- Holly Nelson, Chair of the Planning and Resourcing Commission
In mid-June, a dozen Jewish Federation professionals and lay leaders traveled to Israel to learn about the more than 30 programs we are currently funding there. Our mission provided us with an in-depth look at the ways our Jewish Federation is effecting change throughout the state.
For this Fiscal Year, the Jewish Federation’s priorities have centered on reducing food insecurity, increasing social cohesion through education, job training and employment opportunities, promoting opportunities for diverse Jewish expressions and Jewish pluralism, and promoting resilience in areas afflicted with security threats or trauma.
Throughout our journey, we encountered many inspiring individuals who have utilized the resources provided by the Jewish Federation to push past societal barriers to rise as leaders in their communities. A few of these remarkable stories are shared below.
We met an Ethiopian immigrant, Ester Biru, a graduate of Olim Beyachad, a program that focuses on preparing new Olim (immigrants) for success through education and inclusion in Israeli society. Our investment helped Ester achieve her goals, first by attending college, then through a Fulbright scholarship, and finally in her preparation for interviews and securing a job.
Our visit included a picnic dinner and conversation with Israeli-born “lone soldiers” who depend upon the Michael Levin Center in Be’er Sheva to help them connect with “family” during time off from their IDF service. Many of these soldiers were disowned by their Haredi families, because they chose to serve in the IDF. Others were removed from their home due to abuse and neglect. Our dollars help meet these soldiers’ critical needs by providing hot meals, supplemental food, therapy and networking opportunities at the Center.
Students who come from the “periphery” in Israel, on the outskirts of the country as well as those with lower socioeconomic status, previously had little opportunity for advancement in the IDF as well as in society. Thanks to our investment in Atidim, a multi-faceted organization, we met high school students who are engaged in high-level science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) programs that prepare them for specialized service in the IDF. On our mission we tested out programmed drones that some of these ingenious students built and programmed.
Our collaboration with Ofanim helped provide a tricked out “Magic School Bus,” filled with technology that engages younger children. The bus travels to communities in the periphery, bringing STEAM activities to their neighborhoods. These children would not otherwise have access to after-school learning through play.
We spent a morning at the Knesset, meeting with Israeli Minister for the Diaspora, Nachman Shai. Together we discussed creating strong Jewish life outside of Israel, the idea of a two-state solution, the creation of an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, and the ever-changing politics of the state.
No mission to Israel is complete without a visit to our Jewish Federation’s partnership region in the Negev, Netivot and S’dot Negev. From a security tour that took us to within 100 meters of the border fence of Gaza, to a conversation with soldiers who are stationed at the Iron Dome, we understood the fragile and impermanent peace in this part of Israel.
Our Jewish Federation dollars helped to fund bomb shelters in the partnership region, safety equipment for soldiers, medics from United Hatzalah, the new wing of the Saligman early childcare center, and countless other programs. Our goal has long been to leverage communal dollars to do the most good and to effect the greatest change. We have invested in the people of Israel and, with your help, we will continue to Carry the Light.
Interested in experiencing Israel with the Jewish Federation? Join us May 14 - 21, 2023 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Jewish State’s founding by experiencing Israel your way! Learn more about the mission and how to register by clicking here. For questions about this mission and about other travel opportunities with the Jewish Federation, please contact Missions Manager Erica N. Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.