30 years after Glienicke Bridge

Rachel Danziger Sharansky

In case you missed it, this moving piece was written by the daughter of Natan Sharansky, CEO of our partner The Jewish Agency for Israel and face of the modern day Exodus— an inspiring reminder of the human impact of your Federation support.

As my parents’ daughter, I am forever aware that I owe my existence to the people who yelled with my mother. I wouldn’t be here today if you, the Jews of the world, wouldn’t have opened your hearts and your homes and your purses. You marched in rallies, sent letters to your representatives, paid my mother’s tickets as she flew from one demonstration to another. You hosted her. You encouraged her. Your yells broke through the Iron Curtain. They broke into my father’s cell long before they broke him out of it. And they broke into my inner geography, where they ring and echo to this day.”

P2G Update: Synagogue via Skype, JWRP visits Rehovot

Have you met our sister? It’s true, Minneapolis has a sister city in Israel: the beautiful town of Rehovot! Through this Partnership2Gether initiative, Minneapolis is strengthening a connection to Israel and building a stronger sense of Jewish peoplehood. Here are just a few recent stories of partnership, from Darchei Noam and  the #MOMentum mission, and click here to learn more about Partnership2Gether (and make sure to like us on Facebook!)

Thanks to technology, we are able to bring two synagogues, with a deep love of learning, together.

Beginning November 17, Congregation Darchei Noam in St. Louis Park will begin simultaneous study sessions with synagogue The Berman Shul in Rehovot, Israel.

The six classes will be held on Tuesday evenings, the Minneapolis group meets at Darchei Noam at 7PM and on Sundays at 11AM. The following Sunday the groups will gather via Skype in Minnesota and Israel to discuss what they learned and share insights.

These classes are free and open to the community. The schedule is below, and we hope to see you there!

  • Amos – NOV 17th | Sunday Skype discussion on NOV 22nd
  • Hosea – DEC 15th | Sunday Skype discussion on DEC 20th
  • Micah (Micheas) – FEB 9th | Sunday Skype discussion on FEB 14th
  • Habakkuk and Zephaniah – MARCH 8th | Sunday Skype discussion on MAR 13th
  • Obadiah – MAY 17th | Sunday Skype discussion on MAY 23rd
  • Haggai and Zechariah – JUNE 14th | Sunday Skype discussion on JUN 19th

For more information, contact:

Congregation Darchei Noam
2950 Joppa Ave. S. at Minnetonka Blvd. | 952-452-8476
DarcheiNoamMN@yahoo.com | www.DarcheiNoamMN.org


Minneapolis women visit Rehovot!

The #‎Momentummn‬ delegation of the‪#‎MOMentumtrips‬ of women visited Rehovot on Tuesday, October 27th as a part of our Partnership2Gether program through the municipality of Rehovot, the Jewish Agency and the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.

The visit was hosted and sponsored by Rehovot’s Deputy Mayor, Zohar Blum, and David Ashkenazi, Rehovot’s Chief of Staff and Head of Foreign Relations Department.

The group spent the day touring the city (Weisman Institute and the Ayalon Institute), visiting kindergartens and early childhood care facilities in Kiryat Moshe as well as a little bit of shopping.

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The highlight of the visit was dinner at the Minkov Citrus Orchard Museum along with Rehovot members of the partnership’s Steering Committee which is Co-Chaired by Dr. Yoram Blachar.

The meeting between members of the Steering Committee and the women from the Minneapolis community was successful, exciting and left a taste and desire for further development of the relationship.

Fun fact: Melanie Ginsburg, a MASA Israel student from Minneapolis on a Teachers Fellows program in Rehovot, spoke with the group while they were there about how Federation supports Masa (which is also a Jewish Agency for Israel program), and about what she is doing in Rehovot.

Dozens of members of the Minneapolis Jewish community are scheduled to visit Rehovot in the upcoming months to continue establishing relationships and friendships with the residents of Rehovot.

 

Conversation with Ahava Tomer

Below is a terribly sad and moving portrait of a recipient of support from the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for the Victims of Terror. With distance and through media we sometimes forget the real people behind the stories.

Thanks go to several of our partners in Israel, who not only visited the victims but shared these stories with us while juggling everything else that they do. Trying moments like these remind us of our  incredible mission and the truly exceptional and warm colleagues who deliver that mission in Israel and around the world. We have many hands working around the clock to bring what is going on in Israel a little closer to our community around the world.

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Jewish Agency representatives met Ahava Tomer outside the ICU at the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. She has hardly left the place ever since her son, Yonatan, was rushed there two days ago after being stabbed numerous times by a terrorist. She is not allowed to enter and see him often, but she said Yonatan is already doing better and calls her on his cell phone from inside the ICU room. He is laying in a bed near Nadav— a 13-year-old boy who was critically wounded in the same attack.

Ahava said her son was at her bedside every day at the hospital three months ago when she underwent surgery to address a disability she has suffered from since contracting polio as a baby. Now he is hospitalized just down the hall from the ICU where she received treatment and she can’t believe she is back.

She proudly described how Yonatan, who is the youngest of her 11 children, saved many lives during the attack when he shouted “terrorist, terrorist,” and yelled at a little girl to hide in a building. The girl’s father has since called Ahava weeping, and thanking her son for saving his daughter’s life.

Ahava recounted the day of the attack, saying that Yonatan was supposed to come back home from synagogue. When she heard ambulances outside, she tried calling him on the phone but he didn’t answer. She grew more and more frantic, calling him to no avail until a stranger answered the phone, telling her that her son had gotten a scratch and was in the hospital. It took Ahava several hours to get to the hospital since the roads were all blocked. When she finally got there and saw her son in the ICU bed she couldn’t believe it was him and broke down crying.

As she was sitting outside of the ICU room, she noticed that there was an Arab woman sitting across from her. Only later did Ahava realize that this was the mother of the terrorist who had attacked her son and was being treated in a bed right near Yonatan and Nadav — the other victim. After making a request to the staff, the terrorist was moved to another room.

Ahava, who received an emergency grant from The Fund for the Victims of Terror, is in desperate need of the financial assistance. Her husband is also handicapped and since the day of the attack hasn’t been physically able to visit the hospital. The family doesn’t own a car, so in order to come to the hospital she needs to get rides from neighbors and friends. Ahava plans on using the money from The Fund to help Yonatan while he is in the hospital by getting him a decent pair of pajamas and slippers to wear.

“It is very special that there are people around the world that care about someone like me, may I never need such a gift in the future,” Ahava said. “I want to say not just ‘thank you,’ but ‘a thousand thanks’ — I wish health to all those who gave and that may we never need such gifts in the future!”

** Important Note: Everyone mentioned is a real person. We have used aliases to give the family some measure of privacy during these trying times.

Because of your gift, victims of the horrifying terrorist attacks happening throughout Israel will receive assistance quickly—often within 24 hours—so they can start the process of healing.

DONATE TODAY

Tell the UN: Don’t Tamper with the Jewish People’s Holiest Site

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The Minneapolis Jewish Federation and the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul join with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas to urge you to sign this important petition.

The Executive Council of UNESCO is scheduled to vote this Wednesday, October 21, on an outrageous draft resolution about Jerusalem that was submitted by Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

Urgent action is required immediately to defeat this extremely toxic resolution.

The provocative resolution demands that UNESCO affirm that “the Buraq Plaza is an integral part of the Al-Aksa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif.”  The Buraq Plaza is the Arabic name for the Western Wall or Kotel and the Al-Haram Al-Sharif is the Arabic designation for the Temple Mount.

At no point does this draft resolution acknowledge a Jewish association with the Western Wall, which is the last remaining vestige of the Second Jewish Temple that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.  Instead this resolution completely disregards any Jewish connection to the holiest structure within Judaism.

This gross attempt to erase Jews from our own history is unconscionable and must be rejected by the UNESCO Executive Board. (The resolution also condemns Israeli actions in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.)

Fortunately, not only has Israel, the United States, Britain, and other UN members denounced this initiative, claiming that the resolution disregards historical Jewish and Christian ties to the Old City, but even UNESCO’s executive director has “appeal[ed] to the UNESCO Executive Board to take decisions that do not further inflame tensions on the ground and that encourage respect for the sanctity of the Holy Sites.”

Sources indicate that the same resolution will also be submitted to UNESCO’s 58-member General Assembly. Palestine has been recognized as a member of UNESCO since 2011, but is not on its 15-member Executive Council.

Because the last few weeks of violence in Israel were spurred in part by slanderous allegations about Israel’s intentions to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, this resolution is particularly inflammatory.

Urge the United Nations to reject this anti-Semitic resolution and to avert the potentially fatal impact that the adoption of such a one-sided and outrageous resolution would have not just on Israel, but the entire Middle East.

By signing this AJC petition you will take the most concrete step you can in publicly urging a NO VOTE on this resolution by the governments which make up the UNESCO Executive Council.

Please also share this Action Alert with your friends and encourage them to make their voices heard today.

Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund recipient: Abe Passman

Born and raised in the Jewish community of Minneapolis, Louis Herman never had any children.
But he thought of the community’s children as his children, and used his hard-earned wealth to support causes that focused on Jewish education.  In 1992, Mr. Herman donated $1 million to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation as an endowment. A few years later, the LOUIS HERMAN ISRAEL EXPERIENCE FUND was established.

Since its inception in 1995, the Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund has awarded more than $1,000,000 in grants to over 1000 Minneapolis teens. Many of these grant recipients have returned from their Israel Experiences to become active members of their Jewish community, fulfilling Mr. Herman’s vision of developing a new generation of committed Jews. Mr. Herman’s generosity to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, and to other Jewish institutions, has touched the lives of thousands of Jewish youth and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Recently, we had a couple recipients of grants from the Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund return from their Israel programs. We wanted to share their words with you, just to show how impactful this experience is to Minneapolis youth between the ages of 15 and 18.

Abe Passman had this to say about his Israel Experience:

I had a great summer!

Abe PassmanThis photo is meaningful to me because I praying and connecting to Judaism with four guys who are now some of my best friends. Along with that, this was at a Synagogue in Sienna, Italy. It is no longer in use except for on high holidays. The rabbi (an orthodox man), however, came in and led Monday morning services with a mixed gender minyan and allowed us to read from a 200 year old Torah! I got an Aliyah!
The Israel experience was amazing. Everyone on my trip really loved who I was and there was never a reason to put on a mask and fake who I am as a person. I now have 13 new best friends, some of whom I have spoken to everyday since we got back. Even though I had been there with my family, this trip allowed me to really appreciate and admire the State of Israel. I am so thankful for the opportunity to go on USY Pilgrimage.

2a. How attached do you feel to Israel? Very much

2b. How knowledgeable do you feel about Israel? Very much

2c. Would you like to be more involved in the Jewish Community? Very much

Thank you so much!

-Abe Passman

To learn more about the Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund, and to see if you’re eligible, visit this page or contact Ariel at 952.417.2319 or abiel@mplsfed.org.

Summer Arts Workshops for Adults

The reviews are in, and they are terrific.

“One of my favorite days off ever!”

“Informative, engaging, and FUN!!!”

Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council and the Sabes JCC teamed up in July and August of 2015 to produce a series of four summer arts workshops for adults. The playgrounds were the banks of the Mississippi River, the shady gardens of The Landscape Arboretum, the avenues of Minneapolis’ North Side, and The Marsh in Minnetonka.

Each workshop explored an encounter with nature, one or two art forms—from drawing and cooking to collage and photography—and an exploration of personal belief.

In the words of Laura French, writing for the American Jewish World: “Why should kids have all the summer fun? This year grown-ups can enjoy the creativity, camaraderie and natural beauty of a summer day-camp experience.” The thirty participants came from an unusually broad spectrum of backgrounds; their ages spanned early-20s to mid-80s.

“The Spices of Life” launched the series with interactive visits to three cultural institutions on the North Side—Homewood Studios on Plymouth Avenue and Cookie Cart and Appetite for Change on Broadway. Whether the subject was painting, cookie dough, or a great beet soup, each of these cornerstone organizations showed how all the arts enrich the community in which they thrive and can empower individuals to live a more balanced, healthier life.

“One with Nature” put pencils and brushes in the hands of its participants. Masterfully guided by teacher Lynda Monick-Isenberg, the participants learned to look more acutely, to pay attention to their bodies through simple yoga poses, and to let their hands connect with their observational skills. A gorgeous Minnesota summer day in the gardens of The Arboretum gave everyone plenty to look at and draw.

“Mysteries of the Mississippi” combined preservationist Aaron Rubenstein’s intriguing stories of the social history of the river in downtown Minneapolis with artistic opportunities to capture the colorful natural landscape and wildlife which live on the water’s shores. Cameras, pens, torn paper, and collage were all used—under the guidance of artist Susan Armington–to evoke the watery passage of St. Anthony Falls, the secluded backwaters of the river’s small tributaries, and the Mill City Ruins.

The series concluded at The Marsh with “Skin & Bones and Everything in Between,” led by palliative care physician, artist, and storyteller Joel Carter and textile artist Beth Barron. Using personal experience as a starting point for discovery, the participants found unexpected ways to tell their individual stories using found objects, beads, paint, wood, and fabric.

Did you miss the workshops? The full list of past events is below.

We can’t wait to bring you more information about Rimon’s next arts workshops. Until then, visit rimonmn.org to keep up with how this Federation initiative is promoting and enhancing Jewish identity through art of all kinds.

We raised $20,380,850 – thanks to YOU

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Thanks to nearly 200 dedicated campaign volunteers, Federation professionals, and 4,900 gifts from generous donors, The Minneapolis Jewish Federation raised over $20.3 million during the 2015 Campaign year (including close to $540,000 through special emergency campaigns to help Jews in crisis in Nepal, Israel, and Ukraine).  Of that total, more than 11.3 million was distributed through the Community Campaign (including $187,000 dedicated from the unrestricted fund of the Jewish Community Foundation towards community needs, and support from corporate sponsorship).

Here are the facts:

  • Together we raised $10,760,561 – an increase of $126,194 from 2014
  • Together we raised $9,082,460 through planned giving & endowments
  • An additional $537,829 was raised for special initiatives

Beth Kieffer Leonard and Todd Leonard, Campaign Chairs

“As 2015 Community Campaign Chairs, we are thrilled,” says Todd Leonard on behalf of himself and his wife, Beth Kieffer Leonard. “$20,380,850 represents thousands of people who will benefit—thousands of faces of gratitude and hope.”

“These critical dollars will improve, strengthen, and transform Jewish lives around the globe,” adds Beth. “We couldn’t be more proud of our community. Together, with our donors, partner agencies, and volunteers, we are doing great work.”

A gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation goes beyond funding any single organization or building—it helps map out the programs and services that strengthen and enrich Jewish life here in Minneapolis and around the world. Federation professionals and volunteers from the community spend thousands of hours annually vetting the menu of needs in our local and global Jewish community. These needs range from social services and Jewish education to community security and Jewish arts and culture. This difficult work helps leverage resources and ensure every dollar goes to the highest and best use.

A message from your new CEO

I am honored to accept the invitation you extended me to lead your Federation as CEO.

As I began to investigate this opportunity I spoke to my colleagues and friends around the country. They have been extremely supportive, mentioning dynamic Minneapolis community members I should meet—rabbis, lay leaders, former National Young Leadership chairs. It is clear to me from these notes of support that the success of the Minneapolis Jewish community is nationally recognized.

I have been impressed by the spirit of TOGETHER WE guiding the Minneapolis Federation. In my view, uniting donors, volunteers, agencies, synagogues, and lay and professional leaders to move Minneapolis forward is attractive and wise. I am excited to learn from members of the community why Minneapolis has been successful and how to make the future even more so.

Stu Silberman

Stu Silberman

My own Jewish communal path started in 1999, when my family lived in Michigan while I worked for Ford Motor Company. My oldest daughter Skylar was in pre-school at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor. When the executive learned of my business degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, she asked me to help out on finance committee. “Don’t worry,” she said, “It won’t take that much time.”

As it goes, a seat on the finance committee turned into a board of directors position, then treasurer, and yes, it did take up more time than I had anticipated. Soon, though, I realized that my volunteer work was more meaningful and enjoyable than what I was doing Monday through Friday. This realization pushed me to pursue a career in Jewish communal service, which led me to the Jewish Community of Louisville, an integrated agency composed of a Federation and JCC, where I served as CEO for the past five years.

I wrote before about the messages of support I received when I announced my new position. One of those messages was from my middle school daughter, Rachel. We knew this move would uproot her from her close circle of friends in Louisville. Nonetheless she told me, between the occasional tear, “This sounds like a really great opportunity for you, Dad, and I don’t want to be any part of the reason you wouldn’t think of taking it.”

Her statement is the root of why I do what I do. My daughter—a member of the next generation of Jews—is willing to make sacrifices when a new opportunity to make an impact arises. She became a bat mitzvah earlier this summer and I know she understands the importance of Judaism in our lives and the lives of others. Her sister Skylar feels the same; she attended the BBYO international convention in February and became closer to Jews from around the world, learning their unique stories. She became a confirm this past Shavuot.

My wife Alison and I are raising two future active Jewish community members. Together, we are all creating a generation of young Jews who value their community, in turn supporting and powering the agencies and organizations that will provide Jewish experiences for years to come.

I greatly look forward to leading this Federation in continuing to do important and life-changing work here in Minneapolis and around the world. From what I hear, the weather is cold but the people are warm and I’m thrilled to experience both.

Stu Silberman

P.S. Your ears may have perked up when you noticed that I worked for Ford Motor Company. I get some nachas (pride) when I think of Henry Ford, a known anti-Semite, turning over in his grave because his company’s great leadership programs turned out a Jewish communal leader.

IMPACT: Jewish Learning Brought to Life

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A message from Laura Axler, a PJ Library mom:

It’s funny, but on the same day that Federation asked if I would participate in the PJ Library program, I was rearranging our children’s bookshelves. Like most young families, we have lots of children’s books that my eight-year-old, Jordan, and five-year-old, Becca, love to read. But when we started receiving Jewish books through PJ Library, they earned a special place in our collection.

PJ Library, a program funded in part by Jewish Federation, sends out beautiful, age-appropriate Jewish books to thousands of children—all for free. Every month, Jordan and Becca eagerly await their personalized envelopes, tearing them open and running with their new treasures to me and my husband, Eric, for story time.

Reading PJ Library books together has really helped our interfaith family learn and grow in Judaism and Jewish values. The first book we received, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, quickly became our favorite. It tells the story of a Jewish farmer who retailors a striped overcoat into smaller and smaller items. It’s based on an old Yiddish folksong, so it taught them about Jewish culture, and they loved the story’s award-winning illustrations.

When Jordan and Becca began to age out of the program, I decided to take them to a few PJ Plus events I’d read about, like a challah cover-making workshop and a Havdalah ceremony. Eventually, I started planning and hosting events on my own, including a community-wide Chanukah party. Some families that attended were like mine, with only one Jewish parent. Others families had two. But we all had one thing in common— the desire to bring Jewish learning to life for our children.

At dinner the other day, Eric was reminiscing about our PJ Plus Havdalah, so Jordan and Becca brought out their braided candle and spice box. We ended up having our own ceremony right there at the dinner table!

As we lit the candle and watched the wax drip down, we inhaled the spices and smiled. Our story began with books, but PJ Library has become so much more to us. It’s about connecting families like ours to the Jewish community, to our Jewish story, and to our Jewish future.

You can help Federation continue to provide free programs, like PJ Library, to engage children like Jordan & Becca today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

ENGAGE_60DOI
Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

ATTEND AN EVENT

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES

IMPACT: The Country of My Heart – A Journey from France to Israel

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I grew up in Nice, France. But when I was three, I left with my family to Israel. We lived there for two and a half years before my family decided to move back to France. After that, I vowed that one day, no matter what, I would return to live in Israel. Deep inside, I knew it was my true home.

I wasn’t brought up in a Jewish community and my family wasn’t religious. Even so, I never felt comfortable living in France as a Jew. I was always mindful of the threat of anti-Semitism.

In recent years, it’s gotten worse. Synagogues and schools have been attacked; kosher markets broken into. Today, wearing a kippah or amagen david, or showing any signs of being Jewish, can be dangerous. That’s why I designed a special magen david necklace for myself that isn’t so easily recognizable.

#60DaysMJF Images for E-mail and Blog (4)A year and a half ago, I made the decision to leave France for good. I made aliyah with the help of Federation’s partner agency, The Jewish Agency for Israel.

After I arrived, I lived with other olim—recent immigrants. We understood each other and could share our experiences. I started volunteering to help other newcomers like myself.

Then I found a job. And I’m happy to say that I have just become a counselor with The Jewish Agency.

It’s not always easy to be here—to meet people and to understand a new culture. But despite all the difficulties, I never doubted my decision to make aliyah.

During Operation Protective Edge, my family asked me to return to France. They told me it’s not safe in Israel. But I told them it’s not safe in France. Every day is a battle there to live as a Jew.

That summer, rioters took to the streets of Paris, smashing windows of shops owned by Jews and throwing firebombs. I wish my family didn’t live in such a hostile and dangerous place.

Today, I’m proud to say that Israel is my home and my country. With the help of Federation, I have made aliyah and can finally be a Jew without fear. But there are so many others who cannot. Which is why I’m also so grateful for Federation’s continued support.

We’re all one Jewish community, and I’m very proud to be a part of it. For that, Federation, I say: todah rabah.

Through Federation, you can help empower Jews like Carole Sebbah, and assist in their Aliyah efforts, today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

ENGAGE_60DOI
Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

ATTEND AN EVENT

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES