Education | Leshma – Educating Young Adults toward Gender Equality
Leshma is a study program developed by the Elga Stulman Institute for pre-army leadership academies (mechinot). It is intended to instill in the participants (18-19 years old) an equitable gender perspective which will inform their emerging Jewish/Israeli identities and inspire a commitment to social activism in their present and future leadership roles. Leshma studies are integrated into the Mechina’s 10-month curriculum, and draw from Jewish and feminist sources, contemporary media and personal experience.
The program encourages participants to apply their insights in the Mechina and beyond, including ensuring there is equal leadership and representation of women in Mechina community programs and decision-making processes. As the participants challenge their preconceptions of gender identity, there is reduction in sexist and homophobic speech and a distinct increase in the expression of women’s voices and perspectives in the Mechina environment.
Leshma is innovative in that it addresses the topic of gender at a critical stage in the lives of Israeli young adults – not only as they develop their individual, social, Jewish and Israeli identities, but also as they enter the army and eventually in their civilian lives. Adding to Leshma’s innovation is the recognition that gender studies are integral to the Jewish renewal process. Leshma encourages a Jewish and Israeli culture that gives equal place to different voices, embraces change and welcomes diverse female and male leadership.
The IDF has reported that discussions between representatives of the Leshma forum of female mechina leaders and the IDF Chief of Staff’s Advisor on Gender Issues have had a welcome impact on the entire chain of command.
It is our experience that empowering young adults at this formative stage stimulates a process of grassroots social change as program graduates press for equal rights and representation in Israeli society.
Proud Grantee Partner of Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta