Students in the Maria and Joel Finkle Overseas Program at Midreshet Lindenbaum received an inspiring visit yesterday from Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America; and Mark Wilf, Chair of the Jewish Federations of North America and president and owner of the Minnesota Vikings (Skol!).
The students were eager to learn from Silverman and Wilf’s collective knowledge and experience and asked a number of questions relating to their strong sense of responsibility toward Jewish communal leadership and ensuring the Jewish future.
Wilf shared how being the son of Holocaust survivors impacted him and shaped his outlook on the importance of Jewish community and a Jewish state. In his eyes, he explained, it’s crucial to create a sense of connection between North American youth and Israel; had there only been a strong Israel during the time of the Holocaust, history would have been written differently.
Silverman then regaled listeners with the story of a chance encounter between his rambunctious 11-year old self and General Moshe Dayan – a meeting which left a lasting impression upon him and planted the seeds for his future dedication to the State of Israel.
Questions from the students included how we can strengthen the relationships between the various streams of Judaism (“Hitler didn’t differentiate,” said Wilf; Silverman:”So much more binds us than divides us”); what motivates them as Jewish communal leaders (“Whatever your dreams are – dream bigger!” exhorted Silverman); and how can we stem the climbing rates of assimilation (“It’s crucial to create a sense of pride among North American youth,” maintained Wilf).
Silverman reminded the young women – poised, as they are, on the brink of returning to Diaspora university campuses – that while the Jewish community needs Jewish professionals, it’s also important to be a Jewish communal volunteer. He encouraged them to view the Jewish community as a priority and invest in it, remaining involved no matter what profession they eventually choose to undertake.
Following the meeting with the students, OTS President and Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Kenneth Brander introduced Silverman and Wilf to the heads of all the programs housed in the Besen Family Centre, including the Elaine and Norm Brodsky Darkaynu Program; the Hadas Torah/Army Program for Israelis; the Amlat Program for Spanish-speaking women; the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership ; and Yad La’isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center.
“Ohr Torah Stone is very grateful to Jerry Silverman and Mark Wilf for providing us with this opportunity,” said Rabbi Brander. “The students were very excited to learn that such prominent Jewish communal leaders took time out of their busy visit to come and speak with them, and they were delighted to have received such genuine, warm answers to their questions, which undoubtedly motivated and inspired them for future commitment.”