For as long as I can remember, I have been a Zionist. My earliest Israel related memory is marching in the annual Chicago Stands with Israel parade at the age of 6, gleefully waving my American and Israeli flags side by side.  At the time, I did not really know why this place was so important to my family or the hundreds of people walking around me – I just knew that I should care. Twenty years later, both flags still hang proudly in my room.

Like many of you, my relationship with Israel has evolved over the years as my passion to understand the country, its people, and all its complexities blossomed in high school and onto college. Israel became bound up in my Jewish identity: my expression of what it means to be a Jew, and the focus of my advocacy for the safety and future of my people. Our people.

I am a firm believer that the future of global Jewry is tied to the future of Israel – and that Israel’s future is tied to that of global Jewry. Israel is the most fascinating project of the Jewish people and something I’ve always wanted to be a part of.

Caring deeply about Israel’s future is what brought me to Israel Policy Forum. The more I traveled to the region and explored the facts on the ground, the more I realized that separation from the Palestinians is the only way Israel can ensure its longevity as a Jewish and democratic state. To be sure, the difficulties and challenges to such a pursuit are plenty – and one whose risk, emotional toll, and historic significance can never be overstated. Yet two states for two peoples must remain the vision for Zionists in the twenty-first century. In this sense, I echo the words of my predecessor, Adena Philips, who spoke to supporters last fall in New York:

“This work of keeping the door open for the two-state solution – of not letting it close, of opposing the forces that are diminishing the prospects for peace – doesn’t always feel satisfying. It can feel like a slug.  It’s often thankless, but I am thankful that Israel Policy Forum and so many people in this room are committed to it. We are making a difference. This is the vital work we all need to double down on: keeping the door open, so that when the time comes – whether it is us or our children – we can walk through it.”

When I came across Israel Policy Forum in the fall of 2016, I immediately became enamored with the organization’s tone, nuanced policy approach, and solutions-oriented mindset. The organization was championing a discourse that completely removed the vitriol and polarization that had crept into conversations around Israel in our community. With Israel Policy Forum, I had found my intellectual, emotional, and policy home.

I became a leader in IPF Atid to jump start these conversations and ask big questions. Discussions around the conflict, Israeli democracy, generational divides, and the steep challenges ahead to get closer to two states. It’s clear that American Jewish millennials were craving these conversations as well but needed an organization to take up the mantle and address them. This group has become IPF Atid. And IPF Atid has become the go-to network – a community – for cultivating relationships and sharing ideas, perspectives, and pragmatic pathways forward amidst this challenging political environment.

By all measures, IPF Atid has surpassed every goal set forth three years ago at its infancy. With chapters in six cities, successful national programs such as the Charles Bronfman Conveners program, and innovative initiatives such as the Women, Peace & Security Channel, we have much to be proud of.

Yet any organization that does not continue to innovate will fall by the wayside. Our next phase will bring IPF Atid 2.0, our Chapter 2, in which we will begin to conceptualize and lay the groundwork for where we want to be in 5, 10, 15 years from now. My long term goals will be building stronger connections across the Atidnik network and establishing deeper ties with our cohort generation in Israel.

As we manage and adapt to the current global disruption of COVID-19, we are well positioned to lead out of the crisis by expanding our digital engagement, providing the most advanced leadership opportunities out there, and producing the highest quality content based in intellectual integrity and forthrightness.

While some in our generation decide to disengage from Israel, we Atidniks remain committed for the long haul. Committed not only to our role in this story, but in the bond with our partners in Israel who are working toward and fighting for the same future.

We must continue to raise our voices to ensure the secure, democratic Israel envisioned in its original Declaration of Independence. We must go on record to educate and mobilize our peers on the dangers of unilateral West Bank annexation. In doing so, we must avoid the pitfalls of echo chambers, polarization, and toxicity that are growing everywhere around us.

Through partnership and confidence, we Atidniks are the bridge-builders in our Jewish community. Internalizing the best of the left and right, we have found a path that keeps Israel’s long-term security at the heart of everything we do, while not compromising on the values of democracy, equality, and rule of law that were at the core of Israel’s founding.

With the arrival of June approaching, you will soon see many of these values and ideas brought to life by hundreds of Atidniks mobilized across the globe. I hope you will join us in this upcoming, ambitious campaign – and in the exciting chapter ahead for IPF Atid.