Traveling to a Better World | Reflections from a Ralph I. Goldman Fellow

During his RIG Fellowship, Doron Shapir visited 12 countries, worked on five continents, and served the Jewish world.

By Doron Shapir - 2022 JDC Entwine Ralph I. Goldman (RIG) Fellow | March 13, 2023

Doron Shapir (far left) preparing for a Kabbalat Shabbat for refugees from Ukraine with the Moldovan Jewish community.

From Tunisia to Ethiopia to the Philippines, Doron Shapir – the 2022 JDC Entwine Ralph I. Goldman (RIG) Fellow in Jewish Leadership – trotted the globe. Through his fellowship experience, Shapir combined his love of service with a curiosity about the Jewish world. In this reflection, Shapir reflects on his year of service, professional development, and Jewish exploration. 

Shapir teaching Hebrew at a JDC-supported Jewish school in Djerba, Tunisia.

In 2022, I served as JDC’s Ralph I. Goldman (RIG) Fellow in Global Jewish Leadership. Through this unique experience, I visited 12 countries, worked in 5 continents, and met countless interesting people who, despite enormous challenges, serve their community and help make the world better. More than just the opportunity to travel – which I am deeply and profoundly thankful to JDC for – this year let me further explore my desires and passions, learn and develop as a young professional, and commit myself to a life of service and leadership.   

In life, you do not always get what you want– and most definitely, not the first time you try. Indeed, I applied for the RIG Fellowship years ago, but due to its competitive nature as well as my own lack of “direction” at the time, I did not get it. After developing my skills and abilities through my diplomatic assignment at the Embassy of Israel to the United States, and redefining my goals and life plans during the pandemic, I reapplied to this life-changing fellowship and got it – life lesson learned!  

Another life lesson is that you cannot plan everything and unexpected events are part of the journey. As the fellowship orientation came to an end, a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine began. Determined to help, I became part of JDC’s humanitarian aid team and sent medications as well as food to Ukraine and its surroundings. After just a few weeks, I found myself at the borders of Ukraine, closely witnessing the crisis and providing JDC’s assistance to hundreds of refugees. While I was sad to see the pain and shock in the face of families who hurriedly left their homes with almost no belongings, I was glad to see the spirit of service shared by the humanitarian staff all over the world. While I could never imagine such a tragic crisis taking place in the 21st century, I will always be thankful for the opportunity to do some good in the midst of it.  

As an Israeli, there are various places around the world where it is more difficult for me to travel.  One such place is Tunisia. Growing up in Israel, I had learned about Mizrahi Jews, saw pictures and movies about their Aliyah stories, and ate some great foods while visiting friends whose ancestors came from these communities. However, I never thought I could visit such places – let alone, work there.  

Shapir in Sydney, Australia with Dr. Rick Hodes, JDC’s Medical Director.

Nevertheless, as a RIG Fellow, I was able to spend an unforgettable two weeks in Djerba, Tunisia, working with educators and witnessing the life of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. It felt unique to spend Shabbat in a medieval-style Jewish neighborhood, it felt surreal to communicate in modern Hebrew – but more than anything, it felt meaningful to push past the mental and physical borders that had separated us and know them as people.  

I am also proud of the projects I led during the year in a variety of environments and across many professional fields. In Ethiopia, I built a CRM system for the JDC’s Spine Clinic in Addis Ababa which now allows an effective recording of patients’ data and assists the medical decision-making process. In Greece and in the Philippines, I prepared strategic plans aiming at strengthening the local Jewish communities, increasing engagement, delivering services to members in need. Lastly, in Australia, I helped fundraise a significant amount of money for JDC and hosted events for young professionals in both Sydney and Melbourne.   

While the fellowship was somewhat of a solo-journey, I certainly could not deal with such and other problems and crises just by myself. Through the fellowship, I further discovered the power of cooperation and realized that leaders must work together. During the year, I benefited much from my work alongside amazing JDC staff and was inspired by the commitment of local Jewish leaders to their communities. Thanks to these experiences, I now realize that as a leader, I must leave the comfort zone and work with others, see the greater picture rather than just my own interest or immediate needs, and even when it looks impossible, find ways to bring people, organizations and even countries together.   

Ralph I. Goldman was such a leader. During my fellowship, I learned about Ralph’s commitment to JDC and the Jewish world and his unwavering ability to deal with hardships and obstacles along the way. Through his leadership, Ralph assisted Jews in need, helped establish and constantly improve the State of Israel, and made the Jewish world become more interconnected and intertwined.   

During my fellowship, I learned about Ralph Goldman’s commitment to JDC and the Jewish world – his unwavering ability to deal with hardships and obstacles along the way.

 Just before the end of the year, I traveled to Buenos Aires with a group of U.S. young Jewish leaders on an insider Entwine trip. Together with my fellow travelers, I visited the Jewish Community of Argentina, discussed the future of the Jewish people, and cherished the memory of David Ben Rafael, Ralph’s son, who was killed at the 1992 terror attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.  

As I learned from Ralph, being a leader consists of dealing with harsh realities, pain and even tragedies, but then again – continue to do good and serve others anyway. Indeed, the RIG fellowship provided me with an opportunity to witness some of the world’s most pressing issues – war, hunger, poverty, and lack of basic healthcare – but it also gave me a chance to do my part in mitigating some of these problems and repairing the world, exactly what Judaism insists we never stop trying.   

Doron Shapir is the 2022 JDC Entwine Ralph I. Goldman (RIG) Fellow. Born and raised in Israel, Doron incorporates his deep love for his homeland into his work and scholarship in the international arena. Doron has served as the Director of Strategic and Economic Cooperation at the Embassy of Israel to the United States and a liaison officer in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Steadfast in his commitment to intercultural dialogue and education, Doron developed an online platform to teach Arabic speakers the Hebrew language. He graduated from Brandeis University as a Malkin Scholar with a master’s degree in International Economics and a bachelor’s in Global Studies.

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