(L to R) Mindy Schneider Lesser, Katie Lesser, Jake Lesser and Michael Lesser MD. Credit: Birthright Israel Foundation.
Schneider Lesser Family Endows Birthright Israel’s Social-Diversity Module
The Schneider Lesser family is making a transformational endowment gift to the Birthright Israel Foundation to fund the Birthright Israel Social Diversity Module, a program that educates tens of thousands of Jewish young adults each year about the true face of Israel, in which Jews, Arabs, and other ethnic groups live and work together. The gift is part of a new strategic partnership between Birthright Israel and the Schneider Lesser family and is emblematic of both sides’ visionary leadership.
The family is best known for its extraordinary involvement in the Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, in Petach Tikva, which treats Israel’s and the surrounding area’s diverse pediatric population.
Birthright Israel’s Social Diversity Module offers programming highlighting Israel’s social diversity and how it is a valuable asset to the country, even amid challenges. The program is dedicated to working with entities presenting the complex reality of living as a minority in Israel. Such minority communities include Bedouin, Druze, LGBTQ+, Haredi and secular Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Arab- Israelis.
“Many people don’t understand what Israel is. Israelis actually work together, and to see these people from these distinct communities collaborate is a remarkable thing,” said Mindy Schneider, who is making the contribution with her husband, Michael Lesser.
“You can hear about Israel, and you can read about Israel, but you don’t know Israel until you visit and see what’s going on. You realize it’s not like the newspapers describe, which is an Israel always in crisis. You can see that Israel is a great, booming country, a young people’s country,” said Michael Lesser.
The Birthright Israel Social Diversity Module is one track that Birthright participants may select for their 10-day Israel experience. The module exposes participants to the Jewish state’s diversity and helps them to grasp the complexity of modern Israel, particularly important in today’s anti-Israel climate on social media. Birthright Israel promotes inquiry and openness, which enables our participants to reflect thoughtfully and critically during their Jewish journey of developing a personal relationship with Israel.
The module includes visits to a center on Ethiopian-Jewish culture and history; Sindyanna of Galilee, a female-led non-profit organization that promotes fair trade and the business of peace; and Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel. Participants also meet members of the LGBTQ+ community of Jerusalem and communal leaders, such as Sheikh Bader Qassem, a Druze official. Overall, the module’s participants are exposed to the intricacy of Israeli society and learn of different communities’ decency, compassion, and joined human values in genuine and touching contexts.
“Birthright Israel does not propagate any specific political, religious, or ideological stance. Instead, it introduces and discusses certain key issues vital to understanding the intricate nature of Israel’s overall social reality,” said Gidi Mark, Birthright Israel’s CEO. “Today’s socio-political climate often aims to amplify conflict and wrap every aspect of Israeli life in rival ideological schools. Our Social Diversity Module, however, aims to show the opposite: that thinking of Arabs and Israelis does not always need to be an association with conflict. Instead, we highlight splendid displays of human decency in Israel and peoples’ contribution to the greater good.”
He added: “The Schneider Lesser family’s generous gift will help Birthright Israel to educate young Jews and strengthen their Jewish communities. They’ll be exposed to people of different cultures throughout Israel, and that will broaden their perspectives and enrich them.”