A historic global community of committed Jews

We recently concluded another meeting of The Jewish Agency Board of Governors, made up of 220 Jewish leaders from around the world, including representatives of the World Zionist Organization, Jewish Federations of North America, and Keren Hayesod. These wonderful board members spent several days together, meeting from early in the morning until late at night, discussing the future of the Jewish people.

So, yes — The Jewish Agency is indeed a very large organization, and therefore its ability to conform to the definition of a community can be questioned. It has a global presence spread throughout the world, scattered in varied areas of activity, represented by lay leaders, professionals, participants and activists. Yet at its core, The Jewish Agency is driven by community. Not only do we aim to build and strengthen communities in Israel and around the world, but we are led by a very special community, made of the members of our Board of Governors. I have been privileged to join this community and work alongside some of the most dedicated people I have ever met. This community astounds me time and again by their tireless efforts on behalf of our greater Jewish community, Am Israel.

This is a community that also bears the weight of the impressive and storied history of those who served before them, who built the State of Israel and rescued millions of Jews in peril, bringing them to safety in our ancient homeland. The community carries a communal sense of obligation to this history with them to every meeting and to every vote on matters pertaining to the future of the Jewish people.

What builds community? Commitment, shared values, vision. This is precisely what binds together The Jewish Agency Board of Governors community. It is also a truly global community, bringing together representatives from around the globe who are engrossed in fostering Jewish life, with Israel at its heart.

When considering the beginning of this value-driven community, the establishment of this organized, passionate group of believers, the association that comes to mind in modern terms is a mission-driven community. Despite differences, arguments and challenges faced by the halutzim, Israel’s pioneers, who had to invent and prepare the ground for every step on their journey to establishing the State of Israel, they were strong and united in meeting the goal of their efforts. Ninety years later, the community of this unique Board of Governors, whether they are businesspeople, activists, philanthropists or community leaders, maintains the mode of operation of a mission-driven-community. Modern life has produced sophisticated terminologies for practices the halutzim instinctively knew how to do. So today, we engage in strategic planning processes. Yes, these are more organized journeys — methodical, systemic, designed to be measured for success. But at their core, the journeys led by our Community of Governors are no different than the historic ones. The similarities dwell in their urgency and importance.

And it is only a strong community that can engage in the challenging and often difficult strategic change process we have undertaken at The Jewish Agency. The Board of Governors community has bravely stepped up to support and guide The Jewish Agency in shifting the course of the organization, so as to best meet the most pressing needs of the Jewish people. Throughout, the Board of Governors has engaged in the types of conversations that can only transpire within a community — full of emotion, concern and love. Without this incredible community, The Jewish Agency wouldn’t be able to adapt to the changing needs of our people.

Henry David Thoreau once said: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” I see this as analogous to the case of our historic leaders in the Jewish world, who had to build castles in the sky. A Jewish state was a nearly impossible dream. But together, they formed a community of leaders, just like today — from all around the world, who believed in this dream; who worked hard, as a community of leaders, to build the foundation for their dream. We have much to be proud of as a Jewish people, especially when we see that today, we still have mission-driven-communities –- here at The Jewish Agency and in many other organizations around the world, who passionately care for issues they are determined to solve.

About the Author
Isaac Herzog is Chairman of the Executive at The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli Knesset’s former opposition leader.
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