I’ve just returned from a joint leadership mission to Israel. Five leaders from our Federation embarked on a life-changing experience to learn about leadership, philanthropy, and responsibility.
Not a dime of our communal funds was used for this mission. The airfare, ground transportation, hotels, food – all costs – were paid by generous philanthropic leaders in the community expressly for this purpose. The logistics, coordination, and arrangements were covered by our dues to our umbrella organization, the Jewish Federations of North America, which assisted in all these efforts.
Why would someone do this? Why would someone pay for others – who could afford to go on their own – to go on this mission?
Because they were making a statement. Someone, years ago, tapped these leaders on the shoulder and said, “Come with me. Come see what Israel is about. And through that experience, you’ll see what being a Jewish leader and philanthropist is about.” They themselves benefitted from these journies and now they are paying it forward.
The mission experience itself was astonishing. But in truth, every Federation mission is amazing. Even bad Federation missions are amazing.* Why? Because you learn not only about who we are as a Jewish People, but also about who you are as a Jew, as a person, as an individual. And in order to really understand who you are, what your community is, and how it works, you have to step away from it geographically so that you’ll get the bigger picture.
Standing at the southern base of the Western Wall, touching the stone that was placed thousands of years ago on Mount Moriah, I felt a deep sense of belonging. Talking to Air Force pilots about to board their F-15s and F-16s, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. And meeting with young Israeli entrepreneurs and social activists, I felt a deep sense of inspiration. I’m proud that our Federation builds deep and meaningful partnerships in Israel (as we do here in New Jersey and around the Jewish world). Once you’re on the ground — touching, talking and tasting Israel – you get it.
I am also proud that we ran this mission jointly with our sister Federation in Hudson-Bergen counties, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. It’s good for us to collaborate and share resources and ideas. And it’s a reminder that Jewish Federations are united in their efforts to inspire and lead our communities wherever and however we can.
Every mission has moments of stunning power. Join us on our future missions – you’ll be amazed, inspired and grateful.
*We don’t have any of those, just in case you were wondering.
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