Please join me in the journey of renewing Nesiya. Together, we can build Nesiya’s future.
Nesiya is the most formative experience in my personal and professional life. During four years as a Nesiya counselor educator, I discovered myself as a Jewish educator, and I have been nurturing this purpose in my life for the past 14 years. Most importantly, I was blessed by the experience of working for Nesiya side by side with the woman with whom, three years later, I would marry and build a family. Now, as I accept the challenge to lead this unique organization, I am both excited and humbled.
There is nothing more important in Jewish life than bringing together young people from different backgrounds to learn from and build relationships with one another. Perhaps the most important thing we can give our children is the experience of building a community of diverse Jews based on mutual love and respect. I grew up as an active Reform Jew in Westchester, New York. I started to become more observant during my undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College. During graduate school I was welcomed with open arms as a staff member into the Nesiya family. I found myself in a remarkably safe, yet challenging environment. The mutual respect and love of the diverse senior staff inspired us to build a dynamic and caring community. They also modeled how to integrate substantive Jewish content with personal exploration, and then insisted that we, as counselor educators, do the same. I have not found any other professional setting which so successfully integrates experiential learning and mentoring. On a more personal level, the emphasis in Nesiya on questions, challenges and honest struggle compelled me to deeply explore how I want to live Jewishly; how to dance between giving to others and developing myself as a unique and joyous human being.
Since working with Nesiya from 1999 to 2002, I continued leading young people in a range of Jewish educational settings. I taught for several years in pluralistic Jewish programs for teens, college students and young adults (Camp Yavneh, Brandeis Collegiate Institute, Aardvark Israel, and Colgate University, where I worked both as the campus rabbi and lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religion), and also taught and directed the outdoor program at a gapyear Israel program for delinquent English speaking youth. I received a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and Orthodox rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.
When I first met Nesiya 14 years ago, the positive impact on the lives of young people was striking. Since then, I have met and learned about hundreds of individuals that are making serious contributions to their communities and credit Nesiya for their choices of study, career paths and leadership roles. Nesiya programs challenge participants to look beyond themselves to positively influence the world around them. I have met several American Nesiya alumni who today are heads of Hillels, and an Ethiopian Israeli alumna who, after serving as head of a Hillel in Israel, is now working as an emissary in a major American Jewish community. I know dozens of alumni who became rabbis and educators, both in Jewish and secular settings. I recently learned of an alumna who credits her creation of an urban community farm to her experience in Nesiya. I know alumni who have become doctors, artists and performers who all say that Nesiya played a major role in their accomplishments.
Nearly every Nesiya alum that I meet has shared how Nesiya helped develop their self confidence, openmindedness, and relationships with people that are different from themselves; inspired their participation in volunteer activities; and motivated them to be involved in social and political change. Nesiya is in the business of creating change agents.
At the center of my vision for Nesiya’s future is an exceptional summer Israel program and an extended community reengaging with Nesiya’s core Jewish messages of individuality, mutual responsibility, and giving. Building on Nesiya’s twenty-eight year heritage, our greatest resources are the thousands of alumni, parents, and veteran staff in both North America and Israel. A new association of friends can provide a vital context for renewing and sustaining the experiences and learning of the Nesiya summer Israel program. Nesiya’s renewal can be advanced through the grassroots participation of both American and Israeli alumni in fundraising, recruitment and followup activities. This association will also play a critical role in strengthening the perception of Nesiya as a premier Jewish educational leadership development program, and not simply as a summer Israel program. Alumni sharing their stories will illustrate the depth and breadth of Nesiya’s impact. Ideally, under the leadership of Nesiya alumni and veteran staff, Nesiya will become capable again of conducting year round followup programs. The use of technology, the internet, and social media will be critical tools for accomplishing this work in the most efficient way.
I look forward to facing the challenges and opportunities as Director of Nesiya. I am excited to develop my skills as a fundraiser and will greatly appreciate individuals who are ready to step forward to help.
I am enthusiastic about Nesiya’s partnering with Keshet with whom I have been working as a guide and educator. Keshet is successful because it is constantly striving to make the experiences of its participants more personally relevant and inspiring. Keshet excels in providing high quality logistics and great educational content for its programs for schools, camps and synagogues from across the spectrum of North American Jewish life. I look forward to introducing the Nesiya community to Keshet’s staff and programs.
I look forward to meeting you and planning your participation in creating a longterm, viable future for Nesiya. Please contact me with specific ideas of how you can help (i.e. organizing an alumni event, making recruitment calls, fundraising, publicity, etc). Please write me with any questions and your ideas. I look forward to hearing from you.
The Nesiya Institute ● Nesiya.org ● firstname.lastname@example.org
Pierre Koenig 33 ● Jerusalem 93469, Israel ● (073) 238-6543 149
Madison Avenue, Suite 1178 ● New York, NY 10016 ● (516) 203-4611