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 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
Incredibly eye-opening, educational. It offers Jewish communal leaders a unique opportunity to get unfiltered facts about the current conditions. Deborah Lauter Senior Vice President, Policy and Programs, Anti-Defamation League
Encounter gave me an opportunity that I had long been missing: to listen to the stories, perspectives, and experiences of Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. As a passionate supporter of Israel who yearns for peace, this experience was critical to a more complete understanding of the complexity of this land… Rabbi Adam Raskin Senior Rabbi, Congregation Har Shalom
So important to put faces and images to labels we read about. So important to humanize those often pitted as our enemies. So important to do so with Jews in a context of Ahavat Yisrael. Rabbi David Wolkenfeld Senior Rabbi, Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel
Being in some of the actual places most impacted by the conflict with one's actual body, feelings and self along with a cohort of incredibly thoughtful, passionate Jews who know a lot about the conflict and care deeply about Jews, Israel and the conflict itself, allows for an encounter with living history deeper than any panel, essay, sermon, or organizing session ever could. David S. Koffman Assistant Professor of History, Israel & Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, York University

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.