February 22, 2024

IsraelNow (San Fransisco Style)

Avi Remetz Manager of Jewish Service Learning

This year, our Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest initiated a partnership with IsraelNow, offering an enriching weeklong trip to Israel for 8th graders. Unfortunately, because of the attacks on October 7th, a strategic shift occurred, leading to the development of an exhilarating, interactive, and immersive experience in San Fransisco, California!  

The IsraelNow team adapted swiftly, curating an impactful program that seamlessly blended outdoor adventures, guided tours, experiential learning, and interactive activities. While IsraelNow’s primary focus has traditionally not centered around Israel advocacy, the team acknowledged the necessity of addressing the recent war. They enlisted the expertise of exceptional Israeli educators who joined the program to facilitate open discussions and address any questions or concerns the teens had. 

In an unforgettable five-day experience, 11 teens from our community embarked on a transformative journey, immersing themselves in the vibrant culture of San Francisco and fostering deep connections with each other. Paired with a cohort of teens from Chicago, the group wasted no time diving into the unique experiences that awaited them. They were engaging in conversations about the distinctiveness of San Francisco compared to life at home and life in Israel throughout the entire experience. 

Multiple excursions and activities brought the IsraelNow teens closer to the heart of San Francisco and to their Jewish identities. They started with learning and volunteering at Urban Adamah, juicing more than 300 pounds of produce for California’s unhoused population. That afternoon unfolded with meetings at Sha’ar Zahav and a stroll through the Castro District, a journey that pushed many participants outside their comfort zones. The encounters with the district’s openness and diverse perspectives on Israel’s political situation sparked meaningful dialogues within our IsraelNow group.  

The adventure continued the next day as they immersed themselves in traditional Israeli cooking, followed by a hike with breathtaking views reminiscent of Israel’s Golan region. A community meditation in the Santa Rosa hills set the stage for a Shabbat filled with spiritual exploration, Torah experiences, and a program reflecting on October 7th and its aftermath. As the journey neared its end, the IsraelNow teens embarked on a memorable visit to Alcatraz, delving into San Francisco’s rich history. Pier 39 offered a mix of historic charm and shopping delights before heading home. 

As they said goodbye, the teens planned to stay in touch, cherishing the friendships and experiences forged during this remarkable adventure. Despite the disappointment of not being able to go to Israel, it turns out this trip aligned perfectly with the three objectives of the program: enabling teens to form new friendships, gain insights into Israel, and delve into the exploration of their Jewish values. I have no doubt that they this is an adventure they – and I – will never forget and am confident that it’s one of many steps of involvement on their Jewish journeys.