The 10 coolest things I saw this week

This last week I was grateful to participate in some of the inspiring, moving, and memorable moments of our Jewish Federation’s Global Connections U'faratzta Mission to Israel. Here are the 10 coolest things I saw, on the mission and on some side visits:

1. Taking the train to Ofakim. No biggie, right? Wrong. The new extension of the train service to Ofakim turns our partner city into, essentially, a commuter suburb of Tel Aviv. One hour and a quarter on a very comfortable train and you’re in the center of Tel Aviv. This will be a major boost to the economy of the Negev and to Ofakim in particular.

2. Seeing two heroes of the Jewish People, Shimon Peres and Natan Sharansky, in conversation about the Jewish World, Israel, and our future.

3. Food. My goodness. So much food. Incredible food cooked by our wonderful friend Ossi Lankri. Did you know that Ossi will be cooking with us in New Jersey next month? You can sign up to buy her cookbook, available soon. Like her food, it’ll be totally awesome.

4. Creating art in our Federation-supported ISHA Center in Ofakim, an amazing place for women’s programs in the city, set up by our Federation and partners.

5. Visiting the Bedouin town of Arab El-Aramshe on the Lebanese border and having an amazing lunch in a resident’s home, while learning about Northern Bedouin culture (which, interestingly, is very different from that of the South: it’s more urbanized, most of the men serve in the IDF, and more of the women are employed outside of the house).

6. Seeing our dollars at work in the Underground Emergency Department of the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya – an incredible sight (and site). The hospital is the largest employer in the region and serves 600,000 residents. It’s also been a sanctuary for Syrian war victims. Our support for our partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel, helps make this happen.

7. Visiting the “Enosh” program in the city of Bat Yam, where our Federation dollars help the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) run a supportive environment of employment and treatment for people with mental disabilities.

8. Going with our Negba Chair, Lori Klinghoffer, to our Federation-supported program for women lace-makers in the Druze village of Hurfeish. Hurfeish has the highest rate of recruitment to the IDF of any location in Israel today, and we have strong ties to this proud community. Our program there preserves traditional crafts, respects the local culture, and helps give women employment and community. We’re boosting the local economy, giving the women a real sense of achievement, and making a strong statement of our support for the periphery.

9. An incredible lunch and workshop with participants from different cities in our Federation’s Youth Futures program. Youth Futures is a three-way partnership between Jewish Federations, Israelis, and philanthropists, to provide at-risk youth with comprehensive, tailored intervention to help them take their place as independent and productive members of society. At the heart of the program – and our Federation’s five community locations – are professionally-trained young trustees, dedicated to social change and mentoring. They’re amazing, inspiring, and a vision of hope for the future of Israel. Youth Futures serves 10,000 youth in 32 locations. Because of our support.

10. A moving farewell tribute to our friend and partner David Bitan, former Chair of our Ofakim Partnership, and now promoted to Commander of the Southern District of the Israeli Police. David’s dedication, friendship, and partnership have been a bright beacon in this equally bright living bridge, and we wish him great success as he continues to serve Israel and the Jewish People.

These are the kinds of experiences you only get on a Jewish Federation mission. You can see some of my photos from the mission here. And you can click here to learn more about missions. There are some great ones coming up.

I’m glad we have leaders like Paula Saginaw, our Global Connections Chair; Lori Klinghoffer, Negba Chair; Jeri Kimowitz, Ofakim P2G Chair; Barbara Drench, mission chair (refua shlema, we love you); and Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, Federation President. We were proud to have Gary Aidekman, Yama Chair; and Joyce Goldstein, Kedma Chair, in leadership positions on the mission. And I’m grateful for the hard work of my colleagues Amir Shacham, Sandy Green, Michal Zur, and Randi Brokman, who staffed the mission and put the logistics together along with our Missions Director Heidi Kuperman. And thank you to our partners who set up our visits, home hospitality, P2G@20, and more, especially Doron Rubin, Nili Avrahamy, Anat Morad, and Andrea Arbel.


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