A New Generation of Storytellers

 journalist Hanoch Daum at Magid
Journalist Hanoch Daum at Magid

by Brachie Sprung and Ido Levit

Not long ago, 60 of Israel’s most influential young leaders and activists met for an intense 43 hours in the Judaean Hills to … tell stories.

The conference, titled appropriately the Magid Project (Magid is a play on words in Hebrew, meaning both storyteller and a reference to the storytellers of ancient Israel), a product of the Schusterman Philanthropic Network’s Connection Points Program, aimed to promote social activism through storytelling.

What does this mean?

On the ground what this means is that the deputies for both the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem mayors, the top aide to President Shimon Peres, a political advisor to a Members of Knesset – as well as one of Israel’s top chefs, the founder of Israel’s Giving Circle and many more outstanding 20-and 30-somethings who play crucial roles in the country’s public and private sectors – came together to learn the art of storytelling. Through workshops on creative writing, improvisation, and storytelling itself, they learned who they are by tapping into their own personal narratives and they connected to each other through their shared stories.

Throughout it all, their stories were grounded in the context of our larger Jewish story – the stories of the Jewish People, our culture and history, journeys and lessons.

Energized by the conference, Natan Rubin, Director of Youth Services and Education Department for the Municipality of Netivot, plans to use “this unique method to create a similar connection between young leaders in my region – the Negev.”

And Yoli Shwartz, Spokesperson for the Israel antiquities authority, was inspired by the collaborative space that enables these young leaders to create and grow ideas together. “From here the sky’s the limit,” she said.

So why, you might be asking, should it matter to the rest of the Jewish world if 60 young Israelis felt transformed over the course of a few days?

The answer is because by leading young Jewish leaders first to their personal narratives, and then to our collective Jewish stories, we not only give them the tools to be the best they can be in their areas of expertise, but we remind them that they are a crucial part of a larger whole.

And isn’t that what the older generation is so concerned about? How to engage the next generation of Jewish leaders? As emerging young leaders begin to shape a new society, whether in Israel or Argentina or the UK, this is one innovative way to connect them to core Jewish values that speak to them. It is a unique way to help them understand the collective Jewish narrative and their role in it.

The Jews, after all, aren’t just the people of the book – they’re also the people of the story. The Magid Project is an important first step towards connecting our young Jews to our past so that they can be the best leaders in the future.

What stories they write next? We will just have to wait and see.

Brachie Sprung is Advisor for Foreign Affairs and Media to Mayor Nir Barkat of Jerusalem.

Ido Levit is the owner of “The Edge” Cultural and Arts Production Company in Jerusalem. Brachie and Ido were the co-organizers of The Magid Project 2014.