In Jerusalem last week, the Jewish Agency’s board of governors was presented with an idea for taking the desire of young Diaspora Jews to do good in the world and channeling it into service to the Jewish people. Through service projects, young Jewish adults will be able to enhance their Jewish identity and their connection to Israel.
The project is called Shalom Corps, and it’s an idea worth following. Like Project Ten, launched by the Jewish Agency in 2016, Shalom Corps is seen as a Jewish Peace Corps. But unlike the earlier effort, the object of Shalom Corps is to direct the effort to help Jews in need.
“We want to engage the next generation,” said Gail Reiss, the new president and CEO of the Jewish Agency for Israel in North America (JAFINA). “We have found that more and more of our children want to be hands on. They want to repair the world.”
Shalom Corps was conceived as a partnership between the Israeli government and Diaspora players, in coordination with the Jewish Agency. Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs is working with an organization called Mosaic United, which leverages government funding to raise donor money in the Diaspora.
What will it take to move Shalom Corps from a good idea to a flourishing program? According to Reiss, there is still work to be done in the areas of finance, budgeting and organizational governance, but progress has been made. And once the organization’s formal structure is set, branding and marketing efforts will be pursued.
According to the plan, funding for Shalom Corps will be raised by the Jewish Agency and partners it identifies, and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs has pledged to match those contributed funds.
As currently conceived, Shalom Corps will operate in volunteers’ local communities, and there will also be global experiences for the millennial volunteers — along the lines of the Masa program in Israel. But, with Shalom Corps it is anticipated that there will be a yearly project to tackle a specific global, Jewish-related need.
It’s a promising idea — another example of how the Jewish organizational world is trying to understand and be responsive to the largest generation of Jews since the baby boomers. And given the Jewish Agency’s successful placement of Israeli shlichim in Diaspora communities, doing the same with Diaspora volunteers holds tremendous promise.
In discussing the new program with the Jewish Agency’s board of governors last week, Rabbi Benji Levy, CEO of Mosaic United noted: “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.” And Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog continued that theme. “The thousands of young Jews set to participate in this program,” he said, “will also be strengthening their own Jewish identity and connection to Israel.”
We endorse the idea and look forward to great results from Shalom Corps. JN