CEO, The New Israel Fund
Program Director, Jewish Life & Values, Nathan Cummings Foundation
The whole exercise of looking back at this work and talking to the people on my team who were here and looking at the materials from that period of time in particular some of the evaluations put me in mind of the Zhao Enlai apocryphal story when the premiere of China was visiting Nixon and Nixon knowing that the Chinese premier was a big fan of French revolution history asked him what he thought the impacts of the French revolution were on western civilization today and Zhao Enlai replied, "it is too early to tell." And so I thought of this as I read some of the evaluations of the early work, which I think found some real successes in seeding some ideas and organizations which have continued to flourish and grow, but also which I think assessed I think this was maybe half a decade out, after the work - maybe in the mid 2004, 5 - assessed that one of the primary ideas that NCF and NIF had had which was to try to bring closer together religious pluralism agendas to social justice agendas, and house this newly merged agenda in the religious pluralism groups that we were supporting in the partnership together. The early assessment was that that didn’t happen in the way that we had hoped it would. There were other successes, including incredible grants made to organizations that have flourished and grown, but that attempt to merge the agendas didn't quite take root and it was funny to be reading these materials in the middle of the current context, which of course are the most massive social justice protests to have ever been experienced in Israel. The largest protests of any kind in the history of the state of Israel, all about social justice and as I spoke with some of my Israeli team about our joint work together over the years again and again people brought up the fact, we thought that we hadn't been able to sort of make that merger between the two agendas with these pluralism organizations, despite the successes in pluralism, but what we’re seeing now is that those seeds have blossomed and some of the same organizations that we, through the partnership, were supporting and working with back then ten years ago are now giving seminars on the connection between Jewish values, Jewish spiritual religious values and the social justice agenda of the protestors. And I thought this was just an incredible and beautiful thing. It’s very hard to know the results after only five or ten years, of this kind of work, which I think goes to the nature of not just this area of the partnership, but of a lot of the work that we’ve done together. What has left the most indelible imprint on the NIF side has been the foundation’s commitment to deeply intensive research and learning and mapping which result in strategic investments —this is a theory that we’ve emulate and try to operationalize on our side, but that theory actually turned out to be more successful than we knew five years ago looking at what we had done five years earlier. It took just longer.