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Join us as speakers from Gesher, the Israeli organization which works to bridge gaps between the different segments of Israeli society, talk about how they resolved conflict with Israel’s ultra-orthodox community in Beit Shemesh—where disagreements had given way to protests, threats and even assault.


This event is co-sponsored by Israel Talks, a program of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Partnership with Gesher.


Ethan Bronner, the national legal affairs correspondent, was the Jerusalem bureau chief for The Times from 2008 to 2012, following four years as the newspaper’s deputy foreign editor. Mr. Bronner has also served as assistant editorial page editor of The Times and worked in the paper’s investigative unit, focusing on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


Ilan Geal-Dor founded the Beit Shemesh Roundtable Forum after trouble erupted there last year. Leaders from across the spectrum of Beit Shemesh's communities continue to meet at Ilan's home as neutral territory regularly and important bridges have been built to keep peace between neighbors and prevent further troubles.

Ilan is the father of a girl at the Orot School in Beit Shemesh, is a former City Councilman, Chairman of the city’s Partnership 2000 project (a Jewish Agency program, partnering Bet Shemesh with Washington DC and South Africa) and is currently the Executive Director of GESHER in Israel.

Ilan has an MBA, a degree in psychology from Bar Ilan University and has worked as a mediator and senior teacher of Bible Studies. He lives in Beit Shemesh with his wife and 6 children.


Rabbi Avi Shafran is the director of public affairs and spokesman for Agudath Israel of America, a post to which he was appointed in 1994. For more than a decade, he has also written a weekly column syndicated to Jewish and general newspapers and websites, and is the author of five books, including Migrant Soul: The Story of an American Ger and a recently published collection of essays entitled It’s All in the Angle.

A musmach of Rav Yitzchok Ruderman, zt"l, of Ner Israel in Baltimore, and a talmid of Rav Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l, Rabbi Shafran served as a high school rebbe and principal for nearly 20 years before joining Agudath Israel.


Ari L. Goldman is a professor of journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the author of three books, including the best-selling The Search for God at Harvard.

Professor Goldman came to Columbia in 1993 after spending 20 years at The New York Times, most of it as a religion writer. At Columbia, Professor Goldman is the director of the Scripps Howard Program in Religion, Journalism and the Spiritual Life. In addition to The New York Times, his articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, the Forward, the New York Jewish Week, the Jerusalem Post and the New York Daily News.

Professor Goldman was born in Hartford, Conn., and was educated at Yeshiva University, Columbia and Harvard. In addition to The Search for God at Harvard (1991), he is author of Being Jewish: The Spiritual and Cultural Practice of Judaism Today (2000) and a memoir, Living a Year of Kaddish (2003).

At Columbia, he teaches the popular "Covering Religion" seminar that in recent years has taken students to Israel, Jordan, Russia, Ukraine, India and Ireland. Through his teaching and his travels, he has taught a whole generation of religion writers. His students have gone on to cover religion at such newspapers as the Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and the Raleigh News & Observer.

Professor Goldman has been a Fulbright Professor in Israel, a Skirball Fellow at Oxford University in England and a scholar-in-residence at Stern College for Women. He has served on the boards of several organizations, including the Jewish Book Council, the Covenant Foundation and Congregation Ramath Orah, an Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Professor Goldman is an amateur cellist and plays in the New York Late Starters String Orchestra. His new book, The Late Starters Orchestra, will be published in 2014 by Algonquin. He lives in New York City with his wife, Shira Dicker, and their three children, Adam, Emma and Judah.

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