July 12, 2023

500 People, One Community, Once-in-a-Century Experience

Kabbalat Shabbat Group

What an incredible week it was! Five hundred people – representing all aspects of our diverse community – sharing a journey of learning, of discovery, or connecting in profoundly meaningful ways. For more than 120 participants it was their first trip to Israel, and for more than 300 it was their first Federation mission, while for others it was one of many trips but no less inspiring. 

After years of planning and preparation, our Centennial Mission – celebrating the 100th birthday of our Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and Israel’s 75th – is now complete, but the memories will surely last a lifetime. 

“Our hope was to create a once-in-a-century experience for our Greater MetroWest community as we celebrate our Centennial year. The reality exceeded every expectation!” reflects Centennial Mission Chair Ira Steinberg (center in photo). “The Centennial Mission strengthened our connections between members of our Greater MetroWest community in New Jersey and Israel and deepened our bond with the land and people of Israel. I am confident that the lives of all involved have been transformed which will ultimately transform our entire Greater MetroWest community as we head into our next century.” 

Each action-packed day of the mission included a variety of unique experiences. Highlights included a stirring program at an Israel Defense Forces Army base, a party celebrating July 4th with fireworks on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, meeting our fellow Israeli community members and participating in service projects together at our partner communities including Ofakim, Merchavim, Arad, Hurfeish, and Kibbutz Erez where we saw first-hand the inspiring programs we support with our UJA dollars. We were honored by an address from Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, spent a meaningful Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel and Havdalah at the Tower of David, paid visits of remembrance to the Har Herzl Memorial and Yad Vashem’s Holocaust Museum, explored Jerusalem, and so much more. 

“I’ve been to Israel a few times before, but never have I experienced it like this,” said first-time mission participant Mary Fernandez from Madison (at right in photo). “Every day I had an experience that was mind-blowing. I visited an Arab/Jewish preschool run by a married couple dedicated to creating shared society for the children in their community. That’s just one example. I had a dozen one-on-one experiences with Israelis in which I learned how our community is helping them achieve their goals. A mission is really different from tourism. I didn’t understand that before, but now I do.”  

There’s nothing like a Federation mission to help us understand the power of Jewish peoplehood. We travel and explore together and see how our efforts and our dollars impact the lives of Jewish people in Israel and around the world. To learn about other opportunities to travel on a Federation mission, click here 

This mission launched our Federation’s Centennial year celebration which will offer a variety of unique experiences through June 2024. 

“It is a tremendous honor to be part of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s Centennial Mission to Israel and share this magical experience with hundreds of neighbors and friends,” said Jane Wilf, chairperson of Federation’s Centennial. Jane is pictured at left with Ari Levinson, a client of JESPY House. We are proud to be the first Federation to share a fully inclusive community mission, including members of our community with intellectual and developmental disabilities from our partner agencies, JESPY and Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled (JSDD).

“Now, more than ever, as we celebrate the Federation’s 100th year, I am deeply appreciative and proud of the role that Federation plays in meeting the diverse needs of Jews in our community and worldwide,” Wilf continued. ”The Centennial Mission launches the Federation’s year-long multi-event celebration intended to mark this important milestone while strengthening our bonds as a global community.” 

Learn more about our Centennial Celebration here.