Shalom! I’m Eilat. As Director of the Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, I’ll be sharing stories of connection between Minneapolis and Israel, and helping you experience Israel — whether you’re on the shores of Lake Minnetonka or the beaches of Tel Aviv.
Have you met our sister? Through Partnership2Gether, Minneapolis has gained a sister city in Israel: Rehovot! Through P2G, participants in both cities are building a stronger sense of Jewish peoplehood.
With P2G in full swing, new connections and friendships have blossomed all over Minneapolis and Rehovot over the last few months – including at the Khabie house. Over the summer, Wendy and Nisso Khabie hosted Yaron, a young man from Rehovot who worked at Camp Olami. The bond was instantaneous.
Fast forward to December when the Khabies visited Rehovot. Not only did they pick up right where they left off with Yaron, they spent time at a place they had only visited via Facetime: The Berman Shul.
As a twin synagogue to our very own Darchei Noam, the two congregations have been participating in virtual Torah Study, an event that the Khabies look forward to on a monthly basis. Attending the Torah study in person at the Berman Shul gave way to personal conversations, creating more excitement on how their own partnership can continue to grow.
Everywhere they went in Rehovot, Wendy and Nisso were greeted with hugs from both familiar and unfamiliar faces. Every stranger, instantly became a friend and what was once a, somewhat, foreign country became a welcoming home.
Over Chanukah, a delegation of Rehovot teens visited Minneapolis, visiting classrooms, congregations, and even Federation’s own Super Sunday. Almost two months later, these teens reflect on their visit and are still surprised at the impact one week had on their lives. Anael Hazan, an Orthodox teenager, had a particularly profound moment after visiting Beth El.
“I saw that nearly all women wore a kippah, a prayer shawl, used a microphone during services and I saw women reading from the Torah,” she remembers. “At first I was not comfortable with this…and it broke my heart.”
After several open minded discussions and debates, and a few more days in our Jewish community, Anael began to have a change of heart. “It is not my place to say whether this is right or wrong just because I am used to another way of practicing,” she realized.
“The Jewish community in Minneapolis is not a large community, and the synagogues are essentially what keeps the Jewish community cohesive,” Anael continued. “I saw everybody smiling, talking, and eating lunch together even if they did not know each other. This is a united community with much love. It moved me to see.”
Partnership is all about peoplehood, and from these two stories you can see that every experience sends a strong ripple, creating new connections making the ocean dividing us suddenly seem smaller.
Click here to learn more about Partnership2Gether.
A peek into Rehovot
February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month.It was only natural this month for me to instantly think of the Krembo, one of the more beloved Israeli snacks which many, who do not live in Israel, aren’t as familiar with.
It is a chocolate covered cream-ish on a cookie snack and the cause of many debates on what is the correct way of eating it (for the record, my way is the correct way).
Krembo is sold only in the winter months of Israel, and is individually wrapped by hand because it is so delicate. This much loved snack is the inspiration behind the name of a special youth movement in Israel called Krembo Wings, in which teen counselors work with kids with special needs.
With close to 50 chapters all over Israel, this remarkable youth movement is now serving our sister city of Rehovot. Counselors meet on a weekly basis with youth whose disabilities include cerebral palsy, autism and more. Together they work to develop their self-confidence, meet new friends and just have fun. For the past 14 years, Krembo Wings has made thousands of special needs youth feel good, included and handled with care — just like the Krembo.
Programs in Israel: Volunteering
At the age of 18, like most Israelis, I was drafted and spent two and a half years serving in the IDF. That’s two and a half years of wearing army boots, green clothes, green clothes and more green clothes. For stylish shoes we had the Naalei Golda – Golda Shoes. If you picture Golda Meir’s attire you can understand that our stylish shoes were not exactly taken from the pages of Vogue nor did I feel like a fashion model – ever.
The day I finished the army I wore the most colorful shirt I had and walked up and down Dizengoff Street enjoying the sights and smells of everything and anything which had absolutely nothing to do with the army.
I could go on forever about my fashion woes while serving in the IDF, but
this long introduction was to address an epiphany I had when I moved to Minneapolis: Sometimes Jews do funny things, like REALLY care for Israel. There are so many ways this is shown in the community, but for this section I want to mention one volunteer program, in particular, for adults. A 1-3 week program for volunteering on an IDF base, helping and doing civilian work with whatever is needed at the time. The program began during the first Lebanon War (1982) when many Israeli men were called up for battle, leaving a manpower void in harvesting the crops. An urgent call for help was sent abroad, and as always, Jews cared and rushed in droves to stand with Israel.
The program Sar El has since grown and serves many who need help, want to help and, by default, form new connections and experiences in Israel. All this while wearing the green uniform.
For more information about Sar El: http://vfi-usa.org
Israel in the community
American-Israeli comedian Benji Lovitt will be at Minnesota Hillel on Tuesday, March 1 at 7 pm. Free! 18+ admission, RSVP required. Click here to register, and click here to read the TC Jewfolk interview with Benji.
Save the date! In May, our community will come together to celebrate 68 years of Israel and commemorate lost Israeli lives. Stay tuned for more information!
May 10:Yom Ha’Zikaron
May 15: Yom Ha’atzmaut