Heschel Fellows 19 Cohort Reflections

At the end of May, the 19th cohort of the Fellows program concluded. This year, most of the participants had significantly less environmental background than in previous cohorts, which represented a successful attempt of the Heschel Center to reach new populations. This year, the program focused on more experiential activities, such as tours and workshops, as we have come to realize these are the most impactful experiences.

Fellows touring in South Tel Aviv, as part of a tour to examine possible future scenarios

“It has been an eye-opening experience in every way possible. I didn’t know what I was going into but I’m so glad I did it. In each part of the program I learned to see things differently and I still learn to do that by myself after the program ended,” says Dorit Hayun, one of the recent alumni who was a business development director in the Pharma industry and today promotes and agenda of “slowing down” the pace of life. “There is a huge gap between how I was before and how I think we should be thinking after – it’s a realization,” she says. “The program gave us many tools from various fields. The program’s ability to connect broad, ongoing events in the world with … the topic of sustainability was simply amazing.”

In a tour in Tel Aviv where they teach children refugees how to grow their own food in the city

Nir Goldstein, another recent alumni of the program describes his experience: “The program provided an in-depth introduction to the field of sustainability in Israel. Compared to academic programs, the Fellows program helped us get face-to-face with the most influential figures in the social-environmental fields. I graduate the program with knowledge, tools, connections and tons of positive energy that I take with me to my profession in food tech and agriculture.” Nir, who was one of the leaders of the winning team of the recent 2019 Anti-microbial resistance Hackathon is a business strategy consultant in the fields of agriculture and environment, in addition to being an animal rights activist. “The time of relating to the environment as a ‘hobby’ is long gone, and if we want to see change happen, we have to act meaningfully now,” he says.

Preparing to leave for a "Gaya Walk" exercise

As with other cohorts, the relationships between the participants was a meaningful part of the learning and change process. Nir shares: “When I heard about the program, I didn’t think it was a good fit for young people, but only for those who are already leaders in their field. I was really glad I got in, and I saw that the program as a bridge to becoming that leader. I tell my friends that in addition to the professional benefit of the program, I also gained new friends and meaningful personal experiences.”

“One of the most meaningful experiences had been the group dynamics,” says Dorit. “The diversity of the professional fields and the different lifestyles enriched the discussions we had and enriched me personally.”

In a tour of Jerusalem, speaking to Yoni, manager of Kayma Farm, as part of a food tour

Another theme of the 19th cohort was the spirit of activism, beginning from learning about figures such as Greta Thunberg and the extinction rebellion in the world. Anat Nir, who participated in the cohort is one of the leaders of the protests that call for action against violence against women and encouraged other members of the group to join.

During the winter, the group visited Daniel and Yoki Gil’s Source Outdoors factory, which manufactures camping equipment (Yoki is a board member of the Heschel Center), where Yoki spoke with them about what needs to occur in order for the country to transition to renewable energies. Since then, two 19th cohort alumni, Moti Segev and Orly Aharony, joined the Heschel Center Renewable energy team, a few of them joined purchasing groups to install solar panels on their homes’ rooftops, and another alumna, Rakefet Ginsberg, is promoting a renewable energy program in her hometown of Rosh Ha’ain. In addition, towards the end of the Fellowship, participants worked to raise public awareness about climate change at the Eurovision village. Towards the end of the year, they met former MK Dov Khenin, an alumnus of the Fellows program (from the very first cohort), who shared his perspective of activism and the importance of change in this difficult time.