Goldin Institute grassroots social change

Goldin Institute Returns to Israel and Palestine

Mehari Reuven is an Ethiopian Jewish teacher, writer and journalist who was incarcerated as a “prisoner of Zion” in his birth country. Released after a year during which he was tortured and witnessed the murders of other prisoners, he escaped from Ethiopia and became an international advocate for his people, playing a key role in their modern-day exodus to Israel. In his new homeland, Mehari resumed his role as a teacher, but found the Israeli students disrespectful and undisciplined, and ultimately quit to write books and produce radio programs in his native Amharic. On a radio station specially created to inform new immigrants with hour-long broadcasts in Russian, Persian, Arabic and other languages, Mehari wrote and narrated an award-winning series educating and encouraging his fellow Ethiopians to participate in Israel’s democracy and resist the discrimination they faced all too often from religious and government officials.

Tsionit Fatal Kupperwasser is a career Israeli military intelligence officer whose parents were born in Baghdad, part of a large Jewish community that had thrived in Iraq for millennia but had to flee in the wake of pogroms which targeted them after Israel’s establishment in 1948. In an effort to reconnect with her family’s severed past, she wrote a novel about her ancestors’ lives in Baghdad, which was discovered by a publisher in Iraq, translated into Arabic, and published to wide acclaim in that country: Tsionit’s Facebook page today is filled with messages in Hebrew and Arabic from her fans in two nations that are technically blood enemies.

Palestinian activist Issa Amro leads Students Against Settlements, a grassroots group of volunteers who organize nonviolent protests to demand an end to Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. Issa is based in Hebron, a Palestinian city that has an enclave of Israeli settlers protected by hundreds of soldiers, and his activities have frequently brought him to confrontations with soldiers and settlers as well as with Palestinian authorities, who are suspicious of his non-violent tactics and relationships with international groups as well as of his independence.

[slide] [img path="images/GIIP1801.jpg"]Dr. Chaim Peri and the team at Yemin Orde are building innovative models for education and youth empowerment.[/img] [img path="images/GIIP1802.jpg"]Mr. Sam Bahour in Ramallah is leading economic development in Palestine and believes job creation is peace building.[/img] [img path="images/GIIP1803.jpg"]Graffiti on the separation wall leading to the checkpoint returning from Ramallah.[/img] [img path="images/GIIP1804.jpg"]Paying our respects at the Kotel and the Qubbat al-Sakhrah.[/img] [img path="images/GIIP1805.jpg"]Street art in Tel Aviv.[/img] [img path="images/GIIP1806.jpg"]Walking to Jaffa.[/img] [img path="images/GIIP1807.jpg"]Busy street in Ramallah featuring a Star and Bucks.[/img] [img path="images/GIIP1808.jpg"]Dear friend and advisor Yoni Reuven keeps us up to date on the Ethiopian Jewish cCommunity.[/img] [img path="images/GIIP1809.jpg"]Honored to meet with the Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, and former Chicagoan, Belyanesh Zevadia.[/img] [img path="images/GIIP1810.jpg"]Graffiti on the Separation Wall outside Banksy Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem.[/img] [img path="images/GIIP1811.jpg"]Issa Amro explains how Dr. Martin Luther King's non-violent strategies inspire his work in Hebron.[/img] [/slide]

These were just some of the people we met this winter when I traveled through Israel and Palestine with the Goldin Institute’s founders, Chairperson Diane Goldin and Executive Director Travis Rejman. Diane and Travis have long worked with both Palestinians and Israelis previously and wanted to check in with their old friends and colleagues, build new relationships and take a snapshot of a region which is much in the news. I was happy to help organize the trip, both in my capacity as the Goldin Institute’s Senior Advisor and because I happen to be writing my next book about Israel, to be titled “Twelve Tribes: Promise and Peril in the New Israel.”

The title refers to the Twelve Tribes of ancient times, a querulous confederation who demanded that the Lord send them a monarch to rule over them, according to the Tanakh. But I won’t be examining modern equivalents to the ancient tribes. Rather, my book will explore how modern tribalism within Israel defines the conflict with the Palestinians, with consequences that radiate throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Israel today is divided between religious and secular, and between those Jews of European background and those whose ancestors were from the Middle East and North Africa, as well as between Jews and Muslims, both those who are citizens of Israel and those under military occupation in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

I was born in the United States, but most of my family lives in Israel and I’ve traveled there many times, including several trips specifically for this book. On our journey, Diane, Travis and I traversed the country by bus and car, from hip downtown Tel Aviv to the labyrinthine market in Jerusalem’s Old City, from the mountains overlooking the Sea of Galilee to the desert around the Dead Sea. Having worked in war zones in Uganda, Colombia and the Philippines, they felt resonance in Israel and Palestine with other global hotspots, in the Israeli military checkpoint to enter the Palestinian capital of Ramallah, the high concrete wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and the young Palestinian men in black t-shirts throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers as we drove past.

The people we met with – Mehari, Tsionit, Issa and dozens of others – did indeed help us get a picture of Israel and Palestine at this particular moment in time. But more than that, they helped us understand exactly what modern tribalism is, how it is affecting every nation around the world, and, most importantly, what can be done to reach out across the gap and embrace putative enemies.


Goldin Institute grassroots social change

Author Ethan Michaeli Joins Team as Senior Advisor

I am proud to welcome a new colleague to the Goldin Institute, Ethan Michaeli, as a Senior Advisor for Communications and Development. Ethan is an award-winning investigative journalist, educator and former executive director of a not-for-profit organization in Chicago that focused on citizen journalism.

Most recently, Ethan is the author of “The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America,” named a best book of 2016 by The New York Times, The Washington Post and Amazon, and praised by Brent Staples of The New York Times as “a towering achievement that will not be soon forgotten.”

[quote]“I feel honored to be asked to contribute to the work of the Goldin Institute, who have created a uniquely ethical and effective model for collaborating with grassroots organizations around the world. Goldin’s partners in marginalized communities around the world have stories that need to be heard. I plan to help amplify these voices through our own media as well as through traditional outlets.”[/quote]

- Ethan Michaeli, Senior Advisor

Ethan Michaeli in September with retired Judge Nathaniel Jones and Sean Rugless, board member of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH.

Ethan’s book, “The Defender,” is the first comprehensive history of the newspaper, which was founded in 1905 and developed a national reputation by investigating lynching and other abuses of the Jim Crow segregation system. As a national communications vehicle for Black America, The Defender fostered the Great Migration of millions of African Americans from the South to the cities of the North, negotiated the integration of the U.S. Armed Forces, and primed the pump for the civil rights movement.

Ethan was inspired to write “The Defender” by his own tenure as a copy editor and reporter at the newspaper from 1991 to 1996, when he covered criminal justice, politics, environmental issues and public housing. At the time, the newspaper was still owned by John H. Sengstacke, nephew of the founder, who had engaged with presidents going back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and remained an influential figure in city politics. Many other legendary staff members were still there too, reporters who had covered the murder of Emmett Till and the 1963 March on Washington as well as the entertainment editor who had discovered the Jackson 5. Ethan was transformed by the experience, gaining a new understanding of race in America and the essential role of media in a democratic society.

After five and one half years, Ethan left The Defender to found Residents’ Journal, a magazine written and produced by the tenants of Chicago’s public housing developments, and an affiliated not-for-profit organization, We The People Media. The high-rise public housing complexes, Cabrini Green, Robert Taylor Homes and many others, were internationally infamous as places that concentrated poverty and criminality, but beyond the public perception, the reality was that the developments were an important source of affordable housing for the city’s low-income African American families, mainly women with young children living on incomes of less than $10,000 per year. With a staff of full-time and freelance writers, editors and photographers drawn from the tenant population, Residents’ Journal chronicled the final years of the high-rises from the perspective of those who lived there.

In 19 years of operation, more than 5,000 adults and youths received training and employment through Residents’ Journal/We The People Media’s journalism programs, which won grants from national foundations including the Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as well as national awards for its investigative journalism, including the 2006 Studs Terkel Award.

In addition to “The Defender,” Ethan’s work has been published by Atlantic Magazine, Oxford University Press, the Nation, the Forward, In These Times and the Chicago Tribune, among other venues. His next book, “Twelve Tribes: Promise and Peril in the New Israel,” will be published by Custom House Books in 2019.

A native of Rochester, NY, Ethan earned a degree in English Language and Literature from the College at the University of Chicago in 1989. Ethan served as a member of the part-time journalism faculty at Columbia College Chicago from 1995-2002.

Ethan plans to use his writing skills and experience in the world of philanthropy to help the Goldin Institute broadcast the accomplishments of our partners, enhance our public profile, and expand programming.