Jewish, Democratic and Secure:

A Foundational Course for Community Professionals with Israel Policy Forum

Jewish, Democratic and Secure:  A Foundational Course for Community Professionals with Israel Policy Forum is a new professional development opportunity that provides an essential overview of the major issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today. Through informational grounding coupled with practical skill growth, this course is designed to equip and empower mid-career Israel-focused and Israel-adjacent leaders to navigate an increasingly polarized communal landscape.

*A digital certificate will be issued to participants upon completion, embeddable on LinkedIn.

Session 1: Opening dinner and first session: Jewish and Democratic: How is it being challenged, and why does it matter?

Our first session will allow participants to meet each other and hear from Israel Policy Forum’s chief policy officer, Michael Koplow, in conversation with the Forward’s opinion editor, Laura Adkins. Together, they will unpack the moment in which the increasingly-divided American Jewish community finds itself as political developments in Israel create unique challenges shaping its future and the conflict. The evening will provide an opening forum for participants to engage with the speakers and each other as we begin to navigate the intersection of policy, narrative, and tensions both at home and abroad. (in-person)

Tuesday, Feb 21st, 6-9pm

Session 2: The Past, Present and Future of Israeli and Palestinian Identities

Explores major themes and events that shape Israeli and Palestinian national identities and narratives, featuring author and columnist Gershom Gorenberg and additional speaker TBA (in-person)

Tuesday, March 21st, 5:30-7:30pm

Session 3: Virtual tour utilizing Israel Policy Forum’s 360 platform: Territorial Issues around the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Featuring author and columnist Gershom Gorenberg and IPF CEO David Halperin. Gershom and David will provide a bird’s eye view of historic and recent trends in and around Jerusalem and settlement activity in the West Bank (in-person)

Wednesday, April 19th, 5:30-7:30pm

Session 4: In Search of a Viable Option

A study of potential outcomes to the conflict that assesses the strengths and weaknesses of different plans, training a critical eye on what is still possible featuring IPF director of research Shira Efron (virtual)

Sunday, April 30th, 10am-12:00pm

Session 5: Storytelling and Public Narrative

Workshop featuring co-founder of Project Shema Zachary Schaffer, followed by a closing gathering with IPF staff members (in-person)

Tuesday, May 16th, 11am-3pm

This course is for you if:

• You are a Jewish communal professional in the NY Metro area

• You want to deepen your understanding of the major issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

• You need to increase your knowledge of the policy issues surrounding modern Israel and the conflict

• You want to join an ongoing community of peers who are navigating similar issues

• You seek to develop your personal narrative and storytelling skills in relation to the conflict

• You want to be empowered to navigate increasingly polarized communal discourse

• You want to be equipped with Israel and conflict-related resources/programs to potentially bring to your community or organization


Shira Efron

Shira Efron is the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation Director of Policy Research at Israel Policy Forum. Previously, Shira was RAND Corporation’s researcher and special advisor on Israel and a policy advisor to Israel Policy Forum. Based in Israel, Efron serves concurrently as a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, a consultant with the United Nations country team in Jerusalem advising on Gaza access issues and co-chair of the subgroup on national security and regional cooperation of the President’s Israeli Climate Change Forum. She has a Ph.D. and M.Phil. in policy analysis from RAND’s Graduate School, an M.A. in international relations/international business from New York University and a B.Sc. in biology (major) and computer science (minor) from Tel Aviv University. She is a member of the board of directors of Deborah Forum, which promotes women in the security establishment.

Gershom Gorenberg

Gershom Gorenberg is a Washington Post columnist and the author, most recently of War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East.

Gorenberg previously wrote three critically acclaimed books on Israel’s history and politics – The Unmaking of Israel, The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977, and The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. He co-authored Shalom Friend, a biography of Yitzhak Rabin and winner of the National Jewish Book Award.

Gorenberg teaches each spring semester at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. As a commentator on Middle East affairs, he has appeared on Sixty Minutes, Nightline, Fresh Air and on CNN and BBC. He has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, Prospect Magazine (UK), The National (Abu Dhabi) and in Hebrew for Ha’aretz. He lives in Jerusalem.

Michael Koplow

Michael Koplow is the chief policy officer of Israel Policy Forum, and also serves as a senior research fellow of the Kogod Research Center at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Before coming to Israel Policy Forum, he was the founding program director of the Israel Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University, where he specialized in political development and ideology, and the politics of Middle Eastern states. He writes Israel Policy Forum’s weekly Koplow Column and edits Israel Policy Exchange, which is a leading source for commentary and analysis on Israel and American Jewry, and his work regularly appears in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Atlantic, and the Forward, among other publications. In addition to his Ph.D., he holds a B.A. from Brandeis University, a J.D. from New York University, and an A.M. in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University.

Laura E. Adkins

Laura E. Adkins is Opinion Editor of the Forward. Her writing on antisemitism, Orthodoxy, data, and gender have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Review of Books and other outlets.

David A. Halperin

David A. Halperin is the chief executive officer of Israel Policy Forum. Previously, he was a reporter in Israel for the English edition of Haaretz. His opinion writings have appeared in a variety of publications including The Jerusalem Post, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, The New York Times, Haaretz, The New York Jewish Week, and others. He received a BA from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs (SIPA), where he was a member of the International Fellows Program. He is originally from Phoenix, Arizona and resides with his wife and two children in New York City.

Zachary Schaffer

Zachary Schaffer is a facilitator, educator, and organizer based in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. He is Co-Founder and Vice President of Community Engagement with Project Shema, an organization that works to train and support leaders to disrupt the spread of anti-Jewish ideas that are emerging in “progressive” discourse.

He also serves as the Executive Director of the Council of Young Jewish Presidents where he works to forge inclusive multigenerational lay leadership in the Jewish non-profit sector. As a speaker and consultant, Zach has trained thousands of leaders around the country in depolarization, storytelling, community-building, antisemitism, Zionism, and the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Zach is a trainer with Ta’amod where he supports organizations in creating safe, respectful, and equitable workplaces grounded in Jewish values. As the Men as Allies Consultant with Jewish Women International (JWI), he is working to nurture new conversations around healthy masculinity and allyship in the Jewish community. Zach is also a facilitator with Resetting the Table, where he supports transformative communication across political divides in the United States.

He is the proud President of Friends of Roots, a grassroots coexistence movement of Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. He also serves on the North American Board of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish movement in North America.

He completed his coursework for a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management at Gratz College and received his undergraduate degree in Rhetoric and Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

And more TBA



Q: Where will the in-person sessions be held? 

A: All in-person sessions will be held at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave at 76th Street, New York, NY 10023 


Q: Will meals be provided?

A: There will be an opening dinner, a closing lunch, and light hors d’oeuvres served at all other in-person sessions. 


Q: Will all food served be kosher?

A: Yes, all food served will be glatt kosher. 


Q: What if I can’t make it to all in-person sessions?

A: In an effort to create a cohesive learning experience, we require participants to commit to attending each session. We are pleased to offer a digital certificate (embeddable on LinkedIn) upon completion of the course.

Q: Who else will be in the room?

A: This course is designed for mid-career Jewish communal professionals whose work is Israel-focused, or Israel adjacent. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.


Q: I don’t live in the New York metropolitan area. Can I still apply?

A: This course is designed for those who live and/or work in the New York metropolitan area. We hope to offer similar courses in other communities in the near future! Want to bring us to your community? Be in touch.


Q: Do I need to have previous involvement with Israel Policy Forum to apply?

A: No! This course is open to all applicants regardless of previous involvement with IPF.


Q: How much does the course cost?

A: The registration fee, which is heavily subsidized, is $118. We recommend asking your employer if there are professional development funds available to you to cover the fee. That said, we do not want cost to be a barrier to participation, so please reach out to us if this presents a hardship.