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2023 Mandel Graduation Ceremony Held in Jerusalem

Held in the shadow of war, the event moved from sorrow to hope and from remembrance to celebration, while highlighting initiatives by Mandel graduates to support Israeli society during wartime

Group photo of Mandel graduates on a stage The Mandel graduates of 2023 (Photo:

After a delay of several months, the 2023 graduation ceremony of the leadership programs of the Mandel Foundation–Israel was held at the Jerusalem Theater in the shadow of the war in Gaza. The ceremony was held in the presence of President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal; Professor Jehuda Reinharz, president and CEO of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation, and Steve Hoffman, chairman of the Foundation; Moshe Vigdor, director general of the Mandel Foundation–Israel; Brigadier General Ofir Livius, chief education and youth officer of the IDF; and the families of five Mandel fellows and graduates who were murdered or fell in combat on or after October 7.

The ceremony opened with a memorial video and a moment of silence, concluded with a performance by the Yeruham youth choir, and included a panel discussion in which six graduates of Mandel programs discussed the projects that they launched in response to urgent needs that emerged in Israeli society due to the war.

President Isaac Herzog speaking at a podium President Isaac Herzog​ (Photo:

Speaking to the graduates, President Yitzhak Herzog said: “Michal and I had the honor of knowing Mort Mandel very well. He was a man of vision and hope. He always filled me with inspiration, he had an incredible vision, and he pushed everyone he knew to do good and to give hope. I’m certain that he would be very proud of you today.” The president expressed his hopes that the graduates will continue to contribute to the growth of Israeli society after the calamity that befell Israel on the seventh of October.

Three Mandel graduates taking a selfie|Grad2023

Professor Jehuda R​​einharz, president and CEO of the Foundation, acknowledged the tragic circumstances surrounding the graduation and sent condolences to the victims of the war being waged in the Gaza Strip and northern Israel. He noted the wide range of support that the Foundation has given to civil society organizations in Israel since the outbreak of the war, including providing meals for evacuees in hotels in Eilat, sponsoring educational activities in hotels in the Dead Sea, supporting the first-aid activities of MDA and ZAKA and the emotional assistance provided by trauma care agencies, and assisting in erecting bomb shelters in unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev. “The Foundation is committed to continuing to strengthen and cultivate a tolerant, diverse and inclusive society in Israel. The 207 graduates who are marking the completion of their programs today are committed to this mission – with more courage, dedication and strength than ever before, for we have no other land."

"On October 7, our world was turned upside down,” said Moshe Vigdor, director general of the Mandel Foundation–​Israel. “The shock and sadness have not yet passed and we still mourn the murdered and those who fell… Today's Mandel graduation moves between infinite sorrow on the one hand, and hope for better days on the other... Today we are celebrating the graduation of over 200 fellows... We are sure that we will see them in their greatness and strength in both calm and stormy days."

During the panel discussion, six of the Foundation's graduates talked about their leadership activities during the war, which were just a small sample of the dozens of initiatives launched by Mandel graduates. Panelists included Dr. Suzy Shrem, Yehuda Rosenberg, Keren Apfelbaum Riff, Inbal Ron, Rabbi Yoav Ende, Fainy Sukenik, and Sleman Abo Medegam, whose initiatives included setting up a school in Jerusalem for evacuees from the Gaza border communities, creating a safe space for young people in Eilat traumatized by the massacre at the Nova festival, mobilizing ultra-Orthodox women to attend funerals and visit houses of mourning of IDF soldiers, and creating an emergency situation room staffed jointly by Arabs and Jews at the community center in the Bedouin city of Rahat. In the following video, Yoav Ende speaks of the support provided to some 20 asylum seekers from Eritrea who sought safe haven in the Hannaton Educational Center when life in the city of Sderot was no longer viable:

​Speaking on behalf of the graduates, Naomi Toledano Kandel, a graduate of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership, said: "Thank you to the men and women of the Foundation for the deep wells of goodness and wisdom [that you have given us]. What a great and unforgettable privilege you have given us all.”

The ceremony in Jerusalem celebrated the graduation of fellows from 11 Mandel leadership programs in Israel: The Mandel School for Educational Leadership, the five programs of the Mandel Leadership Institute, two programs of the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev, and the three programs of the Mandel Center for Leadership in the North.