About Derech Eretz

Vision

Our vision is to ensure that Israel can meet the challenge of maintaining a vibrant and tolerant society based on the country’s founding principles of equal opportunity, mutual responsibility, and love of Eretz Yisrael.

Our programs are therefore offered at a formative age to youth and young adults from a wide variety of backgrounds and social strata who are not among the relatively small number of elite students, since it is these young people that will constitute the majority of Israel’s population in the future.

Once we motivate and inspire our youth by equipping them with knowledge of our society, positive experiences throughout the country, leadership skills, and the ability and tools to think critically and independently, they will be able to handle both personal and collective challenges head-on.

Mission

Derech Eretz operates social-educational and leadership education programs for Israeli youth and young adults, most of who come from underprivileged backgrounds, leveling the playing field across all sectors of society. Programs are offered at the important junctures of early adult life, and on a continuum from the time high school finishes, before military service, throughout military service, during the transition back into adult, civilian life, completely changing their life’s trajectory. Founded in 2011, Derech Eretz’s bottom-up initiative intends at minimizing social gaps while creating engaged citizens and, ultimately, building a better future for Israeli society. All of our programs achieve our mission by:
  • Deepening participants’ knowledge of our Jewish heritage while promoting mutual respect among Jews of all backgrounds, nationalities, and denominations
  • Providing exposure to all facets of Israeli society
  • Instilling a love of Eretz Yisrael
  • Enhancing social skills and social responsibility
  • Providing positive experiences in which participants learn how to face challenges
  • Breaking down the silos in which many communities within Israel reside
All program participants perform community service. Since opening 6 years ago, our participants have volunteered over 70,000 hours of community service. Our Target population includes youth and young adults, olim and veteran Israelis, religious and secular (and all levels of religiosity in between), from all over Israel. The majority of our participants come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Six years ago, we began with 23 students on one campus. In 2017-18, 120 Israeli youth will be participating in our various programs on 3 campuses and we have 500 graduates. Our three campuses are located in the Negev, in Kmein, Nitzana and Ashalim (our Nitzana campus is run in partnership with the Jewish Agency).

Team

yonatan-kischinovskyYonatan Kischinovsky, Co-Founder and CEO 

Yonatan served as a tank commander in the Israel Defense Forces armored corps and in the army’s course for tank commanders. He has a B.A. in Social Work from Tel Hai College and an M.A. in Conflict Management and Mediation from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Working with Israeli youth since 2002, Yonatan guided student groups under the auspices of the Rashi Foundation and the Katzir Foundation. He has worked with the One Family organization as a social worker helping victims of terrorism. Yonatan also founded a survival and field training course in the Beit HaTzayar School for underprivileged youth in addition to co-founding social initiatives for the organization Search for Common Ground.

Yonatan was named one of 100 most inspiring Israelis by Maariv, in December 2013, and continues to inspire us at Derech Eretz and in the Negev moshav of Shizaf, where he lives with his wife and three children.

AviAttorney Avi Cohen, Co-Founder and Program Director

Avi was a captain in the Israeli armored corps, and headed the formulation of the commander course for Merkava Mark IV tanks. He commanded a tank platoon during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. Avi has a B.A. Summa Cum Laude and an M.B.A. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Avi has been socially active since completing his military service in 2000. He was a counselor in an educational project for HaYovel Junior High in Mevasseret Zion, a counselor for the NGO Ziv Youth and the head of the legal department for Brera Center, a social-legal organization that deals with underprivileged communities. He and Yonatan founded Derech Eretz in 2011, and have since been ceaselessly working to strengthen Israeli society by strengthening our youth.

chaninaChanina Bluth, Mechina Manager, Nitzana

Chanina spent 8 years in the Israeli Air Force as a pilot and deputy squadron commander at the rank of Major. He then went on to work at Elbit as an instructor and operator of a flight simulator before moving to the nonprofit sector, working at Masa and Thank Israeli Solidiers. Today, with both his extensive experience in instructing young adults, his leadership skills, and an M.B.A. from Bar Ilan University (summa cum laude), Chanina manages the Derech Eretz mechina in Nitzana, overseeing a staff of counsellors and 45 participants.

AsafAsaf Fried, Mechina Manager, Kmein

Prior to entering the IDF and becoming an officer, Asaf attended a pre-military program, and to this day remembers the impact it had on him as a young adult. After his army service, Asaf worked with youth – first as a Jewish Agency shaliach at camp Ramah, later with youth at risk at a hostel, and also with Masa. Asaf spent the past several years heading a young community village of 70 students, while completing his BA in Liberal Arts. Having spent much time doing community service, Asaf now focuses his passion for empowering youth at Derech Eretz where he manages the mechina in Kmehin.

Reut Alaluf, Mechina Manager, Ashalim

Originally from the city of Holon, Reut spent her army service as an educator at a youth village. Since completing her IDF service, she has been in the field of education – teaching and administrating, primarily within informal educational frameworks. Reut holds a BA in advancing youth and a BS in social studies. She is also a practicing trilotherapist and is the Manager of our new campus in Ashalim.

Naomi Shmueli David, Director of Resource Development

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Naomi’s passion for Israel brought her to study at the Hebrew University and work in the nonprofit sector ever since. She has extensive experience in facilitating giving opportunities and cultivating donor relationships from her time at Minuf and at the Jerusalem College of Engineering, and a long-time passion for creating and streamlining smart communications – from the days of editing her high school newspaper, all the way to editing publications, teaching academic writing at the Hebrew University, and developing guidelines for editors. Today, Naomi spends her days at Derech Eretz, thinking how to accurately convey to the world the extent to which we are strengthening Israeli society.

Eyal Barshad, Head of Logistics

With a degree in engineering and management, with a focus on organizational logistics, Eyal gained experience at Israel’s Electric Company and Amidar, before joining us at Derech Eretz. He served in the IDF as an officer in the reconnaissance battalion of the infantry corps’ Givati Brigade, and does military reserves as a deputy to the deputy assistant chief of staff for operations in the infantry corps.

Ofri Lev, Alumni Coordinator

Ofri is from Kibbutz Givat Chayim in Emek Heffer. She did her gap year at the Manof youth village in Acco before spending 4 years in the IDF at the “Shomer Farm”, a historical army base. After completing her IDF service as a company commander, Ofri travelled to Africa, volunteered at an orphanage, and then coordinated the “High School for Environmental Education” in Midreshet Ben Gurion. Today, in addition to being our Alumni Coordinator at Derech Eretz, Ofri studies Social Work at Sapir College and volunteers at Saleet – a nonprofit organization that provides rehabilitation for women seeking help in exiting the prostitution circuit.

Fiana Golshtain, Administrative Assistant

As a young child, Fiana came to Israel from Moldova in 1989, and grew up in Or Akiva. She served in the IDF in a classified unit of the Israeli Intelligence Corps after which she completed her bachelor’s degree in economics and management (specializing in pension and finance). Today, Fiana lives in Kadesh Barnea (Nitzana Educational Community).

 

Board of Directors

Gitit Aharoni – Director of 4 corporations; Lawyer in the field of human rights, gender, and equal opportunities; business coach; and mediator

Kobi Bendelak – CEO of InsurTech Israel

Dudi Cohen – Former General Commissioner of the Israel Police Force

Ilan Hershkowitz – Brigadier-General in the Israel Air Force, Res.

Elisha Kra – Social activist and former Security Official for the State of Israel

Hanan Rubin –Member of Jerusalem’s City Council and Social Entrepreneur

Hannan Shemesh – CEO of Keren Hagshama