Photo by Shulamit Seidler-Feller

Our Mission

Encounter invites Jewish leaders to expand their view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to be a positive force for communal change.

I feel much more informed, have (some) first hand understanding and a better grasp on where to go to learn more. This is now an open and discussable topic. Rabbi Tully Harcsztark Head of School, SAR High School
I have an additional narrative in my head which I didn't have prior--that is why I knew it was necessary for me as a communal leader. Debbie Cosgrove Chair, Jewish Women’s Foundation NY
The trip forever colors your understanding of the security of Israel… It deepens your knowledge and exposure no matter how much you've read. Angie Atkins Director of Heritage Alumni, Wexner Foundation
Jewish communal leaders simply must recognize the need for us (right now!) to listen and learn, honor and engage, struggle and sit with all of these issues, narratives, experiences...for our sake collectively as a Jewish people, and specifically as American Jews. Lindsey B. Mintz Executive Director, Indianapolis JCRC
I feel more engaged [after the Encounter program]. When I read news stories or hear personal narratives about the conflict, I feel like I have the tools to respond. I'm more sensitive to the challenges that Palestinians face, though I retain skepticism for any simplistic solutions to the conflict. Rabbi Joshua Heller Senior Rabbi, B'nai Torah, Sandy Springs, Georgia

At Encounter, we believe Jewish leaders have a responsibility to engage seriously with a diverse set of voices to enhance our understanding of the dynamics that animate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Where Israel was once a unifying Jewish communal force, the subject of the conflict is now one of the most divisive and polarizing in American Jewish life. Our community needs leaders who can engage differently. Encounter believes our capacity to do so are acutely enhanced by meaningfully and directly engaging with the people with whom Israel is destined to share its future — Palestinians — as Jewish leaders, in the company of peers.

Encounter’s programs fill an essential, but often missing, piece of education for Jewish leaders who care deeply about Israel, the American Jewish community and the relationship between the two. Through our Immersive Education programs, selected influencers are invited to travel to the West Bank and East Jerusalem to join a carefully curated cohort of Jewish thought leaders from across the religious and political spectra to meet with a wide range of Palestinians — from civil society and business leaders to negotiators and grassroots activists, together and to consider the implications of what we learn for American Jewish life, Israel, the Palestinians and the interdependent relationships between them. Our Continuing Education opportunities build on the relationships forged in our immersive programs, and forms the basis for access to new perspectives, new networks and new approaches to the conflict.

Founded in 2005 by Rabbis Melissa Weintraub and Miriam Margles, Encounter has so far taken nearly 2,700 prominent and emerging American Jewish leaders to Bethlehem, Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Hebron to actively listen and learn from a wide range of Palestinians — and from each other.