Towards the end of May, Rabbi Benji Levy, CEO of Mosaic United, a partnership between the State of Israel and the global Jewish community, met with the leadership of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto to formalize the Toronto Jewish community’s commitment of $1 million USD to the ‘Shalom Corps’ Jewish service initiative. Launched in February by Mosaic United and the Jewish Agency for Israel, Shalom Corps aims to dramatically increase the number of young Jews around the world engaging in meaningful, ethical and sustainable service experiences that also provide opportunities for the exploration of Jewish identity.
With their investment, Toronto becomes the first pilot city for Shalom Corps, and UJA Federation will work with Mosaic United, Jewish Agency and other partners to develop and encourage Jewish volunteerism, community activism and service experiences locally.
“We are thrilled that Toronto’s Jewish community has joined Shalom Corps, our Mosaic United Campus Pillar, and set such a wonderful example for other communities to follow. The modern Jew is not just the member of a single organization, but a network in and of themselves with the profound ability to volunteer and be active for their own communities and the broader collective,” said Rabbi Benji Levy, CEO of Mosaic United. “With the partnership of strong Jewish communities like Toronto, we will create a movement that heals the fractured world around us, exposing young Jews to the numerous volunteering opportunities and encouraging them to contribute more – in their own communities and beyond.”
In the coming months, Toronto will pilot initiatives focused on local volunteering in the community and offer immersive volunteer opportunities away from home for young adults, laying the groundwork for broader participation of Toronto’s Jewish millennial population in local and global Jewish service experiences.
“We are delighted to join the initiative and be the pioneering community that guides the values and tools of this program in young Toronto,” said Adam Minksy, President and CEO of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. “We call on other communities around the world to join Mosaic United and the Jewish Agency’s important project and to work to connect young Jews to Israel and to Judaism.”
Leveraging Mosaic United’s commitment to addressing the numerous wide-ranging approaches for Jewish engagement, the Jewish Agency’s expertise, global reach and longstanding mission to connect Jews around the world to their Jewish identity and Israel, and the support of Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and international stakeholders, Shalom Corps will make existing Jewish service experiences more attractive and accessible to Jewish millennials. Additionally, the joint initiative will also strengthen, optimize and broaden the reach of such experiences, incorporating Jewish service learning and Israel engagement authentically within the volunteer programming. Toronto’s investment in volunteering and service learning is just the beginning, as Mosaic United, under the leadership of Rabbi Benji Levy and Gary Torgow, and the Jewish Agency, under the guidance of Isaac Herzog and Amira Aharonovich, hope to operate in the fields of service in distressed areas and emergency response as well.
“What’s happening now in Toronto with the Shalom Corps is an incredible example of the Jewish community joining together to strengthen identity among the younger generation and enabling them to live out the value of Tikkun Olam,” said Jewish Agency CEO Amira Aharonovich. “I’m looking forward to seeing other communities follow this wonderful example of true partnership between several organizations, all united around the same objective – keeping our people connected.”
Shalom Corps was launched in cooperation with OLAM – a platform promoting global Jewish service and international development – whose experience and expertise has, and will continue, to deeply influence the design of this initiative. The initiative also proudly partners with IsraAid, an Israel-based humanitarian aid agency that responds to emergency crises and engages in international development around the world. Shalom Corps will provide immersive Jewish volunteer organizations with recruitment and marketing resources, educational resources and Senior Jewish Educators, professional training, research and best practices, funding to help grow their numbers and increase affordability of their service experiences, alumni engagement resources and more.
Shalom Corps will begin accepting grant applications from volunteer service providers this summer and will kick-start its field building, strategy and planning, and marketing later this year. Within the first year of operation, Shalom Corps will work with organizations like IsraAid, among others, to unite volunteer responders from Israel and the Diaspora to provide disaster relief.
In the future, Shalom Corps will partner with organizations around the world to develop specialized volunteer programs. The service programming will encompass a variety of areas, including education, agriculture, humanitarian assistance, health, youth leadership, the empowerment of women and minorities, environmental aid and more.