Our Founding Story

Encounter was founded in 2005 by two visionary rabbinical students — now Rabbis Melissa Weintraub and Miriam Margles — who foresaw the need for Jewish communal leadership to have access to both a diversity of Palestinian voices and fellow Jewish voices to be effective leaders on this issue upon their return to the United States. Rabbi Melissa Weintraub was awarded the Grinnell Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize for her work at Encounter and has gone on to create and direct Resetting the Table, an initiative focused on opening up the oft-divisive conversation around Israel in the American Jewish community. Rabbi Miriam Margles serves as the Rabbi of the Danforth Jewish Circle in Toronto, Canada.

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 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
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
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
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