Israel Engagement Fellowship (IEF)

by Jared Feldman

Exemplary/outstanding/innovative program

College students today are exposed to levels of anti-Israel hostility virtually without parallel in modern American history. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington have partnered to develop a course for 10th, 11th, and 12th graders on Israel advocacy called the “Israel Engagement Fellowship” (IEF) to help our community’s high school students gain the tools, knowledge, and skills to support Israel in a multitude of different ways. The course examines the special relationship the American Jewish community has with the State of Israel, teaches students how to be a savvy consumer of media and information, and evaluate the many ways they as students can be pro-Israel on college campuses and beyond.

Inspires creative initiatives for other communities

The graduates of our program are prepared to go on to their future college campus as confident and competent Israel advocates. The JCRC hopes that other communities will see the successes of this model as a possibility for adaptation in their own community. Apathy on campus is one of the largest threat to the future of the Jewish community. Programs like this empower our youth to both fight apathy and support Israel in their own unique way.

Advances the goals of the Jewish community relations field

The goal of the Israel Engagement Fellowship is to ensure that Greater Washington area teens are connecting with Israel in an authentic way, receiving Israel education, and learning how to be Israel advocates as they move on to college campuses.

Could serve (or has served) as a model for other communities

The program is a successful model which brings together Jewish professionals and congregations in providing much needed Israel education to this vulnerable group. The course pulls from experiences professionals at the Federation, the JCRC, subject matter experts, and current college students who explain different aspects of Israel and Israel advocacy. Staff from the JCRC of Greater Washington and Jewish Federation of Greater Washington have presented the program at various professional conferences in the hopes that the lessons they’ve learned and the obstacles they have overcome will help communities across the country develop a similar program to reach a vulnerable group. We also provide course materials and curriculum to session attendees to help them establish a similar course.

Encourages new ways of thinking and have the potential to energize the local Jewish community

As of March, 2015, the JCRC of Greater Washington and Federation have trained more than 50 teenagers on ways they can connect to Israel in an authentic way through this program. They have had students from every stream of Judaism – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and non-affiliated. The students attend public schools, private schools, and Jewish Day Schools. The feedback received from students, their parents, and community members has been overwhelmingly positive. The program has made a name for itself in the Greater Washington Community and the JCRC has begun to receive inquiries from both within our community and outside to model this successful program. The student feedback has shown that the student’s attitudes toward Israel and Israel advocacy made a marked improvement throughout the program. All the students left feeling empowered to discuss Israel.

About the Author


Jared Feldman