For Eliran Douenias, it was all too fortuitous to be mere coincidence — it had to be a sign.
When attending his best friend’s wedding to a former JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps fellow in Rochester, Douenias, an Israeli social entrepreneur, learned about the Ralph I. Goldman (RIG) Fellowship.
A one-of-a-kind leadership development experience, the Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship challenges and enriches one talented rising Jewish leader each year by exposing him/her to key challenges facing the global Jewish community and offering an incomparable opportunity to do something about them.
RIG Fellows work with senior JDC staff to design unique overseas placements that match their skills and interests with the critical needs of communities abroad.
“My last military position placed me in charge of establishing a unit for initiating new immigrants to Israel. It was an incredible way to discover the global Jewish world,” Douenias said. “When I was discharged, I continued to work in that field … to create synergy between communities in Israel and Europe and North America. For me, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity looked like the highest mountain I could climb on this path I’ve decided to walk on.”
He said he takes seriously the unique mantle that comes with being the first fellow following the death of the fellowship’s namesake, Ralph I. Goldman, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 100.
It’s become to clear Douenias that Goldman was a “a doer, a modest, hard worker who never asked for credit, who just knew what had to be done” — and that’s a legacy he said he intends to honor.
“When you enter JDC’s offices in Israel, you see ‘kol yisrael arevim zeh la’zeh,’” Douenias said, referring to the Talmudic principle that all Jews are responsible for one another. “In many ways, that was Ralph’s vision about being a Jew, and that’s the mission statement of the organization. It’s Ralph’s legacy to continue that fundamental statement, to be there for every Jew wherever they are, and to make they can stay a part of the global Jewish community.”
Douenias holds a bachelor’s degree in social science, a certificate in human resources management, and a master’s degree in law from Bar Ilan University. Following his military service, he co-founded Olam, a social enterprise that identifies needs, provides innovative solutions, and promotes ethical goals in the areas of immigration, integration, education, and tourism in Israeli society.
He was also selected to participate in Kriat Kivun, a unique program of the Prime Minister’s Office for young leaders in the public sector; in this framework, he serves in the Ministry of Economy to make strategic modifications to the nation’s policies governing small and medium-sized businesses.
Though the fellowship will likely take him all over the world — JDC works in more than 70 countries — Douenias said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to be placed in a number of locations and looks forward to bringing the spirit of entrepreneurship wherever he goes.
JDC Entwine Program Director Shauna Ruda said it’s clear Douenias’s background will make him an effective ambassador for JDC around the world.
“We’re proud that Eliran will carry forward the legacy of our beloved Ralph Goldman, z”l, who firmly believed in the empowerment of young people and the need to impart their talents and creativity to the Jewish world,” she said. “His innovative work in the youth development and entrepreneurial fields will help meet the demands of a Jewish world eager for forward-thinking and inspired leadership.”
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