Clevelanders Prepare to Present at GA

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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News.

By Amanda Koehn

Leaders from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland will present work on their new Israel Advocacy Fellows Program at the 2016 Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly Nov. 13-15 at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C.

At the general assembly, an annual gathering for Jewish community leaders across North America, guests will hear speakers, participate in panels, share work and network with other leaders. Speakers include associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg, TV personality Andy Cohen and Israel’s Channel 10 chief international correspondent Nadav Eyal.

Jessica Cohen and Debbie Klein of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland will lead sessions at 4:15 p.m. Nov. 13 and 8:45 a.m. Nov. 15 on their pilot fellowship program that began in summer 2015. The fellows, a group of young adults, spent a year learning how to educate other young people on Israel. Now in the second phase of the program, the fellows are beginning to work with local partners like @Akiva and the Cleveland Hillel Foundation to spread their messages.

“Educating our community on how to be an effective advocate for Israel is a priority of the Jewish federation. It’s a priority because obviously you know the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement is here and it’s not going away, and part of our mission is to support a strong and secure Israel. We especially want to reach millennials and college students and high school students to help them be effective as advocates,” said Cohen, managing director of community relations.

Cohen said at the general assembly, they will share their work in a TED talk-like fashion, both to seek advice for the program and to assist other federations form similar programs.

“We want to share with them why we chose the group that we did, and why we chose to focus on millennials. And we want to also share exactly the structure of the program and what works and what didn’t,” Cohen said.

Stephen H. Hoffman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, also will moderate a talk on the future of the Jewish world.

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland brings leaders to the general assembly each year. Last year, Michael Siegal of Gates Mills, then-chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, spoke about his successes and challenges in the leadership role. This year, he is attending as a guest, which he said is, “less fun.”

“It’s fun to be involved in all the back-hall stuff, when you know everything that is going on and everybody wants to approach you and they think you know something – it’s a lot more fun than not,” he said.

Despite adjusting to his new role, Siegal said he hopes to discuss issues like BDS, which has become more prominent in recent years. He said for talks about raising money for Jewish causes, the focus of the general assembly would likely be more on domestic communities than in previous years.

“I think it’s a reflection of how communities are starting to feel about their donations. It’s harder sell for Israel and overseas than in the past because there is so much need in the local community,” he said.

Siegal said he mostly looks forward to, “just being with people of a like mind.

“It’s normally very inspirational to be around the people who care about the same things you care about.”

However, it will be Cohen’s first General Assembly and she said she is looking forward to learning more about the Jewish Federations of North America and its national and international work.

“My real interest, as a relative newcomer to the federation system is to really get that exposure to the national federation system and hear what other federations are doing, both in my field and out,” Cohen said.

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