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Winter 2011

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Winter 2011

WHERE ARE OUR SHLICHIM NOW?

[Ed: For the past 25 years, MERCAZ and the entire Conservative Movement in North America have benefited from the help and support of 8 talented Israelis who have served as our aliyah shlichim. What have they been doing since their shlichut? What special moments did they have during their tenures? What impact did the shlichut have on their lives? Excerpts of the interviews are presented below.]

Dr. Motti Arad (1987-1990)
Dr. Motti Arad was the first aliyah shaliach to the Conservative Movement. Born in a DP camp in Poland to Holocaust survivors, Motti was raised in an orthodox, Yiddish speaking home in Israel. Following his shlichut, Motti returned to Israel where he studied at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem, completing his Ph.D in Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 1997-2000. He has devoted the past fifteen years to the study and teaching of Rabbinic Literature, first in New York and now back in Jerusalem at the Schechter Institute and the David Yellin Teacher's College.

 

MERCAZ USA past shaliach Dr. Dani Ben-ZviDr. Dani Ben-Zvi (1990-1993)
Dr. Dani Ben-Zvi, the second aliyah shaliach, is a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa in the Faculty of Education, head of the Technologies in Education Graduate Department, and member of the Mathematics Education Graduate Department. In 2001, he received his Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of Science, at the Department of Science Teaching.

 

Beeri Zimmerman (1993-1996), a poet who was the third shaliach, is a Jewish educator in Israel, originally from Kibbutz Givat Haim-Ihud.

 

 

MERCAZ USA past shaliach Hezi Nir & his wifeHezi Nir (1997-2000)
As Hezi, our fourth shaliach, notes: "I was, I'm still, and I will always be a member of Kibbutz Givat Brenner. A few months ago I joined the "pensioners club". I am the manager of the Givat Brenner's "Amuta" (Non-Profit Organization) which aims to maintain and develop the culture and heritage of the kibbutz. My wife, Mimi, and I are having great pleasure from our 2 grandchildren from our married daughter Shelli. We're looking forward to the coming winter to the wedding of our second daughter Yael."

About the shlichut, Hezi says "The work with the young people of Tnuat AM, potential Conservative/Masorti candidates for aliyah, was meaningful and challenging. I also remember with warm affection the activities with the students at JTS and the shabbatonim with the young students of KOACH. The ruach there, the spirit of a young, Jewish, Israel-loving people, the diligence in their studies of Judaism and Israel – this was a most valuable memory of my shlichut that I will always cherish."

And what about the long lasting impact of the shlichut? "Not only were we fortunate to celebrate our son Hagai's Bar Mitzvah at the Forest Hills Jewish Center, but the experience with the Conservative Movement gave us more openness, more acceptance and more understanding of the absolute necessity for religious pluralism in Israel so that we remain a Jewish State for all. The values and practicalities of Conservative Judaism have been assimilated in all our lives and we continue to be its proponents in our daily lives."

 

MERCAZ USA past shlicha Karni Goldshmid-Lahav & her familyKarni Goldshmid-Lahav (2000-2003)
Karni Goldshmid-Lahav, was the first shlicha to be affiliated with the Masorti Movement. As she reports: "I have three beautiful children and am married to Uri who runs the Therapeutic Sports Center at the Alyn Pediatric Rehabilitation Center. For the past 5 years I have been a real-estate agent in Jerusalem, specializing in sales to local Israeli cliental as well as to American citizens looking to buy their second home in Jerusalem."

About the shlichut: "My late father served as the Director of the Jewish Agency's DP camp at Korneuburg, Austria, in 1960. Following in his footsteps 40 years later, I found it especially rewarding assisting American Jewish families as they make Aliyah. Preparing, advising and coaching these wonderful families (while sometimes serving as their social worker) allowed me a rare but valuable glimpse into the difficult but gratifying act of Aliyah. In addition, leading a Koach birthright group allowed me to do just what I love- educate people about Israel."

The shlichut's impact: "Being away from Israel for 3 years [during the height of the Second Intifada] afforded me the opportunity to be somewhat disconnected from the small and petty everyday Israeli 'bothers and rather focus on the 'big picture', i.e. Zionism, believing in the absolute right of Jews to run a homeland with secure borders, a safe future and a pluralistic society. This is what I tried to instill in the hearts of the hundreds of people I met with while living in the US. American Jewry should support and defend Israel even if some of its 'behaviors' seem at times inappropriate or wrong - they shouldn't forget the 'big picture' of what Israel is really about."

 

MERCAZ USA past shlicha Devora GreenbergDevora Greenberg (2004-2006)
Devora was our first "youth shlicha", a new kind of position created by the Jewish Agency for single young men and women who had newly finished their BA degrees in Israel. The child of British olim to Israel who had found her way to the Masorti Movement after an Orthodox upbringing, she writes: "When I came back from shlichut, I joined to the Ramah Israel programs and over the years have taken on a number of different positions. Since 2008 I have been working for the National Ramah Commission, focusing most of my time coordinating the Daber Hebrew Language Initiative funded by the AVI CHAI Foundation and the National Ramah Commission. I also coordinate the Ramah Poland Seminar trip. I have also completed an M.A in Modern Jewish History, with a focus on Holocaust studies, at Hebrew University."

About her shlichut, Devora writes: "I devoted a lot of my time working with KOACH, traveling to campuses and spending shabbatot with Conservative students across the country. I arrived in the U.S after staffing Ramah Seminar for 5 summers, and I used to love meeting my former campers as students in the different campuses, seeing how they have grown and how much they cherished their summer in Israel with Ramah."

And the impact of the shlichut? "I think the time I spent in the U.S gave me a deeper understanding of the American Jewish community, its structure, its values, its challenges, its diversity and color. I felt that we in Israel have so much we can learn from the way Judaism is celebrated in North America, especially during the occasions where I would see representatives of the different religious streams sit together in one table to dialogue. Among the burning questions still facing Israeli society today are 'Who is a Jew? 'What does it means for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state?' and 'What does it mean to be a homeland for the Jewish people'. I feel that we need to look for answers not only within Israel but need to bring in world Jewry to this discussion and hear how it is done and seen elsewhere.

 

MERCAZ USA past shaliach Itamar KremerItamar Kremer (2006-2008)
Our second youth shaliach, from Moshav Yogev, Itamar Kremer writes: "As of last year, I am the director of the training and professional development department on a non-profit named YRF (Youth renewal Fund). The organization based in New York and Israel, providing assistance to thousands of children in Israel by improving their chances of better education. I am married to Michal, my girlfriend at the time of the shlichut who also worked as an aliyah shlicha at the Jewish Agency, and we are expecting our first baby.

About the shlichut, Itamar writes: "The most interesting part of my shlichut was definitely the chance of meeting the very best of the Zionist Americans. As an Israeli–born child with Israeli-born parents, it was almost impossible to grasp the solidarity and personal attachment that Jewish Americans feel towards Israel. Those whom I met - the students at the universities, the kids at the schools and summer camps, the communities I have visited, the families that hosted me, but above all, the singles and families who arrived to my office at the Jewish Agency and sought my help to make 'the move back home' – they all gave me one big 'gift' to appreciate more what Israel means."

And the shlichut's impact? "From the perspective of the past three years, it seems that the most significant insight is the understanding that if we want the eyes of the Diaspora to be looking at us, then we have to work hard here in Israel in order to make that happen. Israel must be the best place for Jews to live in, and once people will decide to come, we should be ready. I have also understood that there must be an open communication channel between Israelis and Jews around the world not only for money, religion or political reasons, but mainly for mutual determination of our future."

 

MERCAZ USA past shlicha Naomi FreedmanNaomi Freedman (2008-2011)
Naomi Freedman, our last shlicha was also our first shlicha to be born and raised in the Masorti Movement. As she writes, "I hope that by the time the article will come out, we will be all settled back in Israel. I came to the United States with my boyfriend Lior, and during the shlichut, we got married and had two boys: Gilad and Ofer. It was a very productive Shlichut in all aspects."

"My Shlichut was about assisting olim on their way to Israel and promoting aliyah within the Conservative Movement. I worked with Students at JTS and through KOACH, I spoke at synagogues, I wrote and led programs at Camp Ramah and elsewhere. One activity of special significance was at the RA convention in Jerusalem in 2009 where we had an Aliyah event. Another was helping to produce a short video for Conservative olim to tell their stories. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoeHj64-XQA]. But the best part was to meet someone who was interested in making aliyah and to put them in touch with other olim and to see how they can help each other. On a personal level it was very special for me, as a daughter of American olim, who herself made aliyah as a 4-year old child, to come back to the States and to assist new olim as their shlicha."

Before Naomi left, she produced, together with Amy Dorsch, USY Education Coordinator, a set of education materials on aliyah. Go to www.linktoisrael.org/explore/learn-about-aliyah-and-olim.html.

 

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