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
I have totally opened to a new perspective on the conflict, one that I thought I understood but I now realize that I did not. Rabbi David Schuck Rabbi, Beth El Synagogue Center
I am so impressed with the staff and the culture of this organization. Debbie Cosgrove Chair, Jewish Women’s Foundation NY
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
This is an intense trip that quickly immerses you in narratives of Palestinians that are mostly hidden to Jews living in Israel. You will have access to unvarnished insights that will deepen your understanding of the Palestinian narrative and broaden your understanding of the conflict. You will have the chance to ask hard questions and to struggle deeply with colleagues about the challenges you witness. All of this in a deeply supportive environment. Rabbi Elliott Tepperman Rabbi, Bnai Keshet, New Jersey