Pledger Spotlight: Amy Berko Iles, New York
Why does the Jewish Future matter to you?
Our people have an extraordinary past, and we would be remiss if we weren’t cognizant of ensuring we have a future.
A Jewish future transcends politics or current affairs, as family traditions and values can be passed down from generation to generation in both traditional and unexpected ways. My parents and grandparents’ traditions helped shape me, and my own life experiences further helped define my personal values and commitments. I hope to continue the chain by empowering my own children and grandchildren to define a Jewish future that resonates most with them.
What are you doing to create and have impactful multi-generational conversations about legacy?
I recently co-hosted a JNF family retreat entitled Your Jewish Roots, Our Jewish Future which brought a few dozen families together to talk about their values and heritage. The objective was not fundraising or JNF work or Israel, but rather, providing an opportunity for families to engage in discussions about a variety of topics in an open forum.
One impactful moment occurred when a young woman stood up and voiced her frustration with her Jewish education, her family’s approach to Judaism and even her presence at the event. The room went very quiet but instead of triggering an argument or confrontation, we responded by saying that it was a good thing that she had spoken out and that her comments were all valid and important. Her remarks allowed others to see that there were many ways to be Jewish, and none of them were wrong. My grandparents’ connection to Israel and their definition of Judaism was different from my parents’ which was different from mine which in turn, was different from my childrens’.
We all learned together that when we didn’t ostracize this young woman, and instead acknowledged and accepted her interpretation, we allowed everyone to have space to engage in deeper discussions. By the end of the weekend, she was out on the dance floor with the rest of us. Together, we learned the importance of asking young people what they’re interested in, rather than trying to impose our own priorities upon them.
Why do you love the Jewish Future Pledge?
The Pledge doesn’t tell you what to do and it doesn’t tell you what not to do. Rather, it asks you to publicly commit to do what you privately were likely already doing, or thinking of doing. When we make this kind of commitment, it helps us bond with others who do the same, and in doing so, allows us to create connections with others over our shared values. It is also a valuable tool for communicating with our own family members.
It’s so positive and so simple. That’s the beauty of it.
Amy Berko Iles is the President of Jewish National Fund USA – NYC, and serves on the board of Artists 4 Israel. After retiring from a career in finance and construction, she has enjoyed deepening her commitment to Jewish learning and philanthropy. She helped found JNF’s Westchester County NY And Southern Connecticut community, and has previously served on the board of AJC NYC.
Amy is also the co-sponsor of Your Jewish Roots, Our Jewish Future, a JNF multigenerational family retreat. For additional information about this unique weekend focusing on Jewish values and Jewish continuity, please contact Diane Scar at email@example.com or 212-879-9305 Ext. 840. There are limited spots available, however, we would love to include your families.