Photo by Shulamit Seidler-Feller

Executive Leaders

Encounter’s Intensive Leadership Seminars are by-invitation-only programs designed for high-level Jewish communal leaders. Each Seminar cohort is comprised of leading Jewish professionals in their various fields and select lay leaders committed to a more nuanced, informed and constructive engagement with Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Each Intensive Leadership Seminar includes four webinars, a four-day delegation to the region with focused travel in Palestinian communities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and participation in a cohort-specific listserve. During the travel portion of the program, in a non-politically-prescriptive setting, the cohort meets with a diverse array of Palestinian civil society leaders, business people, negotiators, and grassroots activists for an opportunity to hear and consider the perspectives of those with whom Israel will share her future.

The Intensive Leadership Seminar cohorts are comprised of an intimate cross-section of leading American Jewish professionals, rabbis, philanthropists and public intellectuals who care deeply about the future of Israel, the vitality of the American Jewish community and the future of a strong relationship between the two. The broadest hope is this experience will strengthen the capacity of our community’s leadership to contend with some of the most divisive, yet urgent issues of this moment in service of leading more constructively upon return.

Encounter convenes leaders committed to deepening their own learning and engagement with the conflict, including both American Jewish community professionals and American Jews interested in the complexities of the conflict. Our Seminar cohorts reflect a wide spectrum of religious observance and political persuasions.

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
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
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
The opportunity to build relationships and process this intense experience with colleagues and new friends feels essential and a gift. Rabbi Deborah Waxman President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
It is incumbent upon us, as lovers of Israel, Jews and Judaism, to know all aspects of the issues. We are people of the book, of seeking truth and knowledge and peace. Debbie Cosgrove Chair, Jewish Women’s Foundation NY

Sample Itinerary

Day One

Building Blocks of the Conflict

The first day of the Intensive Program sets the framework for the program. Prior to traveling to the West Bank, participants gather in Jerusalem to meet fellow participants, set intentions for the experience, and explore Encounter’s approach to communicating in conflict. From there the group departs for the West Bank and directly to the Bethlehem Area. Participants will hear from respected leaders in the field of conflict transformation about how they are building nonviolent movements and engaging unlikely allies; delve deep into the personal experience of Palestinian change-makers; listen to stories of the “other”; and explore the geopolitical landscape through a tour of the Bethlehem area.

Day Two

The Changing Landscape from 1967 through Today

Our second day focuses on the political geography of the region. This includes a visual presentation of the changing contours of the West Bank, including a formal exploration of Areas A, B and C and demographics in each area. The group then visits a Palestinian village in Area C to hear from a local leader about his community. After lunch the group visits a refugee camp to learn more about the refugee experience in Palestinian society. In the afternoon, cohort members learn from one another through peer-led elective “shiurim” or workshops. We conclude the day with a festive dinner with local Palestinian guests, and, for those who opt to, an overnight homestay.

Day Three

Jerusalem: Centrality in Palestinian Culture & Society

The third day focuses on Jerusalem and the issues affecting Jerusalemite Palestinians, including residency rights, land allocation and permitting. We examine the changing landscape of the city, and visit central geopolitical landmarks and cultural venues in the city, including a popular political bookshop and cafe. On this day the group breaks into smaller tours to explore different neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and learn more about the specific challenges and opportunities facing residents. The group stays overnight at a hotel in East Jerusalem.

Day Four

Ramallah: Looking Forward - Challenges & Opportunities

The final day of the program begins with an early departure and breakfast in Ramallah. We stroll through the bustling city of Ramallah, the heart of business development and the seat of the Palestinian Authority, and hear directly from residents of this cosmopolitan city about political, demographic and economic trends as they relate to the conflict and the search for a durable resolution. The group will travel back to West Jerusalem to for the closing session of our immersive experience.

  • Every AM and PM the group will reconvene to reflect on the day ahead
  • Hechshered food is available on all programs
  • There will be time each day for davening shacharit, mincha and maariv
  • Each day participants will meet in small groups for facilitated intra-Jewish conversation
  • The days are dense; we ask participants to plan to be mostly offline during the travel portion of our program

FAQs

  • What is the Encounter Intensive Leadership Seminar?

    What is the Encounter Intensive Leadership Seminar?

    Encounter’s Intensive Leadership Seminars are by-invitation-only programs designed for senior Jewish communal leaders. Each seminar cohort is comprised of leading Jewish professionals in their various fields and select lay leaders committed to a more nuanced, informed and constructive engagement with Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Each Intensive Leadership Seminar includes four webinars, a four-day delegation to the region with focused travel in Palestinian communities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and participation in a cohort-specific listserv. During the travel portion of the program, the cohort meets with a diverse array of Palestinian civil society leaders, business people, negotiators, and grassroots activists for an opportunity to hear and consider the perspectives of those with whom Israel will share her future. The cost of flights is covered for professionals. See How much does participation cost? for more information.

    The Intensive Leadership Seminar cohorts are comprised of an intimate cross-section of leading American Jewish professionals, rabbis, philanthropists and public intellectuals who care deeply about the future of Israel, the vitality of the American Jewish community and the future of a strong relationship between the two. The broadest hope is this experience will strengthen the capacity of our community’s leadership to contend with some of the most divisive, yet urgent issues of this moment in service of leading more constructively upon return.

  • Who is Encounter’s target audience for these executive programs?

    Who is Encounter’s target audience for these executive programs?

    Encounter’s Leadership Intensive seminars are designed for senior Jewish communal leaders shaping our community’s engagement with Israel.

    Our primary target audiences are: influential pulpit rabbis, Hillel directors, senior leaders of national communal organizations, executive professionals specifically focused on Israel advocacy, thought leaders in Jewish education, lay leaders and philanthropists, and those shaping the Jewish public square on this issue. Each Intensive has a few reserved seats for lay leaders to join the cohort.

    Israeli Citizens: Israeli law forbids Israeli citizens from travel to Area A of the West Bank without a permit. Please speak with an Encounter staff person to discuss if there is a program for which you can apply.

  • How can I apply to join an Encounter Intensive Leadership Seminar?

    How can I apply to join an Encounter Intensive Leadership Seminar?

    Encounter’s Intensive Leadership Seminars are by invitation only. To learn more about who our target audience is please see above. Past-participants of our Intensive Leadership Seminars may nominate leaders in their community for consideration although please note, nomination does not imply acceptance nor is it transferable to others. If you are an alumnus of our standard programs, please inquire if you qualify for the Intensive Leadership Seminars. Participants must participate in all components of the program, including pre- and post-travel programming.

  • How much does participation cost?

    How much does participation cost?

    Program costs, accommodations (shared rooms), and flights* for Jewish communal professionals are underwritten by Encounter’s donors.

     

    Please note:

    • Flights will be reimbursed up to $1200 USD (higher for West Coast participants).
    • Participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from airports and for covering the costs of this transportation.
    • Accommodations on Encounter programs are based on shared occupancy. Should you wish to upgrade to a single room, please indicate so on your intake form. You will be responsible for the difference in price.
  • If I keep Kosher, can I participate? What kind of food will be served?

    If I keep Kosher, can I participate? What kind of food will be served?

    Encounter offers an option for heckshered food from Jerusalem for all meals. For those who don’t opt for heckshered food, all food served is vegetarian Middle Eastern fare prepared in local Palestinian restaurants or home-cooked by women’s cooperatives.

  • I need opportunities to daven daily. Is this possible on Encounter’s programs?

    I need opportunities to daven daily. Is this possible on Encounter’s programs?

    There are opportunities for shacharit, mincha and maariv on every Encounter program. All prayer sessions are optional. We arrange prayer so that as many people who want to pray can, and allowing for a variety of different prayer practices. If you have more questions, please be in touch with us.

  • Will my participation be made public?

    Will my participation be made public?

    We understand it is complicated for some to have their participation publicized. Encounter will never advertise your participation — on our website, on social media or in communication — without your explicit permission. We include an “opt-out” of all photographs option, and all participants are required to abide by a social contract respecting other participants’ preferences on this issue. Encounter reserves the right to share your participation with our Board and program funders.

  • What are Encounter’s security procedures and precautions?

    What are Encounter’s security procedures and precautions?

    Encounter’s highest priority is the safety and well-being of participants and staff. In addition to taking the US State Department Travel Advisories into consideration, we contract with a well reputed international security firm working with a mixed Israeli and Palestinian team who monitor our itinerary before and during the program. Our programs include advance monitoring services (vehicles with agents who travel ahead of the group to monitor the next location), and all groups are accompanied by a security agent. In Palestinian areas, we travel at all times with known Palestinian locals marking our group as a friendly presence, and we act as would any other group of international tourists. Each group travels with a trained medic. For further precaution, Encounter staff are equipped with a second “West Bank” Palestinian cell phone, since reception can sometimes be an issue over the Green line.

    Adjustments and Discretion: To ensure the safety and well-being of our staff and participants, we reserve the right to change our itinerary at any point in time without advance notice. We do not circulate itineraries in advance of the program, nor do we share our itineraries electronically for security reasons. Participants are asked not to broadcast on social media where we are at any given time until after we have left that location.

  • If I hold Israeli Citizenship, can I participate in Encounter’s programs in the West Bank?

    If I hold Israeli Citizenship, can I participate in Encounter’s programs in the West Bank?

    Israeli law prohibits Israeli citi­zens from trav­eling to Area A of the West Bank (Palestinian popu­la­tion centers under the civil and security control of the Palestinian Authority). For this reason, we are unable to include Israeli participants on most of our programs. For our Intensive Leadership Seminars, we have designated programs for which we include dual-citizens. In these circumstances Encounter applies for a permit for your participation, although we cannot guarantee you will receive it. We offer occa­sional programs in Areas B and C of the West Bank, where Israelis are free to travel. Check the schedule of upcoming programs or contact us if you have dual citizenship and would like to learn more about participating.

    *Please note: We are able to include dual citizens in our programs only if we receive applications from and accept a minimum of 4 qualified dual citizen candidates, constituting a meaningfully sized group.

  • Where will the group travel? With whom will we meet?

    Where will the group travel? With whom will we meet?

    We will meet with Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem who represent a range of perspectives on key issues. They are Muslims and Christians, women and men, civil society leaders and activists, business leaders and political negotiators. They represent varied political positions and advance different strategies on key issues. The itinerary shifts depending on security situations and speaker availability. Programs typically travel to Bethlehem and surrounding areas, East Jerusalem or Ramallah. See a sample itinerary above. Encounter reserves the right to change the itinerary at any time  without prior notice based on security considerations.

  • What are the accommodations like?

    What are the accommodations like?

    Accommodations are at local Palestinian hotels. All hotels are frequented by international tourists and most have Wi-Fi. Encounter offers optional home hospitality with a local Palestinian family in the Bethlehem area for one night of the program.

  • Why does Encounter strongly encourage homestays?

    Why does Encounter strongly encourage homestays?

    Encounter offers participants the opportunity for home hospitality. Repeatedly, we hear from participants that the homestay is the most impactful and enjoyable component of their experience. The host families are located in the Bethlehem area and have worked with Encounter for years — most since our founding a decade ago. The staff know the families personally, and know them to be warm, welcoming, and eager to connect with Jewish participants. This is a unique opportunity for more informal conversations and a chance to experience a little local Palestinian culture.

  • Am I required to have health insurance? Will my health insurance cover me while I’m in the West Bank?

    Am I required to have health insurance? Will my health insurance cover me while I’m in the West Bank?

    Encounter purchases addi­tional health and trav­elers insur­ance for all that covers all participants in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, locations that are frequently not covered by regular tourist coverage to Israel. 

  • I understand Encounter is investing in me. What am I committing to in return? What is expected of me?

    I understand Encounter is investing in me. What am I committing to in return? What is expected of me?

    Members of Encounter’s Intensive Leadership Seminar commit to participating in all aspects of the program including pre-travel cohort webinars, preparatory reading, four chevruta sessionscompleting a pre-travel survey and participation in all aspects of the travel component. Participants agree not to leave the group at any point during the four day delegation to the region, or to have visitors join the group unless you have received written permission from the trip leaders.

    Participants should plan to be mostly offline during the travel component of the program as the days are long and demanding. All members of the Leadership Intensive Seminar commit to upholding group member’s confidentiality and not writing, speaking or posting pictures about other group members without explicit permission. Post-travel all participants will join two cohort webinars, and complete online program surveys immediately after the program and six months later.

    Our hope is that if we do our jobs well, you will have a meaningful and powerful experience and (1) be moved to help us recruit future program participants, (2) speak, write and teach about the experience privately and publicly, (3) consider paying it forward and making a gift to Encounter to subsidize other Jewish leaders’ participation and (4) consider how you will actively continue to shape your leadership on this issue.