Embracing Identity & unity: Reflections on Miluim

Recently, I have returned from over 180 days of reserve duty. This period was profoundly impactful for all of us. Towards the end of my service, I found myself reflecting deeply on the events of October 7th and their wide-reaching impacts. As the director of Gap, Jewish Studies, and Teen Journey at Masa Israel journey, I have seen firsthand the challenges and opportunities our broad community faces.

In the past few months, I engaged with my comrades about our return to civilian life. We reflected on many lessons, and I want to share three pivotal insights of them, that our global Jewish community must embrace: the strength of our identity, the power of our unity in diversity, and our promise to our next generation.

Lesson 1: Embrace Our Jewish Identity with Pride

Just before October 7th, I transitioned to a new position in my unit. Initially, the timing seemed unsuccessful, leaving me unsettled as the war erupted. But as the conflict progressed, I made a crucial decision to leverage all my strengths and abilities. I reinvented my role and became integral to my unit’s mission. This experience reinforced that taking responsibility can lead to a meaningful change and that everyone has the power to make an impact as long as we understand our abilities, strengths, and specialties.

The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once said, “Pride is not the opposite of humility, but its source.” In the face of rising antisemitism, our Jewish identity—rooted in a legacy of resilience and courage—must shine brighter than ever. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Silence is not an option. This year, Masa fellows discovered that identity isn’t about “what is trending on social media“; it’s about commitment.

The first lesson teaches us who we are. Answering that will lead us to a deep and clear understanding of our goals, what we stand for, and for what we are willing to fight.

Lesson 2: Celebrate Our Diversity and Unity

When you are spending time with others, especially during a war, your commitment to them is enhanced. I can’t count how many times my life literally depended on others. This led me to realize that understanding the importance of the mission and our shared goal needs to be clear, and everything else is just an imaginary interruption. In our shared life as the Jewish people, our differences are not divisions; they are the threads that weave our collective strength.

As a Shaliach (emissary) in Australia, I was fascinated by traditional native art. Each dot and symbol contribute to a magnificent whole, visible only when viewed from a distance. This is our global Jewish community’s story—a vibrant piece of art that celebrates our unique yet interconnected individuals.

Avraham Infeld’s 5-legged table metaphor describes on how to create a strong and stable Jewish identity through five components: Memory, Family, Covenant, Israel, and Hebrew. Before the war, we often neglected the power of our Family. We had crossed the line from מחלוקת (controversy) that cherishes others’ opinions to being stubborn and self-focused. Recent events have reminded us that we are one people, bound by a shared destiny.

This lesson calls us to celebrate our differences while standing united, remembering that we have a clear goal to shine a light in these times of darkness.

Lesson 3: Empower the Next Generation

During my reserve duty, I met many Israeli Gen Z’ers who embodied hope, optimism, and a drive to create a better world. Similarly, Masa’s fellows possess these remarkable qualities, proving that this generation is ready to lead. We call them Generation Z, but I see them as Generation BBe the change, Be the light, Be the generation for which we’ve been waiting.

As a commander in my reserve duty, we experienced at firsthand the challenge to remain in a leader’s role as time continued. Some of us clung to traditional commanding methods, while others adapted to unprecedented challenges. I learned that effective leadership isn’t about being the most innovative or the most traditional—it’s about being relevant, inspirational, and grounded.

As a child, I dreamed of adulthood’s freedoms—like eating ice cream whenever I wanted. Today, as Masa’s fellows become alumni and step into independency, they will balance dreams with daunting uncertainties. We hope we have prepared them to carry forward a torch of hope, justice, identity, and commitment.

Our commitment to this wonderful generation is to adapt to the challenges we face, guide them to learn from our mistakes and successes, and most importantly, leave them with a world where they can work as they will, undoubtedly, create a better world.

This final lesson fills me with hope. As a father of three young children, I am excited for the world they will inherit, led by this inspiring new generation.

Conclusion: A Call to Action

Reflecting on our relationship as people, I urge you: do not remain on the sidelines. We need you as active partners in facing the darkness. These lessons we have learned are also shared by us all. We need to find a better way to be active in these fields.

Be proud of who we are.

Be courageous in protecting our family and celebrating our diversity.

Know that you have the power to build a brighter world and confront any darkness with resilience. Together, let us light up the world with our strength, our unity, and our unwavering spirit.

About the Author
Royi Bercovici currently serves as the Director of Gap, Jewish Studies, and Teen Journey at Masa Israel Journey. He has extensive experience in educational leadership and program management, having previously directed the Israel Programs Department at World Bnei Akiva. Royi holds degrees in International Relations and History from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he is also a fellow at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education. His professional journey includes key roles at the Jewish Agency and Nativ, the IDF conversion course. Internationally, Royi has made significant contributions as a Shaliach. In 2009, he was stationed in Perth, Australia, and from 2016 to 2019, he, along with his family, served as the Jewish agency shlichim in Sydney, Australia. During this period, he also held the position of Federal Shaliach for Australia's largest Zionist youth movement, Bnei Akiva. Royi resides in Jerusalem, where he was born and raised, with his wife, Aimee, and their three children.