Cover Story: 24 Jews who are changing the world (The Canadian Jewish News)

CJN Staff, Wednesday, April 1, 2015logo 2014

Change may be inevitable, but it’s not easy. It requires vision, inspiration and bravery to make it happen. Over the past few months, we here at The CJN have been thinking a lot about change in the Jewish community and how it affects where Canadian Jewry is headed in the future. And that’s what prompted us to take a closer look at some of the young innovators taking our religion, and our community, in bold new directions.

The 24 visionaries profiled in this week’s edition are re-examining age-old understandings of Judaism, with an eye to furthering our tradition in ways some of us probably hadn’t even considered before. And in their enthusiasm, their passion – even their audacity – for a Jewish future, we find hope and excitement. If they can find a way to move Judaism forward, perhaps all of us can in our own unique ways.

Helping young people pursue social justice

Danny Richmond, 29, wants to ensure that young Jews interested in effecting positive change in the world are equipped with the appropriate tools, be it through education or direct opportunities to take action.

The Toronto native has spent over a decade working in youth leadership, community mobilization and international development.

At 24, he was one of 30 young leaders from across North America and the United Kingdom to be a fellow at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, and through the program he worked to build interfaith co-operation in Toronto and develop a national campaign for malaria prevention.

Two years ago, Richmond brought his passion for social justice to the Jewish charity Ve’ahvata, where he founded a department of youth leadership and became its director. In this role, he helps facilitate a range of programs designed to engage young Jews in community-building and global citizenship. The department is currently developing workshops directed at Jewish day schools, youth and bar/bat mitzvah groups, which will address issues of poverty, social inclusion and homelessness. 

It’s also working to integrate aboriginal history and education into Jewish day school curricula.

“I think a lot of our Jewish institutions have spent time building a strong community,” Richmond said, “but it can sometimes seem like we only interact with the wider world when we feel threatened…We’ll talk about poverty, but it’ll only be Jewish poverty.

“I’d rather see a discussion around poverty in general being a Jewish issue, whether or not the poor people are Jewish…We need to widen our circle of responsibility.”

An advocate for youth leading youthDalia-Krusner-1

At 24, Dalia Krusner, executive director of Heart to Heart, a program that aims to address the divide between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, understands the value of youth leadership.

“I am a big advocate of youth leading youth, youth leadership and the power of youth,” said Krusner, who also works at Ve’ahavta as its youth leadership manager.

“I’ve had a lot of experience with Israel and Palestine in many different ways. It is something I’ve studied in school and I’ve lived in Israel for various short periods of my life… This is one of the only things I’ve experienced that has given me hope and some idea of how to move forward.”

Founded in 2011, Heart to Heart is a program born out of a partnership between Hashomer Hatzair/Camp Shomria in Canada and the Givat Haviva Education Foundation in Israel, an Israeli non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equality, and co-operation among Israelis.

Each summer, a group of 20 14-year-old Israelis – half of whom are Jewish and half of whom are Palestinian – fly to Canada and spends about three weeks together at Camp Shomria in Perth, Ont.

Krusner grew up in Toronto and was involved with Camp Shomria and Hashomer Hatzair, which she said was a big influence on her Jewish identity.

She was deeply influenced as a former Camp Shomria camper, and said one of the most rewarding parts of her work with Heart to Heart is seeing how quickly the campers grow.

“Seeing that massive transformation and how they treat each other and how they interact with the world in just three weeks [is rewarding],” she said.

To read full article, please see The Canadian Jewish News.

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