Learning to “make” Shabbat through Hillel
Benjie Kaplan, the Executive Director of Hillel at the University of Minnesota, explains that there are between 80-100 students who attend Shabbat on campus each Friday.
On the third Friday of every month, a few of the students volunteer to host Shabbat for these 80 students in their dorms or apartments. Hillel gives them songbooks, candles, and challah, and students get reimbursed for their grocery receipts.
Young adults know how to attend Shabbat, but they generally don’t know how to make Shabbat. Hillel is giving our kids a venue to figure out how to create their own Jewish homes.
There’s something so beautiful about going off to college and unexpectedly finding Shabbat is part of one’s education, too. You make that happen.
The Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and Minnesota Hillel, through Partnership2Gether, sent a group of college students to Israel over spring break this March for an “alternative spring break” of volunteering and learning.
A much richer experience than a typical Birthright or tourist-oriented visit to Israel, Alternative Spring Break offers students the opportunity to see Israel “off the beaten path,” providing immersive experiences interacting with Israelis from all walks of life.
This is a wonderful example of how what we do gives our community a richer and more beneficial understanding of our people and our connection to the land and the modern nation of Israel—and perhaps even a greater Jewish self-awareness. In fact, students report feeling a strong sense of connection to and pride in their community and to Israel after experiences like this.
Alternative spring break is a week full of life-changing moments; here’s a taste from 2017 participant Eli Singer.
On Tuesday, we drove into South Tel Aviv, a slum located within the “party city” that we all know and love. There we learned about Elifelet, an organization providing nursery school and childcare to Sudanese and Eritrean refugee children. These families come to South Tel Aviv as undocumented workers to escape persecution in their own countries.
After learning about the organization, we went to a dingy, second-story apartment housing one of the nurseries. There, we were each paired with a child to play with at a park across the street. I was paired with a boy named Yafet who was incredibly energetic and intelligent and the oldest boy of the group.
It was hard to see their living conditions, but we could tell that even taking these kids out for an hour totally changed their moods and allowed them to forget about their extremely difficult lives and just be kids.
This trip has meant so much—it exposed me to what Israel is actually like. While Birthright shows tourists the best and most famous aspects of the country, this trip allowed me to see that the country I thought to be nearly perfect actually has many real flaws and issues. It was absolutely inspiring to learn about these issues and see the organizations and individuals striving to make them better.
Just a few months ago, Odelia and Ohad Brat celebrated one of the happiest occasions of their lives: their son’s bar mitzvah. They’ll never forget when he received his brand-new tefillin—special leather boxes worn during prayer—from his beloved grandparents. Everyone was so filled with pride.
And they’ll never forget grabbing those tefillin as they and their six children quickly fled their home. A raging fire was only minutes away. So they took what was most precious to them.
It was a smart split-second decision. Flames destroyed much of the Brat family house. The entire upstairs was charred. When the family returned, they barely recognized what used to be their home.
The Brats did make one unlikely discovery, though. A bank tin, badly burned. Inside was the money one of their sons had earned mowing lawns for neighbors. It was dirty and damp, but it was there.
It’s a symbol for what it will take to rebuild their home and their lives. It’s not going to happen overnight. But they have each other. And they have Federation partner The Jewish Agency for Israel, which is delivering grants of $1,000 to families across Israel who lost everything in the fires.
With the grant, the Brats are able to buy clothing, medicine and other essentials for their large family. Odelia says that the care, concern, and support they’ve received from The Jewish Agency has left her speechless.
People just like us, our children, our parents or grandparents, desperately need our help. Your gift to Federation removes obstacles. You bridge gaps. A hot meal is delivered to a homebound elderly person. An emergency loan feeds a struggling family. A bus brings a child to camp. A ramp opens up Jewish life for a disabled person.
People just like us, our children, our parents or grandparents, desperately need our help. Your gift to Federation removes obstacles. It bridges gaps. It delivers a hot meal to a homebound elderly person. It feeds a struggling family. It brings a child to camp. It allows a disabled person to lead a vibrant Jewish life.
Your gift makes this possible. Please give generously so we can continue doing this important work.
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.
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.
You may not have heard of Rimon: the Minnesota Jewish Arts Council, but Jewish artists and innovators around the country have.
A few things you should know about Rimon:
- David Harris, Rimon Director, receives regular calls asking how he built such a successful organization.
- For the fifth year in a row, Rimon has been recognized in the Slingshot Guide, a national resource of groundbreaking and significant Jewish organizations and programs.
Since 1995, Rimon has directly impacted artists in the Twin Cities:
- Rimon adds flavor to the local Jewish community with events, shows, and Artist Salons.
- Rimon provides financial and marketing resources for artists to build careers.
- Rimon creates opportunities for artists and audiences to engage each other.
The Minneapolis Jewish Federation, recognizing that artists are an important—though often ignored—asset to our community, helped create Rimon. Each year, Federation provides Rimon with an allocation that the small organization is able to more than quadruple, a prime example of leveraging community dollars. Additionally, Rimon has found that their grantees are also doing incredible things with less money than they anticipated.
What’s next from Rimon
From Selfie to Groupie
March 20 | 4 p.m.
The St. Paul JCC
$12 ($9 for St. Paul JCC members)
Photographer Alina Bliumis and moderator Leslie Morris discuss From Selfie to Groupie, a book of photographs and essays that explore the variety and intricacy of Jewish-American identity among Russian-Jewish immigrants throughout the United States. This Rimon Artist Salon is co-presented by the Twin Cities Jewish Book Series and Russian American Jews of Minnesota (RAJMN). Please contact the Rimon office or purchase tickets here.
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.”