Where do I begin to share the experience of Heart to Heart, a 5-day mission to Israel sponsored by the Jewish Federation of North America. What? Five days? All the way to Israel for 5 days? Yes. It was five days. And with travel it works out to six days. But a trip so well worth it that women go back year after year.
Women’s Philanthropy, a Division of Jewish Nevada, raises money along with the whole of Federations of North America to “heal the world”. This Mission, first hand, allows us to see our Federation dollars supporting programs such as: the absorption of our Ethiopian brothers and sisters making Aliyah, to our senior population who are treated with respect and care; to supporting our Israeli citizens regarding recent fires in Israel with emergency monies to purchase necessities when everything they owned had been destroyed. This Mission filled me with hope and love.
We met women IDF Lone Soldiers on Sunday night. They shared why they chose to fight for their Jewish homeland, but not the home of their births. Most of these young women are the children of American Jews who had a strong feeling for the future of our Jewish State. It spoke volumes to many of us and we were honored that they were a part of our opening event.
Visiting Beit Meir, a Moshav that was hit particularly hard by the fires, it was heart-warming to hear from a local physician whose home was destroyed saying that when the fire crews arrived to their Moshav, he danced. He danced with grace, that although his house had been destroyed, God was protecting his community from further damage and that his family was safe. The money they received from the Jewish Agency, a stipend of $1,000.00 per person, within three days, was also a gift, that he was grateful for. Israelis know that they can count on the Jewish Agency to help and care for them in their time of need.
Visiting Nazareth and a Tahini Factory run by an Israeli-Arab Christian Family who has partnered with the Jewish agency to care for those in her community who otherwise would be supported in part by us, we learned that our Jewish Agency in Israel is teaching others, in Israel, about philanthropy. It was a sort of “If you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he can eat for a lifetime.” The owner of the Tahini Factory learned that she could do so much more for her community by asking her employees to provide 10 nis a paycheck to help support the less fortunate. No one is complaining. I think they are learning that it feels good to give.
Of course, we also had fun and visited Tel Aviv’s Fashion Center meeting gifted designers who use only earth friendly products for their designs. We learned of the obstacles Israeli designers face to create in Israel, but create they do. We had fun shopping and networking for a few hours.
Meeting women from all over the country provided us with the knowledge that we were not alone in our quest to make the world a better place. We came home emboldened and inspired to continue to do good work and feel proud of our accomplishments.
Finally, several of those in our group participated in a B’nai Mitzvah celebration with Rabbi Shira Stutman and our own, Cantor Jessica Hutchings from Congregation Ner Tamid. The women celebrated with Ethiopian girls who were also celebrating their B’nai Mitzvahs. The music and energy in the room was deafening. Being in Israel and celebrating our Judaism, overlooking Jerusalem, was moving, energetic and joyful.