The crème de la crème of young British Jews are being sought for the ultimate leadership programme run by Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry for the communal stars of the future.
Seminars with diplomats and analysts from across the Israeli political spectrum are the backbone of the scheme for those aged between 21 and 36. They will be trained in diplomacy, politics and Jewish organisation leadership skills and spend 12 days in Israel visiting government and judicial institutions.
Dozens applied to become one of Britain’s three representatives at last year’s seminar. Only 60 people are invited to join the programme, and are selected from communities as far afield as Slovenia, Panama and South America.
Jason Caplin of the Israeli Embassy in London said the course “comes out of an awareness from Israel’s side that if you want people to take issues seriously, you have to give them time and knowledge and access to resources. This is not a propaganda programme. We want to make people confident to speak about Israel positively and in great depth.”
Twenty-six-year-old Jardena Lande of Golders Green was among last year’s group. “The other participants were from around the world, including places where you may not even know there is a Jewish community,” she recalled. “Because it was such a select group, we got a lot out of it. It gave us a deeper insight into current issues.”
Another British participant, lawyer Simon Albert, 31, found “visiting the Supreme Court especially interesting. We spent a lot of time in the Foreign Ministry. They told us how Israel is dealing with the Iran situation and negotiating with the Palestinians.”
But for the Pinner resident, the true impact of the trip sank in fully when he saw US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on television “giving a speech at the ministry and standing at the podium we had used”.
Erica Weinberg, a 28-year-old re-searcher for the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, was Britain’s third representative. She said: “What happens in Israel has a huge effect on the diaspora communities. We learned a great deal about the different communities we come from and the work we do at home for them and for Israel.”
Graduates are expected to put their knew-found knowledge to use. In Mr Albert’s case, “it provided the details to advocate Israel’s position, so when the Gaza conflict began and people were asking me what was going on, I was able to explain Israel’s position to them.”
This year’s conference will take place from July 6-16, focusing on challenges facing global Jewry such as antisemitism and Jewish continuity.