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.

I thought I had a solid command on so many facts and figures and data points and narratives. This trip gave me more facts, data points and anecdotes and voices that offer different narratives… Being present for that testimony was a gift. Rabbi David Seth Kirshner Rabbi, Temple Emanu-El, Closter, New Jersey
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 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
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
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