Growing up, Michal Berman attended a modern Orthodox school in Israel, but also often traveled to the United States to connect with her more secular relatives. Her father was a sabra, an Israeli-born Jew, and her mother made aliyah (moved to Israel) from the U.S. “I had two perspectives from the very beginning,” she says, which taught her to value and respect all expressions of Judaism. Now, as CEO of Jewish Federation-supported Panim — a pluralist organization that supports all Israeli Jews in cultivating their individual identities, no matter where they fall on the religious spectrum — Michal’s singular goal is to spread that same respect across Israel.
“The fact is, there are different ways of being Jewish, and they are all important,” Michal says. “At Panim, we think it is exciting that people have different ways of doing things.” Since Israel is dominated by two types of Jewish practice, Orthodoxy and secularism, Panim proposes a new, inclusive category called Israeli-Judaism, which is accepting of all Jewish identities. Israeli-Judaism celebrates that there are many ways of being Jewish — cultural, historical, familial, national and religious.
Panim works with over 60 diverse Israeli organizations in support of Israeli-Judaism, providing Israelis with the tools and activities to live full Jewish lives, in whatever ways each person chooses. These organizations pair up Israelis and Americans to digitally study together, host pluralistic programming in Israeli schools across the country, and provide resources for a range of traditional and nontraditional ceremonies. For example, Panim’s website, which is accessed by more than 30,000 people every month, offers over 1,200 worksheets teaching a variety of ways to participate in Jewish holidays and rituals, and hosts over 20 educational courses. Meanwhile, Panim also supports each organization with research and government lobbying. All of this, Michal says, is in service of Panim’s simple philosophy: “All people should feel at home in their culture.”
For more information on Panim’s impact and ranging initiatives, click here.