Tuesday, July 16, 2019

(Courtesy of The Jewish Agency) During the closing plenary of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s annual board of governors meeting in Jerusalem, Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Rabbi Benji Levy, CEO of Mosaic United (mosaicunited.org), a partnership between the State of Israel and the global Jewish community, announced the launch of ‘Shalom Corps,’ a joint initiative that aims to dramatically increase the number of young Jews from around the world engaging in meaningful, ethical and sustainable service experiences that also provide opportunities for the exploration of Jewish identity.

Leveraging the Jewish Agency’s expertise, global reach and longstanding mission to connect Jews around the world to their Jewish identity and Israel, Mosaic United’s commitment to addressing the numerous wide-ranging approaches for Jewish engagement, and the support of Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and international stakeholders, Shalom Corps will make existing Jewish service experiences more attractive and accessible to Jewish millennials while also strengthening, optimizing and broadening their reach and incorporating Jewish service learning and Israel engagement authentically within the volunteer programming. 

“Our humanity is inextricably linked to our identity and our deeds, so it is through giving to others in times of need that we can truly explore who we are as individuals and as Jews. Through the development of Shalom Corps, we will create a movement that heals the fractured world around us while simultaneously investing in our greatest asset: our Jewish youth,” said Mosaic United CEO Rabbi Benji Levy.  “Shalom Corps will make meaningful service learning opportunities accessible to more young Jews than ever before, empower the incredible organizations working in this space to do even more, and change the way we all think about Jewish values and the endless good that our young people can unleash in this world.”  

Recent data reveals that while 72 percent of Jewish millennials around the world are committed to volunteer work and actively seek out service experiences, only 18 percent choose to give back through Jewish organizations, as most don’t see their Jewish identities as particularly relevant to their lives.  As an added challenge, even the most impactful Jewish service programs have funding and capacity issues, with some programs limiting acceptance and others struggling to cover the cost of recruitment efforts.  Mosaic United and the Jewish Agency believe that Shalom Corps can shift the numbers, grow the field and rebrand social action as a core Jewish value and expression.

“We are bringing a new message to young Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. The Jewish Agency, together with Mosaic United, an initiative of the Ministry of Diaspora, will enable expression of the wonderful Jewish value of  tikkun olam in communities in need throughout the world,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog. “While serving as ambassadors of our people in these communities, the thousands of young Jews set to participate in this program will also be strengthening their own Jewish identity and connection to Israel. I’m grateful to Mosaic United CEO Rabbi Benji Levy and Chairman Gary Torgow for the tremendous cooperation in bringing about this initiative that promotes Jewish values and helps connect young Jews to Israel at this time of crisis in our relationship.”

Shalom Corps will launch in cooperation with OLAM – a platform promoting global Jewish service and international development — whose experience and expertise has, and will continue, to deeply influence the design of this initiative. The initiative will proudly partner with IsraAid, an Israel-based humanitarian aid agency that responds to emergency crises and engages in international development around the world. Shalom Corps will provide immersive Jewish volunteer organizations with recruitment and marketing resources, educational resources and senior Jewish educators, professional training, research and best practices, funding to help grow their numbers and increase affordability of their service experiences, alumni engagement resources and more.

Shalom Corps will begin accepting grant applications from volunteer service providers this summer and will kick-start its field building, strategy and planning and marketing later this year.  The first local service pilot program is set to launch later this year in Toronto, Canada, in partnership with the UJA of Greater Toronto, and a special project with IsraAid that aims to unite volunteer responders from Israel and the Diaspora to provide disaster relief will be piloted within the first year of operation.

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