18 Inspiring Highlights From 2018

Blog

As the year winds down and a new one approaches, we're taking a moment to reflect on meaningful stories and initiatives from within our Jewish and Israel portfolio. From engaging young voters to providing hurricane relief to creating spaces that promote equity and justice, we are proud of what our partners and network have accomplished.

Though this year was filled with milestones and celebrations, it was also filled with its share of challenging moments. These stories remind us of the ways in which we can each contribute to improving people's lives and strengthening our communities. We hope they do the same for you.

1) Launch of the SafetyRespectEquity Coalition: Since the start of the year, 100+ Jewish organizations have joined the SafetyRespectEquity Coalition to ensure safe, respectful and equitable Jewish workplaces and communal spaces by addressing sexual harassment, sexism and gender discrimination. Staff from five organizations contributed to a series in eJewish Philanthropy outlining how their respective Jewish workplaces are using the coalition's commitment to create tangible change in their workplaces.

2) Food for Thought: A High Holiday Cookbook: This fall, we published 33 delicious recipes from award-winning chefs, world-renowned mixologists and culinary-inclined members of our network. With each recipe comes a note about what each person hopes to achieve in the year ahead. For Chanukah, we also published a coloring book for grownups, created by artists across our network—print it out and enjoy! 

3) #Mitzvote: Only one in seven 18-20 year olds voted in the 2014 elections, so Hillel International launched #MitzVote, a campaign to engage Jewish students eligible to vote in the 2018 midterms. Over 70 campus Hillels and 25 partner organizations formed a coalition to increase voter turnout.

4) Race and the Jewish Community on NPR's "Code Switch": Ilana Kaufman, Director of the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative and a Schusterman Fellow, was interviewed on NPR's race and ethnicity podcast about white privilege in the Jewish community and the rise of anti-semitism in America.

5) Backgammon for Coexistence: Sports are known as a peacemaker, and board games can be too! An article published this summer covered Jerusalem Double, a backgammon tournament co-founded by ROI Community Member Zaki Djemal that brings together Jews and Arabs to engage with each other in a non-political and fun environment.

6) The Latest Books by REALITY Authors: On National Author's Day, we highlighted books published this past year by 10 of the many authors in our REALITY alumni community. Their books range from self-help to cooking to humor, and each will change the way you think about your life and the world around you. Check out the list to find the newest book for your bookshelf!

7) Volunteers Stepping Up for #ActNowHouston: Though September marked one year since Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, the city isn't expected to fully recover for 10 years. That's why a group of Jewish organizations formed a coalition to organize service trips to Houston to help rebuild the community. Interested in helping? Sign up!

8) #ShareHerStory, a Campaign to Highlight Jewish Women of Color: In the spirit of the story of Esther—the story of a Jewish woman of color making sure her voice was heard—Repair the World, the Jewish Multiracial Network and the Jewish Women's Archive decided to approach Purim a little differently. The three organizations launched #ShareHerStory to promote stories of modern Jewish women of color whose efforts to strengthen and broaden the Jewish community deserve to be celebrated, emulated and remembered.

9) 2018 ROI Summit: Not only did 150 leaders from across the globe come together this summer at the 2018 ROI Summit, but they also did an epic rendition of Matisyahu's "One Day" with Koolulam, an Israeli social-musical initiative. And yes, there's a video to prove it!

10) Historic Pride Parade in Jerusalem: Organized by the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, the 17th annual Jerusalem Pride Parade took place this August. Over 20,000 people participated—including Schusterman staff!

11) An Epic REALITY Reunion: 122 REALITY alumni spent four days together in Israel learning and building connections. While each of these REALITY alumni participated in a journey to Israel previously with fellow leaders, this reunion brought together alumni from across industries—storytelling, technology, sports, cooking and more.

12) Standing in Solidarity with Pittsburgh: After the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, many people and organizations mobilized to organize vigils and Shabbat dinners, raise money for the victims and their families and support the Jewish community during this time of grief. While heartbroken, we were also inspired by those who stood for the values we hold dear. Challah for Hunger led fundraisers on college campuses to raise money for victims of the shooting, Bend the Arc created a centralized online guide to finding and hosting vigils and countless organizations and individuals made donations and public statements in support of HIAS.

13) Israel to Send Time Capsule to the Moon: SpaceIL, co-founded by ROI Community Member Kfir Damari, is working to launch Israel's first spacecraft to the moon—and a time capsule with it! The package contains artifacts representing modern Israeli life, such as books and children's drawings. It also contains memorabilia commemorating Israeli and Jewish history, such as a Holocaust survivor's testimony and a prayer from former President Shimon Peres.

14) Continued Support in Puerto Rico: Committing to the organization's "first in, last out," motto, IsraAID continues providing relief to Puerto Ricans impacted by Hurricane María. The organization is focused on providing access to mental health services and clean water. A number of individuals in our network have also been supporting communities in Puerto Rico following the hurricane, such as REALITY alumni Erin Schrode and Angelique Sina.

15) Massachusetts Votes “Yes” on Transgender Rights: A ballot measure in Massachusetts threatened to rollback protections for transgender people. Keshet took action to mobilize the Jewish community, getting volunteers to knock on doors and engage voters with this important issue. On Election Day, Massachusetts voted to keep the protections, affirming the dignity of trans people.

16) A 360 Tour of Israel: Israeli storytelling extraordinaire and REALITY tour guide Michael Bauer captivated us with this interactive journey that explores the founding of the State of Israel. Standing in the streets of Jaffa and Tel Aviv, Michael explains the nuances and distinctions among what people mean when they talk about the religion, the people, the land and the State of Israel!

17) Teens Stand Up to Gun Violence: Members of BBYO, the world's lead pluralistic teen movement, spoke out in their communties following the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Prior to the March for Our Lives held in Washington D.C., BBYO students arranged meet-ups and a "Shabbat for Our Lives," dinner. Many BBYO members contributed in other ways, such as speaking at local March for Our Lives rallies and lobbying law makers on school safety.  

18) The Meet Your Neighbors Dinner: In partnership with Knock Knock Give a Sock, founded by ROI Community member Adina Lichtman, 50 REALITY alumni and 50 neighbors experiencing homelessness gathered in New York City to share a meal. The group enjoyed an evening of sharing positivity, building relationships and breaking stigmas.