In the US, we often think about human rights in a “liberal” framework that focuses on individual rights and a separation of church and state. As Smol Eumni has taken shape, it finds itself more animated by collective concerns like equality and the needs of the poor, speaking in religious language perhaps analogous to the Poor People’s Campaign here at home. In doing so, Smol Emuni reminds Israelis (and us as engaged non-Israelis) of the rich history of Jewish religious social thought and how it must be applied to today’s crises.
Meet Pnina Pfeuffer and Mikhael Manekin, two leaders of Smol Emuni, and join us for a conversation about this intersection — one that can both help us understand Israel’s current protest movement and offer new ways that we might think about activism here in the US.
Mikhael Manekin is the director of the Alliance Fellowship program, an Arab-Jewish political network in Israel. Before running the Alliance, Mikhael served as the director of Molad, a non-partisan progressive think tank in Jerusalem focused on democratic change in Israel. Prior to that, Mikhael was the executive director of Breaking the Silence. In 2021, Mikhael published the book Athalta- Ethics and Tradition in a Time of Power (Hebrew). The book is set to come out in English later this year. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.
Pnina Pfeuffer is currently CEO at both Yad Levi Eshkol and The New Haredim, an initiative to bring together policy driven activists who seek social justice and progress for their community and beyond. A Jerusalemite and mother of two, she is active in both municipal and national politics and initiatives. Growing up in an ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem, from a young age she felt a deep curiosity about different cultures and communities. Pnina’s life took her on its journey of education, marriage, work, and small children. Her life changed course after her divorce, and she opted to move to the mixed neighborhood of Nachlaot. Believing that the Palestinian community of Jerusalem was key to the well being of the city, she seeks to encourage coexistence and policy change. She serves on the joint Israeli Palestinian board of 0202, collaborates with Ir Amim and other organizations in the conflict resolution ecosystem. Pnina also founded a Beit Midrash for ultra-Orthodox women.