Margles deftly reflected on Esther and Vashti as 2 models of feminists. Participants reflected on the women that have inspired them and what qualities of leadership they possess.
These events were an opportunity to unveil the Trailblazing Women Wall of Women, the New Israel Fund of Canada media campaign culminating on Purim.
Say it Again, Say Something Else
With Writer Ayelet Tsabari and Gabe Gonda,Tamara Kramer and Rabbi Steven Garten.
New Israel Fund of Canada was proud to present Israeli-Canadian author Ayelet Tsabari to Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa audiences. Writing for a Mizrachi perspective and giving voice to characters of Sephardic heritage, Tsabari gives readers and audiences the opportunity to enhance their understanding of Israel as a rich, multicultural world. Partnering with NIFC, Tsabari was able to illustrate the repression of Mizrachi culture so prevalent in Israel.
What’s on TV in Israel? Come Watch With Us!
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Amjad is an Arab journalist who works at an Israeli newspaper and tries very hard to fit in to Jerusalem’s elite crowd. However, his being an Arab and his desire to be Israeli are constantly in conflict. Bushra, his wife, is the voice of sanity that tries to bring Amjad back in synch with reality.
Meet the Israeli Seinfeld. With biting humour, Arab Labor (Avoda Arvit) pokes fun at the religious, cultural and political differences in Israel’s mixed society. Written by Haaretz journalist Sayed Kashua, Arab Labor is the first sitcom featuring mainly Arab characters speaking Arabic on Israeli prime time.
September 22, 2013
Make the Case
When we discuss human rights in Israel, we often have views that we feel strongly about. But what if you had to defend the opposing position?
On September 22, 2013, New Generations Canada gathered with Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel) to debate a human rights issue from divergent views. Taking the issue of Haredim in the army, the group split up into groups to make the case about why Haredim should be exempted or why they should be obligated to serve.
Here are some of the arguments.
Haredim should serve because:
They need to share the civic responsibility
They need to integrate into Israeli society
Their demographics create a larger group to defend
Haredim should not serve because:
The risk to Israel’s security
Out of respect for their culture
The challenges that it would pose to the cohesiveness of their community
After all arguments were presented, the group voted for drafting Haredim into the army. We’ll keep you posted about whether the Supreme Court of Israel agrees with New Generations Canada.
September 22-29, 2013
Meeting the Challenge: Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State
One of the most complex challenges facing Israel is how it governs itself as both Jewish and Democratic.
For its third annual symposium, New Israel Fund of Canada hosted hundreds of people across the country at events that addressed Israel’s progress and difficulty in realizing this ideal. In Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa, participants joined Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel), Dan Avnon, Social Activist and professor at Hebrew University, Mira Sucharov, blogger at Haaretz and Open Zion and Professor at Carleton University, Lisa J. Grushcow, Rabbi at Temple Emanu-El Beth Sholom, and Sara Horowitz, Professor at York University for fruitful lectures, panels and discussions.
In all cities, speakers brought context, insight and optimism to the dialogue about minority rights, Jewish values and diversity. Our panel focussed on, among many ideas, multiculturalism in Israel, the State’s role in religious conduct and observance, and discrimination.
With dynamic interaction, incisive questions and thoughtful reflection, NIFC’s speakers helped Canadians and NIFC supporters better understand these complicated relationships within Israel.
June 16, 2013
Saying Yes to Social Change
On June 17th and 18th, NIFC organized Saying Yes to Social Change in Israel. With events nationwide in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, over 500 people took part in this honest and engaging conversation. This was a conversation about the forces of social change in Israel today. And what a conversation!
The Toronto event was hosted by Beth Tzedec Congregation and welcomed former member of Knesset Dr. Yossi Beilin, New Israel Fund women’s rights activist, Shira Ben-Sasson Furstenberg, and NIFCs Social Justice Fellow, Samara Carroll.
These amazing speakers came with the message that Israel is facing a number of social, political and economic issues. More importantly they believe there is change happening in Israel today. From religious pluralism to African refugees, a strong and thriving social and political movements are working to lay the roots of change. Both Yossi and Shira reflected on the challenges and successes they faced when working on these issues.
To view more more photos of this event, click here.
October 21, 2012
Engaging With Israel Today: Conversations We Need to Have
They say that whenever you get four people in a room to talk about the Middle East, you end up with twelve opinions.
On Sunday, October 21st, the New Israel Fund of Canada (NIFC) hosted a very special afternoon event titled, “Engaging with Israel Today: Conversations We Need to Have”.
With over 450 people attending this ground-breaking discussion, you could say we had over 1,350 opinions filling the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library.
The main attraction was our interesting, controversial and engaging speakers. They included professor and author Peter Beinart, New Israel Fund of Canada (NIF) International Council Co-Chair Talia Sasson, Janice Stein, Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs, Shira Herzog, President of the Kahanoff Foundation, and the Honourable Bob Rae. They came to talk, debate and argue about the future of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state.
Participants came away enriched. Though they left the afternoon with perhaps more questions than they brought with them, consensus was that the event was a major success.
Comments ranged from, “The event was an excellent model for dealing with controversial topics in our community” to “This event was excellent – clear, strong, informed. Speakers – brilliant range of perspectives.”
The New Israel Fund of Canada is committed to sponsoring educational events and discussions to inform Canadians about the challenges facing Israel and its communities.
NIFC believes that these events will help engender appreciation for our activities in Israel and strengthen Israel’s founding vision of a Jewish state with full equality for all its citizens.
We are dedicated to providing an open and safe space to have these critical conversations that our vibrant and diverse community yearns for.
NIFC has already begun launching plans for next year’s symposium. We are committed to paying attention to the comments we received to help make next year’s event an even greater success.
About the Speakers
Having written three ground-breaking books before he was 40, including his most recent, “The Crisis of Zionism”, Peter Beinart took the stage to start the discussion on the critical conversations that North American Jews needs to have about Israel. Beinart asserted that there now exists two Israels – a democratic one behind the Green Line (pre-1967 Israeli territory) and un-democratic one in what is known as the West Bank.
As settlement expansion continues, Beinart argues, the chances for a viable two-state solution begin to disappear. Should peace negotiations deteriorate so would the original Zionist dream of both a Jewish and democratic state. Says Beinart, North American Jews -particularly, the younger generation – are feeling pressured to check their “liberal” values at the door when it comes to Israel and, instead, blindly accept that the occupation is both legitimate and necessary.
Talia Sasson brought not only her perspective as an Israeli, but also as someone who has worked “on the inside.”
Talia served as the Director of the Department for Special Tasks in the States Attorneys Office under Ariel Sharon. She possesses an intimate knowledge of how the legal system affects the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis living beyond the Green Line.
Her role as the Co-Chair of the NIF International Council lends her further credibility as both a progressive and moderate on the issues of the Palestinian territories and anti-democratic legislation currently being debated in the Knesset.
Sasson continued the conversation by examining how the New Israel Fund of Canada and New Israel Fund of Canada are funding organizations committed to fight for a more equal, egalitarian and democratic future for the state of Israel.
Despite their work on-the-ground, NIF and NIFC both face challenges today on the political front. A rise of right-wing and religious-based political parties in Israel are shaping how and if we can have these debates that are critical towards Israel’s future, argues Sasson.
A mainstay in the international relations and political science scene in Canada, Janice Stein brought her considerable knowledge and experience to the table.
Stein began her talk by helping us understand the paradigm shifts that the Middle East is currently undergoing. She explored the rising influence of Islamism in the Middle East and compared it to the rise of religious-based politics in Israel.
Further, she introduced the idea that Israel is on its way to becoming a “theocratic democracy”. As Stein explained it, a theocratic democracy describes a government where people can elect representatives whose decisions are heavily influenced by religious leaders. Such a paradigm, Stein asserts, is one we cannot ignore. Indeed, says Stein, it is one model that may need to consider in our understanding of a future Israel.
After their individual remarks, the Symposium speakers came together for a lively panel debate moderated by Shira Herzog, President and CEO of the Kahanoff Foundation. The discussion and the questions that came out of it inspired thought-provoking debate.
• Is “Israel as a theocratic democracy” viable?
• What is the future of Zionist support in North America?
• Exactly why and how should young North American Jews support Israel?
• What can we as North American Diaspora Jews as well as non-Jews can do to move from conversation to action?
In addition to the Symposium, New Israel Fund of Canada, launched a number of subsequent discussions over the following week, including:
• Drinks and Discussion with Peter Beinart at the Wolf & Firkin in Toronto sponsored by NIFC’s New Generations Canada program for Canadians ages 20-40
• “Nurturing Human & Civil Rights in Maturing Democracies: Israel and Canada”, a Lawyers Lunch featuring Talia Sasson and General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Nathalie Des Rosiers
• “Why Bibi and Barack Can’t Get Along”, a joint program featuring Peter Beinart at Carleton University, Ottawa
• “Saving Israel’s Democracy”, a student-led conversation at McGill University in Montreal
• “Engaging With Israel Today: Conversations We Need to Have” featuring Talia Sasson at Beth Shalom Synagogue in Edmonton
Continuing the conversation about the future of Israel as both a democratic and Jewish state remains a major focus of the New Israel Fund of Canada. By sponsoring projects on the ground in Israel as well as education in Canada like this Symposium, contributors to New Israel Fund of Canada further the ideals of civil society.
Israela Oron, Brigadier General (Ret.)
Gender, Security and Religion in Israel: New Challenges, New Voices
Toronto, March 25th 2012
General Oron addressed over 250 people on recent events that affect the composition of the IDF and Israeli society. As an army officer who broke through many gender barriers, Oron called for an IDF that reflects Israeli society, including religious women. She cautioned that the relative decrease in the participation of religious women in the IDF threatens women’s achievements, and ultimately their status in Israel. She also expressed concern regarding the growing extremism among religious Israelis in the IDF.
Toronto, November 21 2011
Gershom Gorenberg, American-born Israeli historian, journalist and blogger, was in Toronto to speak with a group of NIFC supporters. Gorenberg, who was on a North American tour to publicize his new book The Unmaking of Israel, stressed the need to “remake” Israel so that the “unintended consequences” of various historical decisions – from the occupation enterprise to the privileged status of ultra-orthodox men – are dealt with. Gorenberg thanked the Association for Civil Rights in Israel for helping him access information for The Unmaking of Israel. Gorenberg was very warmly received and responded to the very thoughtful, educated questions from those attending.
Israel From Within: The Dream Reborn
Toronto, October 30 2011
NIF President Professor Naomi Chazan spent the weekend in Toronto with some group meetings, a talk at Temple Emanuel culminating with Israel From Within: The Dream Reborn.
NIF President Professor Naomi Chazan headlined this groundbreaking four-hour event that focused on inequality and the state of democracy in Israel. Nearly 500 people attended and venues in Montreal, Ottawa, London, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria participated remotely.
“Taking the cue from similar developments such as Israel’s ‘Tent City’ and the more recent world-wide Occupy Wall Street movement, these events have sparked an interest in social justice issues” said Jay Brodbar, New Israel Fund of Canada’s Executive Director. “NIF has been working in the trenches on these critical issues for more than 30 years, and it seemed like the right time to have an important discussion on these topics now in Toronto,” he added.
Chazan received enthusiastic applause when she noted “In our sovereign state, we can never do to citizens and minorities in our country what was done to us when we were minorities elsewhere.”
“Empowering ourselves with knowledge on these topics and discussing them as a Canadian community is crucial,” said NIFC board member Joan Garson during her concluding remarks. “More awareness and understanding of the nuances and challenges involved in a long-held vision of Israel as both a homeland for Jews and a just and democratic society is crucial for Jews in Israel and abroad,” she added.
• Professor Derek Penslar of the University of Toronto gave a historical background to the unique issues of land policy in Israel that have implications for who can own land as well as on housing prices.
• The Israeli Jewish and Arab co-directors of the Israeli NGO Sikkuy focused in systemic inequalities between Jewish and Arab Israeli Citizens.
• New Israel Fund President and former Israeli Parliamentarian Professor Naomi Chazan discussed the latest challenges in Israel in building a democratic and socially just society.
• Israeli analyst Shira Herzog moderated a final panel including all the forum’s discussants.
Edeet Ravel: The Last Rain Book Launch
Toronto, June 22 2011
Award-winning Israeli-Canadian author Edeet Ravel, along-time supporter of NIFC, launched her newest book, The Last Rain with New Israel Fund of Canada and over 40 guests in Toronto. Ravel was interviewed by Derek Penslar, Samuel Zacks Professor of Jewish History at the University of Toronto. Inspired by Ravel’s youth on a kibbutz, The Last Rain is a coming of age story of a young girl and a country in its early fraught years of existence. Ravel has written her experience as a magical, fictionalized memoir of the early years of Kibbutz Eldar, illustrated by Ravel and Penslar through their discussions and illuminating visuals.
Daniel Sokatch in Toronto
Loving Israel in Complicated Times & Toronto Jewish Film Festival
May 16, 2011
New Israel Fund of Canada CEO Daniel Sokatch spoke to 150 people in Toronto about the work of New Israel Fund of Canada and its dedication to realizing Israel as a state that is equal for all its citizens. Sokatch commented on the lack of connection between young North Americans and Israel, as Israel does not seem to exemplify their liberal, progressive values. Sokatch illustrated this point by using examples of anti-democratic trends currently developing in Israel in areas such as religious pluralism and minority rights. With great optimism and inspiration, Sokatch illustrated the work of NIF and how it works to create the Israel that liberal, progressive North Americans have always wanted- an Israel at peace with itself, in addition to its neighbors.
Israel & Comics: Beyond Black and White
A Presentation of Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women
New Israel Fund of Canada, and Koffler Centre for the Arts, with the Jewish Daily Forward
April 17th, 2011
While comics are often drawn in black and white, the work in the touring exhibition Graphic Details shows that the relationship of North American Jews to Israel is anything but.
On the evening before Passover, more than forty people gathered at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto to view the exhibit Graphic Details and to discuss the struggles artists depict when confronting their relationship with Israel.
Dan Friedman, Arts and Culture Editor of the Forward, hosted the discussion using the comics as catalysts for discussion about difficult issues. The group explored Zionist stereotypes, the right of Diaspora Jews to criticize Israel and institutions that shape our relationship with Israel.
From artists depicting their Birthright trips to women in post-Holocaust Israel, the experiences depicted in the comics mirrored contemporary struggles, and reflected the intensity with which we relate to Israel. The group was inspired by the courage of the artists which created an open space for others to express their thoughts about Israel.
Book Launches for Yuvi’s Candy Tree by Lesley Simpson
April 10 & 22, 2011, Family Resource Centre & Miles Nadal JCC
New Israel Fund of Canada was proud to launch author Lesley Simpson’s new children’s book, Yuvi’s Candy Tree, based on Ethiopian-Israeli activist YuviTashome’s life. Yuvi, in Toronto to participate in a very special seder for NIFC, met Lelsey, who was then inspired to tell Yuvi’s story. With a book reading, candy tree craft and a video-interview of Yuvi, great fun was had by all.