J Leaders at Z3 – Applying Jewish Wisdom to a Post October 7th World
By Sarah Feldman, 2020-21 J Leaders Academy Fellow and J Leaders Executive Board Member
On November 5th, 2023, J Leaders Academy alumni attended the Z3 Conference in Palo Alto, which discussed the interaction between the Jewish diaspora and Israel. The conference was both uplifting and intense. With an uptick in antisemitism and controversy on Israeli policy, it was refreshing to walk away with action items on how we can support one another in a post-October 7th world.
Some highlights from the Opening Plenary included hearing from an Israeli Ambassador, a former Israeli Supreme Court Justice, and the Israeli Minister of Education.
In the early part of the conference, we heard from the Israeli Ambassador and the Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest Ambassador Marco Sermoneta about the spike in antisemitism on college campuses, in our policies, and worldwide. The power in his words gave voice to the hatred towards Jews, vandalism, and attacks that the Jewish community and its allies have witnessed in the past few months.
The Supreme Court Justice Prof. Elyakim Rubinstein spoke about past Israeli peace agreements. He shed light on the challenges Israel faced with some of its neighbors and which countries were more poised for negotiations than others. This shed light on Israel’s future after the war.
The former Israeli Minister of Education Prof. Yuli Tamir discussed her concern of division amongst students of varying religious backgrounds. To avoid division in classrooms, she advocated welcoming all Israeli students despite the ongoing war and political pressures by focusing on student safety.
Hamas and the Festival of Peace
The October 7th festival attendees’ stories have been some of the hardest to hear for me personally.
The chutzpah* and bravery that took place next was incredible. Two family members of the 240 hostages stepped off of a flight from Israel to share their stories at the Z3 conference. One lost his brother, and the other lost his daughter. Both had interacted with their respective family members just before Hamas took them. Many attendees teared up in the shared grief. The crowd broke out into a chant of “Bring Them Home”. In that moment, I felt more connected to my Jewish community than ever before.
* Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that means showing confidence and audacity to get through trouble.
Catharsis and Action – Tachless
There was a tangible catharsis to move from pain to action. Zach Bodner, the Founder of Z3, gracefully pivoted the discussions to what actions we can take to help the situation in Israel.
After a brief food break, I attended a session about the challenges of antisemitism on college campuses. I heard first hand from Stanford Hillel students on how they are balancing advocacy and collegiate pursuits.
First, the panel talked about campus safety and the great work that Stanford Hillel is doing to physically protect their students from harm. Second, they discussed how they are ensuring that the Jewish student experience continues alongside Israeli advocacy. Third, a South African student panelist discussed what it was like living in apartheid and how that was different from Israel’s multi-racial and collaborative society.
Message of Unity and Action
Before October 7th, people assumed that only Israeli Jews deal with hatred when Israel is attacked. But now, the world’s Jewry is seeing that when people start hating Israel, they also spread hatred toward Jews in the diaspora. That means all the world’s Jewry is in the same boat. That’s why we need to take action.
Zack Bodner shared 7 ways we can help Israel and world Jewry right now; for example, reaching out to Congresspeople when topics or resolutions about Israel arise.
Overall I walked away with both hope and action items. I am hopeful that the Jewish people can support one another and unite as a strong, connected community. I also feel more motivated to actively create Jewish young adult spaces to have conversations on these tough topics. Coming together is my way of setting up our people to thrive. Am Yisrael Chai.
Sarah Feldman is a passionate member of the Jewish community. When she’s not volunteering her time on the board of J Leaders or attending Jewish community events, she works in tech, leading product. Sarah has worked at several big tech companies including Tesla, Google, Lyft, and Fitbit, guiding data strategy in leadership roles partnering with executives. Currently she is a Sr Product Manager at Domo where she is guiding the company’s pricing strategy. She is also a passionate supporter of tech organizations and was a founding member of Women Who Code’s Data Science group and the Self Driving Car, Mobility group, and founded her own 501c3, Silicon Valley Ice Skating Association. SVISA will be hosting Robots on Ice on April 21st in SF, to raise funds to save local Ice rinks.