Mosaic United |

Reaching Out and Bringing Together

By empowering diverse Jewish organizations around the world to connect young people with their Jewish identities and with Israel in a meaningful way, Mosaic United is helping to strengthen the future of Jewish engagement

Rebecca Kopans
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Students from Hillel Belarus restored a Jewish cemetery as part of a Shalom Corps Heritage Project
Students from Hillel Belarus restored a Jewish cemetery as part of a Shalom Corps Heritage ProjectCredit: Courtesy of Shalom Corps
Rebecca Kopans
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Founded in 2015, Mosaic United is proactively working to minimize the worrisome phenomenon of Jewish youth around the world drifting away from their Jewish community and Jewish heritage. In partnership with Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and Jewish philanthropists from around the world, Mosaic United has developed an innovative paradigm that provides both funding and high-quality programming designed to inspire young Jews to connect with each other, with the Jewish world and with Israel.

The Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs provides $1 in matching funds for every $2 raised from philanthropists. “I am proud of the Government's ongoing commitment to strengthening ties with Jewish communities around the world. Our investment in Mosaic United is just one example demonstrating that the State of Israel recognizes that the vitality of world Jewry is central to our mission and purpose,” remarked Minister of Diaspora Affairs Dr. Nachman Shai.
In addition to its successful ongoing initiatives, Mosaic United is working on its next projects, including forays into teen travel to Israel, summer camps, and young adult programming.

Connecting students to their Jewish identity

One of Mosaic United’s most ambitious initiatives, the Campus Pillar, focuses on Jewish university students around the world and strives to boost their level of Jewish engagement and connection to Israel. The idea is to both reach a larger cohort of students and to provide a wider range of quality content. In its first six years, Mosaic’s Campus Pillar will have reached 131,000 students around the world.

Mosaic United does not interact directly with the students; rather, it works on a macro level with the three largest Jewish campus organizations: Hillel International, Chabad on Campus International, and Olami. Thanks to the Campus Pillar, these large organizations have the opportunity to offer Jewish students a range of excellent programming that enriches Jewish identity. Moreover, Mosaic’s Campus Pillar has prompted these three large organizations to work together, and its leaders now meet regularly with Mosaic United to discuss and improve their collaborative efforts.

“The Campus Pillar is an extraordinary expression of the joint commitment of the Israeli government and Jewish philanthropists to the next generation of young Jews on campuses around the world,” says Yael Zegelstein, Director of the Mosaic United Campus Pillar. 

Mosaic United supports several different programs through Hillel, Chabad on Campus and Olami. “Our programs represent a process of connecting with one’s Jewish identity – from a basic engagement track all the way to a long-term fellowship leading to a professional or lay role in the Jewish world. We enable students to grow within the programming,” Zegelstein notes.

Some of these programs were temporarily paused or modified during Covid-19, but Zegelstein expects to return to normal programming very soon. “It was amazing to see how the activities continued during the pandemic. Since many of the programs moved to screens and many students moved back home, their families were also influenced by what our students learned,” she reveals, adding that, “By moving online, we could reach students at universities where there were no local branches of Jewish organizations. More students were able to join the Jewish identity programming and it was possible to bring interesting speakers from all over.” 

And the efforts are having a real impact. In a study of 2,000 participants conducted by Rosov Consulting, participants had marked increases in commitment to global Jewry, Jewish practice, and Israel. 

In addition to working with the well-established branches of the three partner organizations, through the Startup Campus program the Campus Pillar is also encouraging them to open new centers in areas where there are Jewish students but no organizational presence. 

Israeli Scouts in Pennsylvania enjoying summer camp activities by Mosaic United’s YisraelimCredit: Courtesy of Mosaic United

A global Jewish volunteer movement

Another way to reach out to young Jews is by tapping into their enthusiasm for altruistic, meaningful projects, not necessarily aimed at helping other Jews. Mosaic United partnered with the Jewish Agency for Israel to establish Shalom Corps precisely to encourage Jews to do good and make a difference in the world, as befits the Jewish value of tikkun olam. As a “global Jewish volunteer movement,” Shalom Corps helps promote a positive image of Jewish people around the world while at the same time bringing together young Jews in volunteer programs with Jewish affiliations. 

Shalom Corps provides rich programming content as well as funding, working with local organizations around the world to implement programs in four different tracks: Emergency Response, Global Immersive Trips, Heritage Projects, and Local Activism. In 2021, over 6,000 volunteers participated in Shalom Corps. They included Emergency Response delegations to Miami during the Surfside condominium collapse and, in 2020, to Honduras following the devastating hurricane there. 

Although the Global Immersive track was understandably not active during Covid-19, it will be revived in 2022. “Young people want to volunteer and see the world. They discover themselves through humanitarian missions far from home,” explains Daniela Blecher, Interim CEO of Shalom Corps. “Our programs offer a rich volunteering experience that includes Jewish heritage and an Israel connection. 25% of the volunteers are from Israel, and there is always a senior Jewish educator on staff,” she adds.

Shalom Corps is currently launching an exciting volunteer opportunity in Ethiopia – in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – called “WASH on Wheels.” Only 23% of schools in Ethiopia have access to water, which leads to high rates of diseases among school children. WASH on Wheels is a truck staffed by skilled technicians who travel from school to school and ensure that hand-washing is accessible. The goal is to ensure that there is safe, clean water in 250 schools within a year. 

During the pandemic, demand was high for volunteering within people’s home communities as part of the Local Activism track. Specifically, Shalom Corps volunteers in many different countries were involved in helping two groups: older people suffering from loneliness due to Covid-19, and children attending school remotely who needed help with their schoolwork. 

The Heritage Projects track continued to offer limited programming during Covid, mainly in Europe. Groups of young volunteers affiliated with Jewish youth movements took part in summer camps during which they helped restore Jewish cemeteries and repair Jewish books, among other activities. “These projects help young Jews connect to their communities and to their heritage. All of our programs expose participants to their Jewish identities and boost their Jewish education,” says Blecher. 

Students celebrate Hanukkah at the University of Florida Hillel, a partner of Mosaic UnitedCredit: Thomas Wolfe Photography

Reaching out to Israelis abroad 

For the first time, Mosaic United is also focusing its outreach on a group that has traditionally been ignored and even denigrated: Israelis who moved away from Israel. “Israelis abroad are a strategic asset, and they are an inseparable part of our people. This is the first time that the State of Israel is investing in those living abroad,” asserts Elad Mayer, Director of Mosaic United’s Yisraelim initiative. “There are approximately one million Israelis who don’t live in Israel anymore,” he points out, noting that, “When Israelis move abroad, they suddenly realize that they need to preserve their identity so that their children will feel Jewish and Israeli,” says Mayer. 

When Mosaic United launched Yisraelim, it did not anticipate that the response would be so enthusiastic. The initial call for proposals to develop programs aimed at boosting Jewish engagement among the Israeli expat community was met with a remarkable 270 applications! A variety of different organizations – such as the Israeli Scouts, the Jewish Deaf Foundation, the Toronto Jewish Federation, several JCCs, and NCSY – were selected as Yisraelim partners in North America. Some did not previously cater to Israelis abroad, while others were able to deepen their involvement with this community thanks to the funding from Mosaic United. Yisraelim is also working with partners in European communities such as Berlin, London and Vienna. “Our goal is to connect these Israelis with their Jewish identities and Israel, as well as their local Jewish communities,” Elad Mayer explains.

Yisraelim is developing a new program, called MitzVibe, that is only in the pilot stage but is already in high demand. Essentially, MitzVibe is geared towards Bar/Bat Mitzvah age children of Israelis living abroad and consists of a series of six online encounters meant to provide context to their upcoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Mosaic United enlisted three well-respected partners as providers for MitzVibe: BINA, TALI and Shahak, each of which offers a slightly different approach. Families can choose the partner they prefer, and also whether they would like to learn in English or Hebrew. The program is free and designed to be fun and interactive. 95 children registered for the pilot program – 25 more than the original capacity! “We are stepping into a vacuum. Parents see this age as being significant,” concludes Mayer.

As Gary Torgow, Chairman of Mosaic United, describes, “Mosaic United’s mission is a worldwide effort to connect young Jews everywhere to their Jewish heritage, traditions, community, and Israel.”  Clearly, Mosaic United is succeeding to touch the lives of numerous young Jewish people around the world and is making an impact on their connection to their Jewish identity and to the rest of the Jewish world.

For more information about Mosaic United, visit the website