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Face to face- what a perfect name for an amazing experience that I was fortunate enough in November to participate in. For those of you who might not know, Milwaukee, Tulsa, OKlahoma, and St. Paul Minnesota are sister cities to the Sovev Kinneret region in Israel. What does that mean? It means that a portion of our Milwaukee Jewish Federation campaign dollars go to supporting agencies in this region. It also means that we have delegations that go to Israel and connect with the community there and Israelis that come to Milwaukee to share ideas and connect with us here. What a beautiful exchange- that is our Partnership 2000- our P2K as it is sometimes referred. It was on the Israel at 60 Federation Mission that I was first introduced to this wonderful program and people in this region.
Our face to face delegation consisted of Mari Katz, Shelley Weber and myself from Milwaukee and a 26 year old woman Elana from St. Paul. Words cannot do the experience justice. We spent 9 days volunteering in different agencies in Tiberias, a city with many socioeconomic needs. We worked at an army base- unpacking,checking contents of, and airing out duffels that soldiers would only be using in war time. We went to a Handicapped Soldiers Center where there is a community of men who go 5 days a week to work with their hands creating beautiful artwork. They proudly showed us the ceramic kiln that Milwaukee paid for! We went to a "college" for cognitively disabled 21-27 year olds and played basketball, Hebrew hangman, and cooked with them. Youth Futures is another program we interfaced with and worked with kids "at risk" and then did a belly dancing workshop with their moms the next day.We volunteered at a retirement center, at a new program called elem night shifts, and at Galita Chocolate factory at Kibbutz Degania( yes, it brought flashbacks of the I Love Lucy episode!). At each location mentioned, we connected with the people, one on one, face to face to listen to their stories and to share our own in English , in Hebrew.
During the 2 weeks we met with the wonderful staff at the Jewish Agency( JAFI) there- Levana, Hadar and Mali. Our Madreecha( counselor) was Einav, a sweet Shin Shin ( person doing service before the army) we had been fortunate to have had here in Milwaukee and who had just completed her army service while we were there. The staff planned interesting tours to learn more about the region and we were joined on these adventures by various members of the volunteer committee there. Many opened up their homes for dinners so we could visit in a more intimate setting and experience family life in Israel. It truly felt like we had come "home" and were visiting with family. The connection ran deep and was heartfelt.
There are many stories to tell so just ask Mari, Shelley and I and we will gladly share our experiences. Most importantly we encourage all of you who can take 10 days off from your busy lives to volunteer for this life changing experience called Face to Face!! Please contact Paz Goldschmidt , our community Shalicha, at 390- ..... for other opportunities to get involved.