Paraphrasing Lerner and Lowe, Israel Style
It isn’t often that one is filled with overwhelmingly positive sentiments while waiting to catch a plane. But as my fellow Federation travelers and I wait patiently for our flight, I feel boundless enthusiasm and a sense of tremendous pride. For a week, we have been in Israel, first at the General Assembly (GA) of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) then in a partnership city of Rehovot. Cue music from Brigadoon: What a week it has been!
We all know that there are many challenges facing Jews everywhere, regardless of where they hang their hats. While most GA conversations have focused on external threats to our community, the focus this year was more introspective. By using the theme “Let’s Talk" JFNA provided, even if only for a few days, thousands of our brethren had meaningful dialogue about our collective future. And while it would be foolhardy to suggest that truly meaningful steps to improve relations between Israel and the diaspora can be enacted after a three-day conference, starting the conversation is the only way to make progress. It is imperative that Jews on both sides of the Atlantic (and for that matter Jews who live within our own borders) understand each other’s aspirations and sensitivities.
One idea proposed at the conference that has potential to bring Jews closer together was suggested by the Jewish Agency for Israel’s new Chairman, Isaac Herzog, who proposed that the Agency help provide Hebrew language instruction to all Jewish students in North America. Hopefully, we can turn this idea into reality and I applaud him for thinking big.
In Rehovot, we put the notion of bridging differences through dialogue into practice by participating in one of our partnership’s thought-provoking programs. “Cousins in Your Living Room” is held, as you might expect, in a volunteer’s living room and Jews from many backgrounds discuss issues impacting our peoplehood with candor, thoughtfulness, and of course, good food.
A Federation trip to Israel would not be complete without visiting some of the incredible social service programs supported by the dollars we raise. We were so impressed by the work being done at the Rehovot Early Child Development Center, which helps underprivileged kids with developmental issues get otherwise unaffordable interventions and therapy, and the Ethiopia National Project’s SHAPE program, which helps immigrant children prepare for their matriculation exams so that they can continue their education and take their place in Israeli society.
And now, we head home. I can’t wait to come back. And I can’t wait for more of you to join us, not only on one of the many global experiences we are planning, but in all of the aspects of our exciting and life-changing work.