Kesher Yehudi was founded in 2009 by Tsila Schneider (55), an orthodox mother of 11. A caring person who wanted to make a difference, she began by creating a project where people from secular and orthodox backgrounds learned about Judaism together by phone. After five years, she opened Kesher Yehudi in order to deepen the connections between the two sectors on the perimeters of Israeli Jewry and to allow an opportunity for anyone who was interested to broaden their Jewish knowledge.
Israeli society has erected a concrete wall of alienation and estrangement between sectors; Kesher Yehudi has begun the task of dismantling this wall using as our tools strong bonds of friendship between secular Israelis and their mitzvah keeping counterparts.
Tsila’s motto: “I established Kesher Yehudi from a strong belief that we can overcome alienation and fear. The government and legal system are not the people who can lead this process – only the nation themselves. We encourage and promote the connection, but the real work is done by the participants! A one on one personal relationship between a religious person and a secular person brings about true familiarity, joint learning, kinship, love and caring. These experiences can overcome everything!”
Kesher Yehudi has been working intensively for eight years as an answer to the tense atmosphere that has evolved between different streams in our country. A climate of foreignness, snobbery and fear has been created by the media, building on pre-existing stereotypes. Kesher Yehudi allows people from different sectors to get to know each other personally, using close-up encounters in a natural environment, centered around our deepest common connection – Jewish tradition. These encounters lead to the dissolving of stigmas, the breaking of stereotypes and a personal, human association.
With the encouragement and mediation of Kesher Yehudi, over 14,000 people all over Israel have already participated in our personal introductions program and have formed exciting and exhilarating long term friendships. Participants meet at least once a week to discuss a Torah topic that they have chosen to explore together. This journey not only deepens their personal friendship but leads to a wider involvement, a deep care for the people of Israel, and a partnership to overcome difficulties.
An atmosphere of acceptance, tolerance and brotherhood is created by this discussion between participants and influences their personal circles.
In June 2016, Kesher Yehudi was awarded the Jerusalem Unity Prize by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat for their work in creating unity in Israeli society.