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.

It offered me a way to stretch myself and face uncomfortable realities in a way that I often (whether consciously or not) tend to avoid doing. Specifically, it reinforced the urgency and centrality of the conflict within the array of issues, causes, and experiences through I which I relate to the State of Israel. At the same time, it connected me to an incredible network of passionate Jewish leaders who now share the same powerful and unsettling experience. Rabbi Avraham Bronstein Rabbi, The Hampton Synagogue
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
Essential and transformative. Rabbi Angela Buchdahl Senior Rabbi, Central Synagogue
Encounter reinforced that certainty is not our friend if we are going to be drivers of peace. We need more questions than answers, more curiosity than certainty. Elana Kahn Director, Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation
I didn't learn any substantial new facts or yet-unknown perspectives about the conflict. But I was pressed to confront the urgency of... and the untenability of my own blind spots. Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky Rabbi, Ansche Chesed

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.