A Glimmer of Hope in the Midst of Ongoing Challenges

As members of TSTI, we have all had opportunities to hear about transformative experiences that have shaped the lives of our b’nai mitzvah and other congregants, as well as the clergy and guest speakers.  After recently describing such an experience to Rabbi Cohen, he asked me to share it with the rest of the congregation.

I am sure many of you are familiar with Outward Bound and its use of outdoor experiential learning to educate young people or perhaps have been on one of its team building programs for professionals.

As a corporate attorney, and through my firm’s work for Outward Bound USA, about five years ago, I was introduced to Elizabeth Anglin Knox.  Beth’s vision was to use the Outward Bound model to bring people from opposite sides of a conflict together through unique wilderness expeditions.  The passion in Beth, her staff and the other Board members easily convinced me of the enormous potential of such an organization and in August 2007 I readily agreed to become their pro bono legal counsel.  At the onset, I assisted them in their formal incorporation of as the Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding (OBCP) and obtaining tax exempt (501c3) status.  However, the work they do is so inspiring that not only have I remained their legal counsel and advisor, but my wife, Janet, has also taken up the mantel and has attended numerous fund-raising and get acquainted events and has met a number of the participants in the programs.   To date, OBCP has run one program in Sri Lanka for journalists and four programs for Israelis and Palestinians (comprised of groups of social entrepreneurs, emerging leaders, business leaders and religious leaders),  and the results have been nothing short of remarkable.

As one young Israeli political leader so eloquently stated “put Middle Easterners in the wild and take away their hummus and you will get communication.”  The woman, Michal Shir was referring to her transformational experience with Outward Bound Peacebuilding. In 2010, Michal, a former advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Minister of Education, Gideon Saar, joined a 10 day hiking and rafting program with 11 other Israeli and Palestinian Political Leaders – living, eating and working together in the Sierra Nevada National Park in Spain.  In Michal own words “We can change the world now and in the future. In our group we have future members of parliament on both sides that are running for the nearest and future elections. We have people responsible on the media and public opinions on both sides. We have people in our group that are part of the decision making process in all kind of levels.  We are changing the reality.”

It is because of stories like this that I often say Outward Bound Peacebuilding is my favorite client.   We are working towards bringing some of the participants to TSTI so you can hear their stories first hand, but until then, if you would like further information, please feel free to contact Janet Schwamm (jschwamm@gmail.com), me (mschwamm@gmail.com) or Ana Patel, OBCP’s Executive Director (Ana.Patel@outwardboundpeace.org)

Michael Schwamm
TSTI Member since 1996
(mschwamm@gmail.com)

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