Take 200 Jewish Philadelphians to Newark International Airport, board them on an El Al jet bound for Tel Aviv, give them a brief bathroom break, then pile them on buses for a full itinerary of fascinating speakers, exciting entertainment venues, visits to key cultural and historic sites, festive banquets, archeological excavations, volunteer experiences and other activities that will run them ragged from early morning to late night.
This is the “recipe” for a successful Mega Mission to Israel that received rave reviews from participants who ranged in age from 6 to 86. This journey to Eretz Yisrael — orchestrated by Mission co-chairs Michelle and Jeffrey Barrack, Shari Odenheimer and Michele and Robert Levin — was intensive, exhilarating, uplifting and exhausting.
Teddy Chiara of Lafayette Hill celebrated his 13th birthday during the Mission and was one of 30 who participated in the group B’nai Mitzvah ceremony in Jerusalem. He described the experience as “sababa,” the Hebrew word for “amazing” — one of the words of the day taught by each of the bus captains during the trip. When Chiara’s mother, Lori asked him if he’d like to join her on the trip, his response was both instantaneous and enthusiastic. “I knew that this would be the trip of a lifetime,” he said.
Sixty-nine-year-old Reb Burwinkle of Dresher waited until much later in life to explore Judaism and the Jewish homeland. A native of Louisville, Ky., his parents divorced when he was very young and he was raised by his grandmother. Money was very tight, and Jewish education was not a high priority; yet Burwinkle “knew in my heart that I was Jewish.” His wife, Ellen, read about the Mission in the Jewish Exponent, and the couple decided that it was “the ideal time.”
The trip also included several multi-generational families. Federation President Sherrie R. Savett traveled with her mother, Frances Raiken, and her daughter, Lauren, and son-in-law, Marc Hausman. Savett, who has been to Israel numerous times, was “delighted” to experience the sights, smells and sounds of the Jewish homeland through the experiences of her family and her extended family of Mission participants.
View a full gallery of pictures from Mega Mission — the ultimate Israel adventure — at www.jewishphilly.org .
To participate in a future Federation mission, call Pam Pearlmutter, manager, Philadelphia Israel Experience, at 215-832-0837 or email [email protected] .