I promise you that I am not getting too carried away with the spirit of Bastille Day. But I could not help but take a little inspiration from La Marseillaise, which is as stirring a call to arms as any ever written. The opening line of this ode to action reminds me of one of the most pressing challenges American Jews face today.
Many of us spend a great deal of time worrying about how to engage “millennials,” so much so that the frequency with which this topic is discussed has almost made it cliché. Indeed, if you are a millennial, you may be rolling your eyes right now.
But the simple fact is if we don’t have a future generation ready, willing, and able to take on the mantle we wish to impart to you, all of the dedication of those who have come before us and the sacrifices made on behalf of Jewish peoplehood will have been for naught. (One of the many concerns surrounding recent decisions in Israel vis-à-vis pluralism at the Western Wall and conversions is the negative sentiments they will generate amongst the younger generation.)
In an age when we are struggling to engage each and every young Jew, and at a time when were are combatting anti-Semitism on college campuses, young Jews should have as much access to Israel and to Jewish life here at home as possible. To our millennial readers, I believe one of the most important things we can do is include you in the conversation—how do you want to interact? (I would love to hear your thoughts—email me!)
Young Adult Leadership
To that end, Minneapolis Jewish Federation and the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul are hiring a Joint Young Leadership director, whose goal will be to bring young Jews together from across the Twin Cities and engage them in meaningful activities and projects that will connect them not only to Jewish life here at home, but also to global Jewry.
Young Adult Missions
Additionally, this coming year we will focus our missions efforts on younger folks. It’s time for a new generation to experience Israel first hand—to feel the power of peoplehood and get a better understanding of the Start-up Nation’s accomplishments and challenges. We want to expose them to the incredible work done by the Federation system throughout the world—to better understand the needs of our Jewish brethren abroad and the impact that Minnesotans can have on improving the lives of others.
These two initiatives will not dismantle overnight the millennial Gordian knot, but they are an important and worthwhile beginning. Each time we engage a member of our community and they arise to join their compatriots as the French anthem extolls, we are one step closer to passing the baton to committed and fulfilled successors.
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), one of Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s overseas partners, helps Holocaust survivors in need
Oszkár, 94, vividly remembers his Budapest childhood. Passover seders with family, singing in the synagogue choir, studying at vocational school—and the Nazis storming in and destroying all of it. Though he had dreamed of one day becoming a bank officer, the new anti-Jewish legislation turned what should have been an attainable goal into an impossible fantasy.
At 21, he was taken to two different labor camps, one run by a sadistic supervisor who forced each inmate to carry logs up a hill–logs so big each required two people to lift.
Somehow he survived.
Shortly after the war, Oszkár was fortunate to meet the love of his life, but since she passed away 20 years ago, he has lived alone in a small apartment in his hometown. His health declined in 2012 after a stroke left him with constant tremors, partial blindness and deafness, and limited mobility.
But with Federation at his side, he’s never alone.
A Holistic Approach
Oszkár is one of the approximately 4,000 Nazi victims receiving life-saving assistance from Federation partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)’s Hungarian office. He depends on critical medical care and home supplies, while other Hungarian Holocaust survivors receive food packages, home care, medicines, visits from social workers and more.
Direct service is just one part of JDC’s mission to assist Holocaust survivors in Hungary.
At the JCC in Budapest, the Shalom Club offers them the chance to come together for educational and social programs that also help beat isolation, like film screenings, city tours, and exercise. About 20-30 survivors participate in the monthly Eotvos social club, with many also serving as community volunteers.
It’s a holistic approach—one that reminds Holocaust survivors they have a whole Jewish community working hard to care for their needs.
“JDC makes me feel like I’m not alone,” Oszkár says.
Long journeys: as Jews, we know a little something about them. And while we may love to kvetch along the way, there’s something else we’re well versed in: triumphant endings.
Like the Jews wandering through the desert, our Federation has been on a bit of a journey. But unlike the wandering Jews, we’re not lost. And now that we have officially hired Jim Cohen as our Chief Executive Officer, our path is even clearer. Jim will join us officially on May 15, and we couldn’t be more excited.
Passover is one of my favorite times of the year. I hope this Pesach found you at a Seder table filled with people you love, honoring the beloved traditions of our people and celebrating the end of long journeys old and new. As we all know, Pesach isn’t complete without four questions and four answers. Here are Federations:
- Can you tell me more about our CEO?
Jim Cohen comes to our Federation having served as CEO of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan, and Darien for the past four years. Prior to a career in Jewish communal service, Jim served as Assistant Secretary of the University for International Affairs at Yale University and before that, as a career diplomat in the Foreign Service of the United States Department of State.I am incredibly excited about the unique skills Jim brings to Minneapolis. His experience has equipped him to build relationships, forge alliances, and carry out strategic plans. And his recent tenure at a Federation means he knows the business—its challenges and its inherent strengths.While Jim arrives in May, his wife Lisa and their two school-aged children, Jonathan and Dahlia, will follow in August.
- What is Federation’s role in keeping our community safe?
The sensitive nature of security precludes us from sharing too many details, but know that the work behind the scenes is vigilant and focused.For two years, the Minneapolis and St. Paul Federations have worked with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) to enhance security and combat the rise of anti-Semitism. Outside of these efforts, JCRC plays a primary and invaluable role in community security—and relies on your support to Federation.Your support of Federation also funds the Secure Community Network (SCN), a dedicated homeland security initiative on behalf of the American Jewish community. SCN provides trainings and helps implement security staff and plans in communities.
- What are you doing to prepare the next generation of Jews?
Recent anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity on college campuses inspired Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy and the Israel Center to work with Yachad (Jewish learning for teens, funded by Minneapolis Jewish Federation), Hillel, and the National Council of Jewish Women to present Preparing U, a timely and important program for high school students and their parents. Hillel students spoke candidly with participants about their experiences being Jewish on campus, and Hillel director Benjie Kaplan gave parents insight into what their kids might encounter when they head off to college as well as tools to advocate for Israel.
- How are you advancing leadership development?
At the end of last year, Minneapolis Jewish Federation introduced Yesod, a nine-week executive leadership program for seasoned leaders in our community. Hebrew University’s Melton School developed Yesod’s curriculum, and the program is facilitated by local veteran educator Meryll Page. Take a peek at our upcoming issue of Minneapolis Jewish Life to read more about Yesod.
Chag Pesach sameach,
P.S. We need your ongoing help to continue our journey to freedom. If you have not given, a gift of $100 can provide a week of hot, kosher meals to a local homebound senior, while $1,500 can provide a scholarship to a Minneapolis child to attend two weeks of life-changing Jewish camp. Please give generously.
If you have given, thank you. Our community’s journey is safer because of you.
“We Want People to Know They’re Still Women”
It started, like so many revolutions these days, with a blog.
Breast cancer is a taboo subject in much of Eastern Europe, and women there often feel alone in their struggles against the disease.
Bori Halom started blogging in 2012, largely out of a need to break this silence. Soon the platform grew into a support group for fellow Hungarian breast cancer patients and survivors that now connects over 900 women on Facebook under Bori’s motto “Together, it’s easier.”
These words also describe her relationship with Federation partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Her support group is a partner in JDC’s Women’s Health Empowerment Program (WHEP), which works in Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina to educate about the importance of early detection, offer mammograms and provide support for women currently wrestling with the disease.
“We want people to know they’re still women,” she says. “My main goal is to break down the taboos, to shake the stigma, to end women being gawked at for wearing headscarves or having shaved heads. We never asked for cancer, it just happened.”
In partnership with the Susan G. Komen ®, WHEP also provides survivors like Bori with leadership training, empowering them to start NGOs, run peer-support groups and become advocates for better women’s health services.
Once a year, Bori’s group gathers at Budapest’s JDC-supported Jewish Community Center for a daylong summit of mutual comfort and support. Women swap stories of chemotherapy and tragedy, remission and resilience.
From Zero to Recovery
About 350 miles away, Stoja-Mira Simic is standing adrift in a sea of pink. Growing up in a remote village in the former Yugoslavia, electricity was a late addition to her life, let alone mammograms. Besides, she had always had perfect health. So when a friend told her a WHEP mobile mammogram unit was coming to her village, she went because it was free.
Ten days later, she got the results. “I had cancer. I had to keep saying it to myself over and over—I have cancer,” she recalls.
A WHEP representative also led Stoja-Mira down the road to recovery, delivering first-aid packages and making sure she never felt alone. “It was as if we’d known each other our entire lives,” she says.
Once healed, she learned that women from a nearby town were traveling to Sarajevo for the annual WHEP co-sponsored Race for the Cure ®. She immediately bought a ticket.
“When we arrived in Sarajevo, I suddenly saw a sea of 500 other women in pink around me,” she says. “I felt sadness that there were so many of us, but also joy that I’d survived and that my life was saved. I’ll attend the Race every year.”
For herself, Stoja-Mira and countless others affected by breast cancer, perhaps Bori says it best: “I’m very grateful to JDC. We started from zero. It’s amazing that they believed in my vision and were willing to follow me.”
David’s parents don’t leave after they drop him off at Sha’arim’s Friends N Fun, a program that allows teens and young adults with special needs to attend social outings.
Officially, they need to monitor him in case of a seizure. But really, they just love watching his smile and sheer joy.
After a congenital heart defect and unexpected surgery complications, David suffers from a seizure disorder and brain damage. Life has been difficult for David and his family, and although David is upbeat and friendly, it’s hard for him to have meaningful relationships with his peers.
THAT’S WHY FRIENDS N FUN IS SO IMPORTANT TO HIM.
Each month David waits eagerly for his invitation to arrive. He marks the date on the calendar. He counts down the days, then the hours, until it’s time. Time for the social interaction every child deserves, for friends, for fun. Time to be part of the community.
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.
In May, the Minneapolis Jewish community hosted 4 IDF officers who did not previously know each other, even though 2 of the 4 live in Rehovot (apparently not too far from each other!) Turns out the first part of the Federation mission statement – we build community– works in Rehovot as well.
As they spent the week presenting all over the community, this group of four not only bonded and became good friends, but they also learned about our Jewish community and grew to respect and appreciate Jewish life in the Diaspora.
Community members warmly embraced this group while we all heard different stories on how the IDF protects Israel—both the country and the concept.
A quote from a community member: The IDF officers in this group were very impressive in their presentations and for their dedication to safeguarding their country. Despite their youth, they have very mature thoughts and attitudes. It is clear that serving in the IDF provides valuable education, training and a path toward future success in Israeli society.
A Peek into Rehovot
What does a Turkish mountain climber in danger have in common with the Minneapolis Jewish community?
Read about this dramatic Mt. Everest story here
Programs in Israel: Volunteering for the nature lover – Go Echo
For many years, when driving through a certain section in Israel, it felt like we entered an invisible bubble filled with a horrid mixture of skunk and feces fumes. Almost instantaneously the juvenile flatulence jokes came out as we proved to our parents that they still had work to do if they wanted to raise us properly.
But over time, this stinky mountain became something which never ceases to amaze me and another example of how Israel can turn lemons into lemonade and even use the lovely lemony scent for the added touch.
Next time you travel to Israel, stop by the echo park Hiriya to learn and experience the efforts Israel goes through to help the environment.
If you are interested in spending some time volunteering in Israel and working on environmental issues or nature, look into Go Echo for something a little different.
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.”
Winter in Ukraine. The temperature is -27 ̊ F, and snow and ice have closed the roads.
But Tania is riding a borrowed horse and sleigh packed with food and supplies from Minneapolis Jewish Federation partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), for Tatiana and Bronislav. She’ll make this hour-long trek every day because Tatiana and Bronislav are elderly, disabled, and otherwise alone.
Ukraine is home to some of the most vulnerable Jews in the world. Tens of thousands of elderly Jews in small towns dotting the region struggle to survive. During the harsh winter months, many, like Tatiana and Bronislav, live without adequate heating or even central plumbing.
That’s why Tania and hundreds of other workers and volunteers at Hesed social welfare centers, run by JDC, go the extra mile to ensure no Jew is left behind.
When the weather is good, Tania drives her moped to their remote farm to bring supplies, cook, clean and care for the couple. And when the weather is bad — as it often is — she loads up her brother’s horse and sleigh with supplies and makes the long trek herself. And when her brother needs his horse, she walks. For over an hour.
I had to go, otherwise they will starve, she says.
Tania insists the motivation behind her selfless work is Tatiana and Bronislav themselves. “Despite their condition, they do not lose heart. They amaze me with that,” she says. “I am doing everything for them as for my relatives. I do not see any difficulties in my work; how is it possible to have hardships in the work that you love?”
On behalf of Tatiana and Bronislav, thank you.
Your support of Federation ensures that these Jews — some of the world’s poorest — do not go hungry.
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:
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.
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.