For Young Israeli, the Chance to Transform Jewish Lives

February 11, 2016


Awarded to one person annually, the Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship is JDC’s premier leadership opportunity for young Jewish thinkers and doers. The fellowship is a paid, professional opportunity to live and work in several overseas locations where JDC is active; providing a firsthand look at JDC’s global operations through individualized assignments. Each fellow works closely with JDC staff to identify and design their unique overseas placements, shaped by their skills, interests, and the critical needs of communities overseas.

This year’s fellowship recipient is Noa Tal. She talked to JDC about how her passions align with this opportunity, why she’s excited to carry on Mr. Goldman’s legacy, and more.

Q: What is your professional background? What are you most passionate about?

A: My professional background is very diverse and reflects my broad interests. I hold two Masters Degrees—an MSc in Neuro-Biology and an MA in Public Policy and Government.

In the last few years, I have gained extensive experience in project management, research, and policy creation, in addition to developing teaching programs and tutorials.

In my position at the Council for Higher Education, I managed a number of national projects from conception through implementation and monitoring. This position allowed me to identify significant challenges and to develop essential concepts for action plans. I also worked in the Knesset in several areas, including working as a consultant on the annual national budget and as a parliamentary assistant.

Additionally, I have an extensive background in teaching, having been an art instructor in an American Jewish camp, a nature guide in Israel, a school teacher for critical thinking and social issues, and a teaching assistant at the university. Several of the curriculums I developed are still being utilized. I really love working with people and enjoy the privilege of teaching, empowering. and influencing people’s lives.

I care about values such as social justice, equality, an inclusive society, and a Jewish education. That is why in the last few years I volunteered at different social and political movements in Jerusalem and at NGOs fighting for women’s rights. I was elected as a representative of the student union, and I continuously participated in different limmud (learning) groups with secular, religious, and ultra-Orthodox participants.

From the same reasons that led me to volunteer, I built two websites for things I’m passionate about. The first website aims to encourage couples that are getting married to create their own Jewish wedding so that it’s more meaningful and equal on both sides of the union. The second website engages people in the equality debate through the use of movies. I’m interested in how women are represented in the media, and I believe that empowering women is key.   

Q: How did you hear about the Ralph I. Goldman (RIG) Fellowship in International Jewish Service? Do you have any past experience with JDC?

A: I heard about the RIG fellowship through a JDC Entwine trip to Rwanda that I participated in last September. The whole experience was very meaningful for me because I saw how Jewish values are practiced in real life and how these values can bring good to a place that I would never imagine. After seeing that, I knew that I wanted to become more involved with JDC.

I also participated in a Gesher retreat for young Jewish leaders in the Balkans. Participating in Gesher was a very powerful and interesting experience for me. I learned that there are so many common issues and challenges facing Jewish communities in the Balkans and Israel today. I was also able to see completely different viewpoints on topics and what we can learn from one another, which made me want to dive even further into the JDC world.

When I learned about the RIG fellowship, I was certain that it would be an amazing opportunity to get to meet and work with amazing people involved with humanitarian work and community building, both of which make the world a better place. This will enable me to have both a personal and professionally rewarding experience.

Q: Any meaningful experiences that occurred while traveling with JDC Entwine in Rwanda?

A: What comes to mind first is when some of the students in Rwanda came to me and asked if I wanted to join them in their tikkun olam activities. Tikkun olam means repairing the world in Hebrew, which is a core Jewish value. Seeing how Jewish values inspire these amazing students to give back to their community, through building houses and teaching children English in school, was a powerful moment for me where I felt really proud not only about Jewish values but also that I was part of the activities.

Q: What do you see as JDC’s core mission?

A: I see JDC as an organization that derives from core global Jewish values of mutual responsibility for one other, where you can spread human values through action and inspire people to do that in their own communities. What bonds everything together is the notion that we’re all part of one global Jewish world.

Q: Why are you excited to carry on Ralph Goldman’s legacy through this fellowship?

A: I feel very honored to be part of Ralph Goldman’s legacy. From all that I’ve learned about him, and from the stories I’ve collected, I learned that Ralph Goldman’s name has been synonymous with JDC for as long as many can remember. He has been the ‘heart’ of JDC for over four decades and an icon of international Jewish communal service. His passion and humility were two major components of his outstanding ability to lead. And he indeed led the JDC and the Jewish people in many of our major historic moments. I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to serve this year in this fellowship that represents Ralph’s values, which deeply inspire me.  

Q: What do you hope to focus on during your fellowship?

A: I would like to be involved with engaging the younger generation in the conversation around what being Jewish means to them. I would also like to focus on sharing knowledge and best practices between communities so we can make this generation feel like they’re reclaiming their Jewish identity.

Q: What are some personal and professional goals that you want to achieve during this fellowship?

I want to learn from experts in the field about humanitarian work that derives from Jewish values. Further, I would like to learn about how to best create young vibrant Jewish communities, in which individuals are excited about building their Jewish future.

JDC’s global programs are made possible by the generosity of our supporters.

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