By the time you read this, a diverse group of 70 Atlanta Jewish community leaders, representing more than 30 organizations, big and small, will have arrived in Tel Aviv for the ultimate Front Porch Learning Journey — an immersive week in Israel.
It’s a challenge to get 70 busy Atlantans in one room, so bringing this group to Israel is nothing short of a miracle. Individually, we are a mixed multitude of community volunteers, rabbis, program directors and change makers from every stream of Judaism. Collectively, we are The Front Porch in Israel — #TFPinIsrael if you want to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and I hope you will.
We are traveling to Israel with a unique kavannah (intention), not as tourists, but as curious and committed partners. We have a mindset to build bonds as a community of leaders, affirm and deepen our ties to Israel, and immerse ourselves in Israeli innovation.
Our trip has no time allotted for shopping or sightseeing, but it does include time for difficult conversations, for small group work and for personal reflection. As we coalesce as a group, we’ll create a precious infrastructure of human capital and relationships so that when we come home, we’ll be primed and ready to co-create the 21st century Jewish community Atlanta needs to become.
In my view, this is the most consequential trip Jewish Atlanta has ever undertaken. We’re going to Tel Aviv, Lod, Yokneam, Gush Etzion, Jerusalem and the Belz Synagogue, meeting with Palestinian peace activists, and touring an IDF field hospital. Our itinerary plows new ground, connecting us with the latest Israeli experiences on immigrant absorption, urban renewal, technology, senior care, LGBTQ communities and the challenge of religious pluralism.
Every day we’ll reflect on what we’ve seen and extract big insights: What are the big shifts from 20th to 21st century Israel? What is our responsibility to each other? What would a “living bridge” between Atlanta and Israel look like?
Here’s a sample day from our itinerary:
Monday, Jan. 29
Visit the Taglit Innovation Center, a major player in Israeli research and development and entrepreneurship. Stop at Impact Labs to understand how the outsized impact of Israeli innovation has met human needs around the world. Explore Jindas: Urban Regeneration, a project to promote the multicultural city of Lod’s vitality as a model for success in Israel and its influence on surrounding neighborhoods.
As Atlantans, we’re tremendously proud to be the home of one of the most vibrant and diverse communities in North America — just ask any of the 10,000-plus Israelis who have moved here to study or work and experience our way of life. Now it is our chance to turn the camera on Israel, to travel with hearts and eyes wide open and bring our insights home.
We can’t wait to report back to you and share what we’ve seen, what we’ve felt, and how it has changed us.
Eric M. Robbins is the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.