As a first-time attendee at the Rochester-Modi’in Partnership 2Gether steering committee meetings in Israel – I’ve attended the “at home” version of the meetings and let me tell you, for a Rochesterian, the Israel version is much more exciting – I was blessed to be able to attend this year.
While you can get a complete rundown on the business of the meetings, which were very productive, in the official minutes, I’d love to share a personal reflection.
First of all, it smells good in Modi’in. Every time I got off the bus from Tel Aviv – our base was the Dan Panorama Hotel – I reveled in the sweet smell of the place. I don’t know what plants contribute to the scent, but I enjoyed it each and every time I arrived.
Secondly, to see my friends in Modi’in – after all, we’ve been partners for 9 years now – was a joy. True to the theme of our partnership, it’s the “people to people” aspect that makes it special.
There’s Avi Golan, a founding steering committee member, who greets me with a warm embrace whenever I see him, and for whom I was happy to schlep Fisher Price “Zoo People” for his baby grand-daughter Lihi. There’s Hana Sirkis-Katz, our very capable Modi’in coordinator, who feels like an old friend at this point. I was delighted to catch up with her and had the opportunity to schmooze with her husband Ketzela, as well as with their four lovely children. There’s Yael Steinberg, current Modi’in Marketing Chair, who has a contagious smile, and who hosted me for a delightful Shabbat dinner – I met her husband, parents, friend and adorable children; 8-year old Ella is my new BFF. There’s Aviva, whom I’m met several times in Rochester as the Modi’in Education Bridge coordinator but never in her own community, several other continuing steering committee members that I was happy to see, as well as a number of new faces.
The Blossoming of a New Project
In the fall, I had had the pleasure of meeting the Modi’in contingent of Ramim (the “heights”), a new program unique to our partnership in which a stellar group of young professionals from Rochester were paired with a like group from Modi’in. They studied over a 1 ½ year period, separately and together, and found new meaning to the concept of Jewish identity, as individuals and as members of a global collective. It was a highlight of the meetings for me to see a number of them again, as they stopped by to talk to the committee about what the Ramim experience meant to them, and to lead us in a brief exercise examining our own Jewish values.
As they offered their reflections on the experience of stepping into their partners’ lives, the Ramim participants reminded all of us what a worthy undertaking Ramim was, if labor intensive to plan and execute. Each referenced the strength of the bonds formed with their “match” in Rochester as integral to the experience of learning about Judaism in the Diaspora, as well as in Israel. A sampling of their reflections is well worth sharing:
Levana Shifman (matched with Jon Broder) talked about her religious upbringing, and how despite this fact and despite living in Israel she had never really examined her own connection to Judaism. She described the effort involved in participating in Jewish life in the US as “something I wish everyone in Israel could experience… I’m seeing for the first time in 40 years what it means to be a Jew.”
Orit Dardick-Amiri (matched with Kimberly Kalish) described “two things that could only happen through this framework”: For one, she said, “I now understand what pluralism is, and why it’s important for a healthy society”. Secondly, “I understand my obligation to Jews in the Diaspora.”
Moshe Fuksman-Sha'al (matched with Jennie Schaff) marveled that Ramim was “a highlight” and “an eye opener,” saying it was so meaningful for both him and his match, whom he now considers “like family, not a friend.” Seeing Judaism for those who are a minority changed his own Jewish identity.
Avishai Levi (matched with Bob Marcus) came away with a new sense of his responsibility for the Jewish future, saying “we need to work for the continuity of Judaism around the world. This is our time, our obligation, our responsibility.”
Shim-ku, leader of the Modi’in Ramim contingent, summed things up. “This project represents the essence of the Partnership… We accomplished three things: Our Jewish identity is wider and deeper, we understand Jewish pluralism and diversity in a much deeper way, and we understand the meaning of peoplehood, of what it means to be part of one nation.”
It was breathtaking to hear the transformation inherent in these and the other members’ statements about Ramim, and to witness the emotion that accompanied them.
Click here to learn how one Ramim graduate was moved to transform her community.