Federation Leads Way at JFNA GA

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Federation Leads Way on Engaging Millennials at JFNA GA

Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News.

A standing-room-only crowd listens to Debbie Klein and Jessica Cohen of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. Klein is the Assistant Managing Director of Community Relations and Cohen is Managing Director of Community Relations.

By Bob Jacob

WASHINGTON – Jessica Cohen and Debbie Klein of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland hope their efforts regarding Israel advocacy and education efforts in the Greater Cleveland community can be a model across the country.

Cohen, managing director of community relations, and Klein, assistant managing director of community relations, were the leadoff speakers at “FEDovations – Successful Responses to BDS; Combatting Delegitimization of Israel” following the opening plenary Nov. 13 at the 2016 Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly at The Washington Hilton.

From their work with the Israel Action Network, they knew support for Israel was changing.

“Israel just isn’t resonating with the younger generation, including millennials, like it has for our parents and their parents,” Cohen said in opening remarks of a five-minute talk TED Talk-like program.

“We wondered how could we bring that message to millennials in Cleveland, to educate them and to empower them” in support for Israel.”

Thus was born the Israel Advocacy Fellows Program to engage millennials for two reasons: for the battle against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, particularly among young leaders; and to enhance the community leadership pipeline.

“We use a train-the-trainer model to provide fellows with skills both in content and in methodology to work with peers of their own in young leadership and with college students and high school students,” Klein said.

She said they targeted young people who already were interested in Israel and in community relations to be involved with this program – “a unique entry point for them.”

These participants are invited to exclusive events and meetings with lay leaders at the Federation and Klein said,” Ultimately, as we cultivate them, it can lead to increased campaign gifts and encourage future leaders.”

Cohen said the pilot cohort has eight fellows who came from the Federation's Young Leadership Division who were interested in Israel or community relations, are involved with the Federation, have a knowledge of Israel, history or politics, are between 25 and 40 years old, have a strong Jewish identity and are open to the complexities of Israel, and “they had to be willing to commit their time, energy and knowledge.”

Cohen said the program could be initiated in any community.

“It’s not expensive,” she said. “It’s easy for smaller communities to implement. It’s prestigious, providing our millennials with the exclusivity and the status that they’re looking for. It helps build our community relations’ leadership pipeline, which is very important, and most of all, we’re building a larger and more prepared group of advocates to lead the battle against BDS.”

Debbie Klein, left, Assistant Managing Director of Community Relations, and Jessica Cohen, Managing Director of Community Relations, deliver remarks in a TED Talk-style program.

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