1. What accomplishment are you most proud of in 2016?
I am proudest of the concrete collaborations that have happened as a direct result of OLAM’s connections and convenings. For example: Gabriel Project Mumbai and the Pears Program for Global Innovation worked on a hackathon related to India and MedTech; CADENA and NATAN partnered on disaster relief; JDC Entwine, Gabriel Project Mumbai and Tzedek collaborated with the Office of the Chief Rabbi in the U.K. on a new initiative to expose university students to global poverty and to promote social responsibility. Some of these partners wouldn’t otherwise be “usual suspects.” It has been great to watch them come together on common ground.
OLAM has also come a long way this year in figuring out how to best bring different organizations under a shared platform in a way that is both meaningful to them and puts global Jewish service more on our community’s radar.
A great example is the recent volunteer recruitment tour we ran in the U.K. Over the course of 5 days, we brought together 4 of our coalition partners to engage young Jewish adults and university students across the country.
2) How do you see the world changing in 2017?
There is a lot of uncertainty – not just in the Jewish community or Israel, but around the globe. Brexit. A new U.S. president. These things bring with them a lot of uncertainty as well as potentially significant changes impacting the fields of international development and global service.
In 2016, there was an unprecedented number of refugees around the world. They will require as much, if not more, attention moving forward. The scientific community also predicts that humanitarian crises will be on the rise due to climate change, which often impacts vulnerable populations at a greater degree. We need to be more prepared than before. 2017 needs to be a year of action.
2. Where does the Jewish community fit into that picture?
Here, too, there is uncertainty. Recently, we have seen worrying trends of rising anti-Semitism. There’s an acute awareness of Israel being at a crossroads. In 2017, we will likely see some in the Jewish community who will say that internal needs should take priority over external ones. Within legitimate and important competing needs, how do we make space for both internal Jewish needs and external needs? How do we address domestic social justice issues in our own countries and global issues at the same time?
3. What are some of your resolutions for OLAM in 2017? For the field of global Jewish service?
My number one resolution is to stay true to our 7 core values, which define OLAM’s work and which were crafted together with a core group of coalition partners soon after OLAM’s launch in March 2015.
One of these values is what I have now coined the “Rav Simcha Bunim principle of global Jewish service.” Rav Simcha Bunim, a Hasidic master, encouraged people to carry two pieces of paper. One says “for my sake the world was created”; the other, “I am but dust and ashes.” When a person is low on himself, he should look at the piece of paper that says, “For my sake the world was created.” If somebody is feeling arrogant, she should counterbalance that by reading: “I am but dust and ashes.”
This should be our approach when it comes to international development and global service. We should have an appropriate sense of humility – understanding that the Jewish community is part of a larger tapestry of humanity working to solve global challenges – but also a sense of our tremendous untapped potential to do good in the world.
4. What are you most excited about in 2017?
I’m excited for OLAM to reach the next level. Our first two years were about establishing ourselves, establishing relationships and then piloting programs. This coming year, we are moving beyond the pilot stage to rolling out some tried-and-tested projects. I’m pleased by the positive reception we have gotten from our coalition partners, Jewish communal leaders and the broader Jewish community.
There is something different and refreshing in the message that there are a variety of ways the Jewish community can engage with global issues through our diverse coalition. I look forward to continuing to work with our coalition partners to bring this message to the Jewish community in 2017.