I have just returned from Israel! My last trip was in 1996, when I went to an educator’s conference and spent time visiting friends and relatives. Then we started having our family, and things got busy with being a mom, working and establishing our life in Pittsburgh. I have been yearning to go back for years and finally found the perfect opportunity.
I participated in the Partnership 2gether Volunteers Mission of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. I also knew I would want to spend time with friends and relatives and therefore went three days before the mission and stayed for the Shabbat afterwards.
The mission was an incredible opportunity to travel with a diverse group of Pittsburghers (ages 50 - 87 from all parts of our city), and contribute to our partner region - Karmiel/Misgav. We learned about many of the projects funded by our Federation. We went to the Children’s Village where we met families who take in 10 foster children and raise them. We visited Krembo Wings, a youth movement for Israelis with special needs - led by teenagers. We attended the dedication of a new archeological garden used for education. We met young Russian olim (new immigrants) at the Karmiel absorption center. We helped in the greenhouses at Kishorit, a kibbutz for special needs and we painted classrooms at Eshbal, a kibbutz founded on the ideals of education for all by the members of the youth movement Ha’noar Ha’oved. We also met with Arab Israeli teenagers at their high school in an Arab village in the region. We ate with Israelis, discussed the relationship between United States Jewry and Israel, and were treated to a thought provoking discussion with Rabbi Danny Schiff. It was a busy four and half days!
In addition to the mission, I spent quality time with friends from the youth movement, Young Judaea, who made aliyah to Israel and are raising their families there. We hiked, we made tea in the mountains of Modi’in, and just enjoyed being together. Their children are in the army, mine are in college. I was also able to visit my mother’s first cousin who made aliyah last year at age 87 - her youngest daughter lives in Israel and it just made sense. For the final Shabbat of my journey, I spent time with my cousins originally from Kibbutz Alonim. The family of three daughters now has eight grandchildren ages 6 months - 18 years. A lot happens in 22 years! My cousins embraced me and asked me why it took me so long to come. I truly cherished every second of my trip. I spoke Hebrew, ate Israeli food, walked through the old city to the Kotel (Western Wall), walked and shopped in the Kabbalistic city of Tzfat and went Israeli dancing with 300 Israelis in Tel Aviv.
Israel just celebrated 70 years of Independence! The feeling was in the air everywhere. Israeli flags and decorations aligned all the city centers, people’s homes and cars. The sentiment I gathered was, “we are a young country, we have accomplished so much in a short amount of time, yet, we aren’t perfect, we have our challenges and there is work to do.”
So how does all of this relate to TLC, our children and our school? For me, it was a personal reaffirmation of the work I do daily as a Jewish educator. Before I left for Israel, we did a fun activity about the Israeli National Anthem - Hatikvah, and its meaning. We teach Hebrew to our students, learn about Israel, Israeli culture and life. Our students learn Hebrew songs, Israeli dances, and have an opportunity to eat Israeli food. Our Jewish community, supported by Partnership 2gether brings Israelis from Karmiel/Misgav to Pittsburgh and we go to Israel to be part of their community. Our connections and community are strong. We need each other and grow from each other. This incredible journey I took has given me much to reflect upon and to move forward as an educator in our Pittsburgh community. As we learned from Rabbi Schiff, 43% of the world Jewish population now lives in Israel. The prediction is that in seven years the number will increase to 50%. When Israel was established in 1948 just 7% of the world Jewish population was in Israel. These are certainly important numbers to reflect upon.
This month we conclude our TLC school year on Sunday, May 20 during Shavuot. Our final school day, Shavuot is Cool, will contain a Shavuot children’s service, stories, games, and ice cream! We will meet from 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM.
Please mark your calendars as well for Tuesday, May 22 at 6:00 PM as we celebrate our 7th grade graduates and recognize other groups at our year end awards dinner.
Thank you for your continued support of our cherished students.