People Always Come Before Politics

Israel is complicated. No one is going to argue against that; but it is also our home, our nation, and our peoplehood.

As I began my new role as Director of Global Connections for the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, I went to visit our partners in Israel. I did not know what to expect, and I left deeply moved by what I experienced.

I saw first-hand that, in addition to the incredible generosity of its donors, the Greater MetroWest community is defined by leaders that have truly given their hearts, souls, and unconditional love to Israel and our partners. They show up in Israel to be with their friends when the rockets are falling, they show up to celebrate a simcha with a former rishonim, and everything in between.

The stories I heard, the people I met, and the work that I saw while visiting our partners in Israel made it ever clearer: Israel is complicated, but people always come before politics. Our Israel Director, Amir Shacham, said to me about the 20+ years of Greater MetroWest’s work in Israel, “It’s like a bike… if you don’t keep moving you fall down.” This community has kept moving, from the founding of pluralistic religious spaces in Israel, to supporting some of the most innovative and award-winning programs promoting shared society in Israel, to being among the first to help airlift and settle new olim from Ethiopia and the FSU.

This spirit remains as active as it has ever been. This year we are growing the impact of our Mishlachat program, enabling even more members of our community to experience Israel here at home. We are pioneering new living bridge programs to strengthen relationships between diaspora Jews and Israelis. And we will continue to support our partners on the ground who are working every day to build resiliency, pluralism, and tikkun olam. We in Greater MetroWest understand the importance and the need to be unafraid and to take on new approaches, even when others may not follow.

A relationship with Israel is not always easy, especially as tensions rise in both the U.S. and Israel on all ends of the political spectrum. This generation of young American Jews has had to grapple with their views and feelings about Israel far more than their parents or their grandparents did. But despite all the challenges, we will continue to find the opportunities, and pursue them.

One participant of the program Photography with Joy (an intergenerational photo therapy program we support for Holocaust survivors and teens) said to me, “I don’t see my history as belonging to me.” This, to me, expressed a profound sense of global responsibility. Our history and our successes are shared amongst us all; we all belong and yet nothing belongs solely to us.

Our Global Connections team is constantly processing and strategizing, and consulting with our partners in the U.S. and Israel to see how to make the most meaningful impacts. I am privileged to be joining such a legacy. We will continue engaging in the difficult conversations and making the critical decisions about how we as diaspora Jews can best support Israel, because if we don’t who else will?