An organization that fosters community for young Jewish people who want to engage more deeply with Israel has recently opened its first Canadian chapter in Toronto. IPF Atid, which is the youth wing of Israel Policy Forum, was founded to address the need for spaces that could accommodate nuanced conversations about Israel—especially regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel Policy Forum, IPF Atid’s parent organization, provides educational resources to Jewish leaders and American policymakers to help them better understand the situation in Israel, and also to help them communicate that knowledge to others. According to its website, IPF is guided by a vision of a Jewish, democratic, secure Israel, and officially supports the two-state solution as a means to that end.
As the youth wing of IPF, Atid subscribes to the same guiding principles. However, instead of directly focusing on how to bring about its vision in Israel, it aims to connect people in the United States—and now Canada—who share those same goals.
Shanie Reichman, founding deputy director and current director of IPF Atid, says she created it with Adam Basciano in 2017 because it was the kind of organization they both wanted but couldn’t find.
“[We] launched IPF Atid to create the space that we both needed, and so many of our peers needed, to have a very serious dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” she said. “[A dialogue] that was rooted in Zionism and love for Israel and intentional care about Israel’s security, while also seriously grappling with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how we can best resolve it.”
Every year, IPF Atid hosts the Charles Bronfman Conveners Summit. Over four days, young professionals are educated about the policy challenges facing Israel so they can return to their communities armed with relevant knowledge. Many of the fellows selected to attend the conference have been Canadian, including Yos Tarshish, director of Queen’s Hillel, and Yoni Belete, former director of speechwriting and public relations at the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa.
Between the enthusiasm of Canadian fellows and the encouragement of Canadian philanthropist Charles Bronfman, it was only a matter of time until IPF Atid expanded to Canada, Reichman said.
“We ended up with a bunch of really, really amazing, talented, smart, Canadian Jews in this cohort,” said Reichman. “We were answering a call from them. Because over the past few years, since we’ve had these Atidniks in our network, based in Canada… they were some of the most invested people in our entire network, so it became obvious that we had to support them also. They really wanted us to start a chapter, they wanted the space.”
Yoni Belete, who was an IPF Atid convener in 2021, is optimistic about the value that the organization can provide in Toronto.
“I hope to see a more well-informed Jewish community on the issues that Israel and Israeli society are grappling with,” he said. “I also hope this more well-informed community can find leadership positions throughout the Toronto Jewish community, and outside of the Jewish community as well, so that we can be more confident in how we talk about Israel and the challenges the country faces.”
Although the new Toronto Atid chapter is responding to an explicit request from existing fellows, Reichman hopes the benefit to Toronto’s Jewish community won’t stop there. Atid hopes to be a resource for anyone who is interested in engaging with Israel in all its complexity.
“We’re looking to support, in whatever way we can, the whole Jewish community. I’m hopeful that people will begin to know that if they need this sort of content and analysis, they can come to us and we’re always happy to provide it beyond just the members of our chapter.”
In today’s political climate, many young Jewish people are finding themselves unsure of how they should relate to Israel, Atid has found. Although they may care about Israel, if it is hard to find a space where all of their feelings towards the Jewish state are acknowledged and respected, they may withdraw from it, as Reichman explains.
“We don’t want American and Canadian Jews to stop talking about Israel because it’s hard and messy, and because every time they try to, they get yelled at. Which is real, right? It’s legitimate that they don’t want to be dealing with it because it’s so frustrating, but we’re hoping that in giving them the space they’ll keep engaging.”
More information about IPF Atid Toronto, including contacts and upcoming events, can be found at israelpolicyforum.org.