Mission Provides Up-Close View of Israeli Projects

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A Jewish Federation member details his participation in the organization’s recent mission to Israel 

Andy Szabo, a member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Board of Trustees and Congregation Ohev Shalom of Delaware County, details his participation in the Jewish Federation’s mission to Israel March 9-12, 2015. Joining Andy on the mission were fellow Jewish Federation leaders Joel Freedman, Sara Laver, Jay Minkoff, Ronald Perilstein, Kathy Sarlson and Debra Zweben, as well as staff members. The mission showed decision-makers first-hand the programs funded by Jewish Federation’s Center for Israel and Overseas.
 
Recently, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the State of Israel as a member of a Jewish Federation mission.
 
On each of my three previous trips to Israel, I fell in love with the country’s culture, synagogues, archaeological and religious history — both Jewish and non-Jewish — Jerusalem’s mix of old world and new world, the Sephardic food, the Machane Yehuda Market and the entrepreneurial spirit of daily life.
 
I continue to be proud of the miracle of life that Israel promises to Jews all over the world, especially those who no longer feel welcome in their native countries. We receive so much when we visit Israel, but our visit to Israel also gives so much back.
 
We provide tourist dollars to the Israeli economy. And most importantly, our presence says to Israel and its citizens, “We have not forgotten you, and we support you.”
 
When Jewish Federation offered me the opportunity to see Israeli life up close, I answered, “Hineni, here I am.” This mission allowed this particular group of Jewish Federation volunteers to see for ourselves the programs in Israel supported by the Jewish Federation’s Center for Israel and Overseas, which are aligned with our own local philosophy of providing for those most in need.
 
All of the programs provide high-impact support, especially in the areas of aiding disadvantaged youth and strengthening our Partnership 2Gether community of Netivot and Sedot Negev.
 
The staff and participants of each program greeted us with genuine hospitality and graciously answered our questions. Everyone we spoke with offered a similar message:
 
The monies that the Jewish Federation provided were making a positive difference in their lives and in the life of Israel.
 
Let me give you just three examples of programs we visited.
 
Nirim provides youth at extreme risk with the opportunity to overcome their harsh life circumstances, discover their strengths and become self-confident. Jewish Federation is supporting Nirim’s Girls Only program, which provides life-changing support specifically to girls who are engaging in high-risk behaviors.
 
Friends of Atidim prepares promising Israeli students from disadvantaged communities for higher education and a successful career in science and technology. The Jewish Federation supports Atidim in Industry to provide work experience at leading companies and financial support for university study for 21-30-year-olds.  
 
Orr Shalom provides therapeutic foster care to 1,400 Israeli youth. The newly created, Jewish Federation-supported adolescent out-of-home care division of Orr Shalom is providing a network of support enabling teens and young adults to transition out of foster homes and into Israeli society.
 
A Jewish Federation contributor might ask why our local funds are sent to Israel when we have our own local needs. I would answer that each Jew is connected to all other Jews.
 
Wherever we see Jews in need, we have a special obligation to help them. Where Jews are hungry, we feed them. Where Jews are in danger, we rescue them. 
 
Israel holds a special place for us as Americans and as American Jews because of the promise that the land of Israel holds for Jews of the world; because each year at our seder table, we say, “Next year in Jerusalem;” and because Israel has absorbed Jews from many cultures everywhere in the world. And because the people of Israel look to their American brothers and sisters, we will not forget them. We haven’t, we don’t and we won’t.
 
I urge you to visit Israel and before your next visit, to contact the Jewish Federation for information on how you can experience the vital programs we support there.
 
For more information on Jewish Federation missions to Israel and other Jewish communities around the world, email Pam Pearlmutter, manager of the Philadelphia Israel Experience, at ppearlmutter@jfgp.org or call 215-832-0837. 
 

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