This month, we’re focusing on Esther Enkin, one of our newest Board Members and a previous Advisory Council member.
Volunteer Shelly Sanders spoke with Esther about what drew her to NIFC, what she hopes to accomplish on the Board, and where she finds hope in the current situation in Israel. The interview has been edited for concision.
Q: Why did you first get involved with NIFC? What drew you to it?
Esther: I first became involved with NIFC through Sukkah by the Water, which must have been 30 years ago. I was drawn to it because it was progressive, it reflected my values, and Sukkah by the Water was such a beautiful experience of sisterhood. It was very powerful – a group of women claiming ritual. Through that, I learned more about NIFC.
I grew up in the Labour Zionist movement in Montreal so I was inclined in that way. I was briefly involved in a newspaper in Montreal called Other Stand which was, in 1969 and 1970, publishing the works of Shlomo Avneri and talking about the dangers of the occupation.
So NIFC is a natural fit for my approach to Israel and my politics generally.
Q: What are some things that you’re hoping to accomplish in your time on the Board?
Esther: I believe that there are lots of people like me who have a deep love of Israel and a deep pain at some of its current policies and directions. I think we can do an even better job of letting people know about the kind of work that NIFC supports in shared society and civil society, and its strong position against the occupation.
I believe there are lots and lots of Canadians who would feel really comfortable and comforted that such an organization exists that supports such worthwhile efforts in Israel to create a different kind of society.
So I hope to be able to contribute to growing that awareness.
Q: Where would you hope to see NIFC in 5 years?
Esther: I’d love to see NIFC as a top-of-mind organization in the Canadian Jewish community, and a thought leader on the work being done to create a different kind of society in Israel.
Even more so, in 5 years (and it won’t happen) but I’d love to see the need for some of NIFC’s projects in Israel being phased out because things have improved so much! I don’t see that happening, but the work of developing leadership in Israel to speak eloquently for a different kind of Israel – one of shared society and human rights, and a real commitment to negotiating a two-state solution – will move us in that direction.
I think if NIFC is there with the organizations that are touching young Israelis and creating a cadre of people in leadership that will invigorate that process, that would be fabulous.
Q: What’s going on in Israel right now is really horrible. Is there anything to be hopeful about that you would share with our readers?
Esther: It is pretty hard to be positive right now. But let’s remind ourselves that there are groups of Israeli Palestinians and Israeli Jews who are still reaching out to each other. The work that is being undermined right now and needs to be bolstered is that Jews and Arabs need to be able to live together in Israel and the occupation has to end.
There’s a positive story in that there are many people on both sides who are not rioting, who are not burning each others’ homes down, who are working to build a different kind of society. Those people are still doing the shared society work, they’re still out in the streets working to calm things down.
Q: Anything else?
Esther: I’ve been on the Board for a month and I’m very humbled and pleased to be in the company of such thoughtful, experienced people whom I have a ton to learn from. I look forward to learning and growing in the organization.