Social innovators will give firsthand accounts of life in an unknown and unshown diverse Israel—their personal ISRAELITYs. Join us for this series of open dialogues that will help you rethink your definition of reality in Israel.

This year our series of talks focuses on Coexistence: Building Israel’s Shared Society.

A Compound Solution: The chemistry of religious and secular cooperation in Israel


Thu, May 18 | 7:00PM I Mayerson JCC


From Ultra-Orthodox to secular, Jews in Israel have traditionally run in separate circles—defined by their differences. But Efrat Shapira Rosenberg, who was raised in an Orthodox home, is bucking the trend: she lives in a mixed community of religious and secular Jews, and her children attend school with a similarly diverse student body. She’s joined by a growing number of Israelis who refuse to allow their affiliation or lack thereof to define their political and social stances. As a result, new coalitions are forming across identities: religious feminists are cooperating with secular leftists around the issues of women rights, secular ideologues and liberal Orthodox are together calling for separation of church and state. Efrat Shapira Rosenberg will share the untold story of these unlikely allies: Israelis in search of a new-old Jewish identity.

Efrat Shapira Rosenberg grew up in an Orthodox home and attended religious Zionist schools, but increased tension between secular and ultra religious Jews, including the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, changed her religious, political, and social worldview. Since then, the concept of Jewish pluralism has become a priority for Rosenberg. As a program officer for the AVI CHAI Foundation, Rosenberg works to build Jewish identity among secular young adults in Israel through philanthropy and projects of Jewish Peoplehood. She hosts programs about Jewish society on Israeli Channel 2 News and previously hosted the Friday morning news on Israeli Channel 10. Rosenberg holds an LL.B from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a master’s in public policy from Tel Aviv University, and is working on her doctoral thesis on gender studies at Bar Ilan University.

A Cross and a Star in the Holy Land: Jews and Christians in Israel


Tue, Jun 13 | 7:00PM I Mayerson JCC


For the first time in history, after two thousand years of Jewish minorities living in Christian lands, Israel creates the unique situation of a Christian minority in a Jewish country. Program Director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations Hana Bendcowsky will explore challenges and everyday realities both groups face in creating a shared Israeli society.

It was only after she moved to Jerusalem that Hana Bendcowsky was exposed to the Christian communities who live in Israel. Since then, she has worked to promote awareness of those communities’ heritage, culture, and traditions among Jewish Israelis. In her job as Program Director of The Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations, Bendcowsky creates opportunities for Arab Christians and Jews in Israel to meet and work together. She holds a master’s in comparative religions from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and has two decades of practical experience in interfaith activities in Israel and abroad.


The Jewish Peoplehood Puzzle: unity without uniformity


Mon, Feb 20 | 7:00PM I Mayerson JCC


What does a shared Jewish society look like? Jews come from all parts of the world and speak with many voices, yet they remain bound to one another through shared identity, heritage, and values. As the spectrum of Jewish identity expands across continents and through cultures, the notion of peoplehood grows simultaneously more challenging and essential. Join Rabbi Talia Avon-Benveniste on a journey through the transformative stages of Jewish identity, and uncover why the notion of “unity without uniformity” is critical to creating a shared Jewish future.


As the director of the International School for Jewish Peoplehood Studies (ISJPS) at Beit Hatfutsot-The Museum of the Jewish People, Rabbi Talia Avnon-Benveniste works to instill Jewish peoplehood consciousness among Jews worldwide; which, in turn, fosters involvement with and a commitment to the Jewish people. She completed a masters with honors from The Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies, is an ordained rabbi from Hebrew Union College where she received an Award for Excellence in liturgy and spiritual creations, and is a recipient of The Moshe Zemer Award for the writing of a Halachic Responsa.

Hand in Hand: Building a shared future for Arabs and Jews in Israel


Tue, Mar 217:00PM I Mayerson JCC


How can Israel’s Arabs and Jews break down the barriers of mistrust and separation between them? Hand in Hand is an organization that is reshaping Jewish-Arab relations in Israel with a growing network of integrated schools and communities that bring thousands of Jews and Arabs together every day. With huge demand around the country, Hand in Hand is proving that living together is a viable option for all of Israeli society. Hand in Hand changemakers Mohamad Marzouk and Noa Yammer will explore both their personal journeys to this work, as well as the dilemmas and successes that come with building a shared and equal future for Arabs and Jews in Israel. 

Noa Yammer: As Hand in Hand’s International Community Engagement Coordinator, Noa Yammer shares the organization’s story with thousands of supporters in Israel and around the world in visits, workshops, and online.  She is also the Youth Program Director at Heartbeat, a music dialogue organization for Israeli and Palestinian youth. Yammer brings decades of diverse experience in activism and education to her work.


Mohamad Marzouk’s commitment to Hand in Hand’s mission goes beyond his job description: two of his children are Hand in Hand school graduates, and his third child is in 4th grade. He brings two decades of social-political activism to his role as the Director of Hand in Hand’s Community Department. Outside his responsibilities at Hand in Hand, most of Marzouk’s work has focused on social change and the advancement of civil society in Arab communities in Israel, as well as on peace education through Jewish-Arab dialogue.

Roots of Peace: The shared story of a settler rabbi and a Palestinian activist


Wed, Apr 5 | 7:00PM I Mayerson JCC


How do Palestinians and Israelis move beyond the cycle of violence that engulfs them? The Roots Project, based in Israel’s West Bank, brings together Israelis and Palestinians who, despite living next to each other, are separated by walls of fear. Antwan Saca, a Palestinian Christian peace activist, and Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, an Israeli settler who has become an advocate for coexistence, will share their shared story of discovering the humanity and legitimacy of the other. They’ll discuss how they are working to move their communities past suspicion, fear, and violence, and towards lasting justice, freedom, and peace on that tiny sliver of land that they both call home.

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger is an Orthodox rabbi and teacher. He serves as the Director of International Relations for Roots. Rabbi Schlesinger is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the International Rabbinic Fellowship, as well as Beit Hillel, an Israeli rabbinical association. His professional career has been dedicated to teaching Jewish studies in various colleges and seminaries in the Jerusalem area, as well as in different frameworks in Florida and Texas.

Antwan Saca was born in in Jerusalem to a Christian family from the city of Bethlehem. He has been working towards the dream of peace and justice in the Holy Land all of his adult life. He previously worked for a number of organizations in programming, and has also spent time as a research assistant in the area of urbanization and geopolitical monitoring.