Photo by Shulamit Seidler-Feller

Our Mission

Encounter is an educational organization working toward informed, courageous and resilient American & Israeli Jewish communal leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I appreciated the opportunity to deepen my understanding of the conflict without being told what I should think or what I should do about it. Instead, I was given a diverse community of colleagues with whom I could debrief and figure out for myself how to incorporate what I had encountered into my leadership. Miriam Heller Stern Director, School of Education, Jewish Institute of Religion, Hebrew Union College
I have totally opened to a new perspective on the conflict, one that I thought I understood but I now realize that I did not. Rabbi David Schuck Rabbi, Beth El Synagogue Center
Incredibly eye-opening, educational. It offers Jewish communal leaders a unique opportunity to get unfiltered facts about the current conditions. Deborah Lauter Executive Director, NYC Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes
Encounter's value is being one of a kind in creating a thoughtful, safe space [and a] responsible and diverse cohort of inspiring colleagues who can support each other in engaging the conflict in our communities. It offers Jewish leaders access to the voices we want to be talking to and with and about from the other side of the messiest, most personal global conflict we are in some way all a part of. It softens our ears and hearts even while dogmatically resisting specific political solutions or pat answers. Rabbi Steven Exler Senior Rabbi, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale
It is a duty to listen to all the stories if you wish to have a properly functioning moral compass. Rabbi Steve Greenberg Executive Director, Eshel

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 more than 3,000 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.