Each year during the High Holy Days we say, “L’Shana haba b’Yerushalayim,” “Next year in Jerusalem!” While the primary focus of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey is the well-being of Jews in our local community and around the world, there is a special place in our hearts for Israel.
The country is an amazing success story, but at the same time modern Israel faces many challenges, from living in a hostile neighborhood to wrestling with internal divisions. Where it should be a source of pride, for many the Jewish state can be a source of confusion and concern. The federation plays an important role helping educate and equip people, especially youth, so they can deal with that, and to encourage them to engage in person with the land and the people of Israel.
As we approach the new year, the year when the state of Israel turns 70, here are some highlights of that relationship. May they inspire many more people to say, “This year in Jerusalem!”
Impact On Israel
Our federation plays an important philanthropic role through ongoing support for key partners like the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Joint Distribution Committee. We both help strengthen ties between Israel and the Jewish people around the world, and provide assistance to the most vulnerable in Israel, including new immigrants, Holocaust survivors, and those living on the periphery.
We make several targeted grants to address issues and populations who are underserved or need special help, such as at-risk youth and those with special needs. Our support helps several vital programs to continue, such as Crossroads which works with youth on the streets in Jerusalem, Camp Shutaf, the only special needs summer camp of its kind in Israel, and ZAKA, which trains vulnerable youth to work with the search and rescue unit.
Travel to Israel
The best way to get to know Israel is to see the country firsthand — and to go there on one of federation’s special Israel journeys.
The next program is this winter, from Dec. 25-Jan. 4. The itinerary is suitable for families and couples, and includes a special “tropical” option with a visit to Eilat.
If you’re willing to wait and celebrate Israel@70, book for the special tour next Oct. 14-22, 2018. It will take participants to the four corners of the country, from the splendor of the Sea of Galilee to the mystical alleyways of the city of Safed, from the timeless walls and holiness of Jerusalem to the vibrant cultural and high-tech scene in Tel Aviv. Around 100 members of the community are expected to participate. Special early-bird pricing is available. For more information visit jewishheartnj.org/mission2018.
Even if you stay put, you can deepen your connection. The Heart of NJ federation is partnering with various organizations to offer more ways for individuals to learn about and bond with Israel and all that it means to the Jewish people. These include:
• The Israel America Council (IAC) — Join us for one of our expanded ShiShi Israeli Shabbat experiences in partnership with the IAC, bringing Israeli flavors, traditions, and people together to share and celebrate.
• From the Grapevine — Check out this great resource, fromthegrapevine.com, to see a fresh perspective on the bounty of what Israel is about today.
• The Center for Israel Engagement — We are proud to support the center at the Rutgers Hillel as it helps students develop and deepen their relationships with Israel.
• Jerusalem U — We offer our local partners, as well as individuals throughout our community, access to this great media platform to learn more about Israel. Check out the Jerusalem U website to keep up to date with new films, and educational materials at jewishheartnj.org/jerusalemu.
• AIPAC — The organization is primarily focused on enhancing bipartisan support and understanding for Israel in Congress. We work with them on key issues and encourage you to learn more at Aipac.org.
• The Shalom Hartman Institute — Our newest partnership offers engaging educational programs about Israel and key challenges facing the Jewish state. We will be offering two courses at a variety of locations throughout the Heart of NJ in honor of Israel@70, “Jewish Values and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” and “Israel’s Milestones and Their Meanings: The Legacy of the Past and the Challenge of the Future.”
• Local synagogues and schools — Our federation cosponsors a range of Israel engagement activities.
Educating our Youth
A clear priority is connecting our youth to the vision, the story, the challenges, and the promise of Israel — and we have a growing array of resources to do this:
• “Why Israel” — The inagural teen advocacy and education conference is scheduled for April. The focus will be on understanding the personal connection to Israel, preparing for challenges in school and on campus, and becoming empowered to engage others and lobby for Israel.
• Israel scholarships —We offer grants for teens undertaking qualified educational experiences in Israel.
• Write On For Israel — An application-based program enabling high school students to process complex ideas and gain confidence before college on speaking about Israel with professors, friends, and detractors.
• Coming soon: A new teen philanthropy effort on behalf of Israel.
Ways to connect and grow
We have an array of Israel activities — educational and experiential — where our community can connect and grow their personal relationship to and understanding of Israel.
I encourage you to join us, develop, and expandyour own connection to Israel. To get involved, learn more, or participate, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And — L’Shana haba b’Yerushalayim! Next year in Jerusalem!