The adage “Think Globally” is taking on a new dimension with the start of the Amitim-Fellows: A Global Leadership Network initiative.

Global fellowship
David Moss, a Jerusalem-based artist, at the Amitim-Fellows conference held in Budapest this summer. Photo courtesy of JCC Global.

Amitim-Fellows, a program of JCC Global, brings together nearly 60 executive directors and senior lay leaders from 27 Jewish community centers located in North America, Latin America, Europe, Israel, and the former Soviet Union to work on joint projects that turn global thinking into action.

Amitim is funded by JCC Global and UJA-Federation of New York, through our overseas beneficiary, the Jewish Agency for Israel. Additional support is provided by another overseas beneficiary, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, as well as participating JCCs.

“We’re proud to support a program that builds a global network of Jewish communal leaders, both lay and professional,” said Daniel B. Blaser, chair of UJA-Federation’s Global Jewish Peoplehood Committee. “We believe that by empowering agents for change at JCCs throughout the world, the Amitim fellowship will better the communities of each of the participants as well as the global Jewish family.”

And fellows in the program are already starting to envision a broader role.

Amitim is helping us to think bigger and have an impact on enhancing and engaging people with Jewish communities around the world,” said Sue Fox, executive director of the Shorefront YM-YWHA of Brighton-Manhattan Beach, who is a fellow in the program along with the Shorefront Y’s board member Michael Papo.

The Shorefront Y is a nonprofit in UJA-Federation’s network and one of five UJA-Federation beneficiary agencies participating in the Amitim initiative. The other agencies include: Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, Joan and Alan Bernikow Jewish Community Center of Staten Island, and Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center.

Amitim-Fellows launched with a conference in Budapest, Hungary, this summer.

“The conference was a fantastic opportunity to get to know other lay leaders and professionals, and to develop new relationships,” said Jonathan Gold, chairman of the board of Marks JCH and a fellow who attended the conference together with Marks JCH Chief Operating Officer Gelena Blishteyn. “Working on a concrete project is a valuable way to build relationships and learn how people think about things.”

Joint Global Projects
The projects are a focal point of the Amitim fellowship. Seven projects were started at the conference and range from creating an arts festival and developing inclusion programs for people with special needs to nurturing teen leadership.  At least three JCCs from three different countries — one from North America, one from Israel, and one from Europe, Latin America, or the former Soviet Union — are working together on each project that will help strengthen global Jewish relationships and create meaningful connections between the JCCs.

Although the projects are just beginning and will continue for three years, the enthusiasm of the Amitim fellows is palpable.

For Gold, the project was a way to draw on the strengths of each JCC. Marks JCH, working together with the JCC in Manhattan, JCC of Greater Washington, Bálint JCC of Bálint, Hungary, and Kivunim Center in Beersheva, Israel, all had in common  developing teens as leaders for their communities. So they decided their project will focus on training teen counselors for the camps at their centers..

“Strong teen leadership in the Jewish world builds bridges between teens, both locally and globally,” Gold said.

At the Shorefront Y, working together with the Zaporizhzhya City CF Mazal Tov JCC in the Ukraine and Eilat Community Center in Israel, the focus is on helping people with special needs.

“It’s more challenging for people with special needs and their families to feel embraced by the global Jewish community,” Fox said. “We’re looking to expand and make the attitude of our communities ever more embracing.”

With the aide of Skype, webinars, and travel, the three community centers plan to enhance their support of individuals and families with special needs. Fox added that by using best practices, she hopes they will reach beyond their three agencies to other agencies around the Jewish world as well.

It’s a goal you would expect from Amitim fellows, who are actively developing global leadership peer groups in their Jewish communities.