March 17, 2022

It Was Wonderful to Be B’Yachad (Together) in Israel!

Allison Nagelberg Director of Global Connections NJ

A Global Connections delegation of 20 lay leaders and professionals visited our partners in Israel, after two years of waiting. At last a dream fulfilled! We had an uplifting, action-packed,
and emotional journey, visiting with our Greater MetroWest family in Israel.

Peoplehood, Partnerships, Pluralism…
Friendship, Community, Purpose…
Kulanu B’Yachad (We Are All Together)
and #WeAreGMW!


With the situation in Ukraine on everyone’s mind, and with friends in our partner community of Cherkassy living through perilous times, we stayed connected through Zoom meetings, to demonstrate solidarity and support and hear important updates. 




We honored the memory of Dan Drench z”l and celebrated the entire Drench Family at the Isha Center in Ofakim. We are so grateful for this family’s decades of love and partnership. Here is the tribute made by Dan’s son Peter:

On this happy occasion, our family and others who have joined in contributing are honored to support the important work of the Isha Center in Ofakim. It was typical of Dan that he would inspire others to share his deep commitment to this community, and that his spirit of inclusiveness would begin with – but not be limited to – his family. It is also appropriate that Barbara, who was his partner in this and other socially important initiatives for twenty wonderful years, is here today to represent the family and our fellow contributors in person. 

Dan lived his Jewishness not in religious ritual, of which he remained respectful but distant, but in his celebration of the diversity that characterizes our people. We amount to less than 0.2% of humanity but history has spread us throughout the globe. Israel’s story is of the “ingathering of exiles,” a story in which the Diaspora has played a key, supporting role. 

As a soldier, he bore witness to the damage wrought by the Shoah. He had a keen sense of life’s fragility, yet he was an optimist who focused on helping to strengthen our people and to invest in its future. As the son of immigrants – today they would be called refugees — he knew the discomfort, insecurity and challenges faced by persons who have been uprooted – whether by choice or necessity – from their native surroundings. He was at home with people regardless of their origins and understood what it takes to make a new home when one’s birthplace is no longer hospitable. In this spirit, Dan could not have found a more heymishe place than Israel, nor a more appropriate place in Israel than Ofakim. 

Please rest assured that those of us who could not be here for this ceremony are following the progress of the Isha Center and are fully on board to fulfill our pledges. Mazal tov for what you have achieved to date, and behatzlacha in all the years to come.   

Thank you from Peter Drench, Barbara Drench, Anne Ferguson, Zachary Drench, Heather Leavell, Jessica Drench, Sarah Kijinski, Paul Kijinski, Jr., Meredith Drench z”l through the Meredith Drench Charitable Trust 

Our group basked in the tranquil glow of BINA’s Botanical Gardens – getting to know the leaders of many of the Jewish Pluralism projects supported by our Federation. GMW has been a leader in this field, and is widely respected for bringing to life diverse opportunities for Jewish expression in Israel. 





Our delegation shared an unforgettable spiritual experience in the magnificent desert setting of Arad. Deep breathing, mindfulness, and being present are priceless!





We learned, we prayed, and we sang together at the Egalitarian Kotel Plaza, together with Masorti Israel and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. Five of us lost our moms in the past year, and we said Kaddish together in this very special setting. 





We worked sidebyside with the teens of SAHI (Special Hesed Unit), packing Purim baskets for people in need. SAHI’s slogan is, “The greatest thing in the world is to do good for someone.”   





One of the highlights of our week was meeting the wonderful Israeli, American and Ukrainian students, soldiers, former rishonim and shlichim, Diller alumni, and other young adults who are part of our incredible GMW Kehila (community). 





We were captivated by the bright-eyed, adorable children at the Hagar bilingual school for Jews and Arabs in the Negev. These elementary school children spoke from their hearts in telling us that when people are friends with each other, there is hope for peace. As one of the Hagar faculty observed, “Nothing compares to the human encounter” – a motto for all of the work of Global Connections! 




At JDC (the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee), we were briefed on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine by those at the frontlines of the conflict. JDC is not only the global Jewish 9-1-1; it is a force for good within Israeli society. Toward that end, we were treated to an exhilarating session of Israeli-inspired Krav Maga. 





Israeli children of all backgrounds receive a first-rate education at the Israel Center for Educational Innovation at Ramat Eliyahu, in Rishon Lezion, which has been our partner community since the 1970s. 





We couldn’t be more excited to meet the incomparable Rishonim 20, who will be arriving in Greater MetroWest in the summer of 2022!  





We said the first of many thank-yous to our visionary colleague, Amir Shacham, who will be retiring in October 2022. Please enjoy this video in honor of Amir. It was created by one of GMW’s lone soldiers: M’Dor L’Dor: from generation to generation!