Six missions to Israel during February and March are giving close to 100 diverse members of the Greater MetroWest community an intimate and singular perspective on the Jewish state.
Sponsored by Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, missions are an important tool in the organization’s efforts to recruit philanthropic Jews and non-Jews and inspire them to become involved in the federation’s support of Israel and local Jewish causes.
“I’ve been on 36 missions through federation,” said Paula Saginaw, vice chair of the organization’s Israel and Overseas Committee and chair of its Overseas Committee. “They have given me the opportunity to see the Jewish world ‘up close and personal,’” she said, “and are the best way to see the work of our dollars, and meet the people whose lives we touch.
“Nothing is more powerful than a mission when it comes to experiencing the people-to-people connections that is paramount to Greater MetroWest,” said Saginaw. “My life has truly been enriched through missions.”
Many of the federation’s missions are tailored to the interests of participants, and all showcase the social, cultural, and educational programs the federation supports in Israel.
The February-March missions include:
Seymour Epstein Leadership Development Mission (Feb. 1-8): Emerging leaders learned from a national trainer and veteran leaders about Greater MetroWest federation partnerships in Israel. The mission goal: to train and encourage a select group of young individuals to become “the foundation of the local Jewish community” through experiential Israel-based education. Past Epstein fellows have reported that the perspectives learned on the trip transferred to their personal and professional lives.
Heart2Heart 5 Mission (Feb. 9-13): Participants in this mission — sponsored by the National Women’s Philanthropy of Jewish Federations of North America — heard from important women making a difference in Israel, including politicians, philanthropists, artists, businesswomen, soldiers, and filmmakers.
Peoplehood Project Cohort 3 (Feb. 9-16): The Peoplehood Project was conceived by the Greater MetroWest federation in 2011 to create a more balanced relationship between the local community and its “Partnership 2000” (now Partnership2Gether) communities in Israel. Under a “living bridge” that includes a two-year leadership development program for participants, 12 American adults meet with their 12 Israeli counterparts from the partnership cities of Ofakim and Merchavim. The Americans, hosted by their Israeli counterparts, traveled together in the Negev and beyond to gain a better understanding of each other’s communities and explore topics of Jewish identity, Israel-Diaspora relations, social involvement, and tikun olam.
Rabbinic Mission (Feb. 15-21): Nine Greater MetroWest rabbis and one cantor are participating in a tour planned in partnership with the World Zionist Organization and Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Based in Jerusalem, the group is meeting with experts on a host of issues, including the global threat of Iran; the boycott, sanctions, and divestment movement; and the Arab-Israeli peace process. They will also visit disputed areas of Jerusalem and the federation’s partner communities of Rishon Letzion and Kibbutz Erez.
Ness Mission (Feb. 23-27): The Ness Fund, created with a gift from the late Watchung farmer Mack Ness, is one of the only Jewish community endowment funds focused on the Negev. It supports innovative projects from a range of Jewish and non-Jewish partner agencies, including nonprofit and government bodies, cultural/arts organizations, and businesses. The annual trip of the Ness board explores new projects in Israel, with a focus on the Negev.
Legislators Leadership Mission (Feb. 27-March 5): Local and NJ state legislators will meet with economic leaders, Israeli politicians, and representatives of diverse populations. The lawmakers will visit border zones and learn about Israel’s security concerns. The aim of the mission is to increase the legislators’ understanding of Israeli democracy and the challenges that Israel faces. They will also visit a number of historic sites, including Masada. The mission is sponsored by the Greater MetroWest federation and the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations.
Through the Fried/Saginaw Mission Endowment Fund, a $1,000 subsidy is available to any first-time participant in a federation mission going to Israel or Ukraine. For further information, contact missions director Neimah Tractenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 973-929-3046.