“This was why I love Federation: food, art and friends.”

We’ve had a developing relationship with the Israeli Druze town of Hurfeish for several years now. During the Second Lebanon War 12 years ago, as northern Israeli cities were under attack from Katyusha rockets, our Federation funded the construction of a municipal emergency center there. We’ve worked with their schools and with our partners in the Jewish Agency on a Youth Futures program for at-risk children. And these past few years we’ve been supporting an amazing program to empower 70 women in the community as embroiderers and makers of lace projects. Their work is beautiful, and the message – that women in traditional communities can earn real salaries and bring revenue and dignity to their families – is so needed in today’s Israel. They sell hand-made scarves, clothes, blankets, and more, contributing to the family income and developing their self-esteem and pride as well as keeping their traditional culture alive.

I’ve visited Hurfeish several times and I love the gracious hospitality, the warmth of their welcome, and their amazing food. Every time I go to Hurfeish, I leave with a full stomach and a warm glow (and souvenirs). I was proud to serve with Druze officers and soldiers in my army service many years ago, and that love of Israel and patriotic sense of duty radiates through their homes and community. It’s inspiring.

LacemakersSo it was with a sense of excitement that our Global Connections and Women’s Philanthropy divisions welcomed a group of eight Hurfeish women and their male chaperones (husbands and some fathers) last week here in New Jersey. All week we heard glowing reports of new friendships, amazing experiences of cooking together, and incredible art sessions.

New friends, great food, and lacemaking. What could be better? Two things, perhaps.

First – as my colleague Amir Shacham has pointed out, I don’t think there’s any other Jewish community in North America (or anywhere, really) which has hosted a delegation of Druze Israelis in our homes and had this kind of intensive, amazing interaction. If you were one of the hosts, one of the participants, one of the organizers, I want to thank you for creating an awe-inspiring and unique experience for our guests.

And second – this reinforces, once again, what so many of us in our community already know: Your participation in our Jewish Federation puts you in the center of the major events of Israel and Jewish life.

I’m deeply grateful to Caroline Goldstein and Mindunn Rose, and their committee for making this visit happen and meticulously organizing every detail, including finding hosts, arranging transportation, and planning events. And I’m grateful to the lacemaker’s delegation for making the journey and sharing their traditions with us.

Look out for an upcoming article about the visit by Miriam Seiden who, prior to the visit, spent time in Hurfeish teaching English to the lacemakers, in our Access Federation e-newsletter. The new connections made during this visit are already leading to future visits to Hurfeish during the upcoming year and during our commUNITY mission to Israel in October. It’ll be another wonderful opportunity to show why #WeLiveIsrael


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