How does one encapsulate a MEGA MISSION experience with nearly 240 participants, 7 buses, and multiple tracks into a brief email and include some thoughts on visiting Dubai and engaging with its growing Jewish community?
I can’t. There were way too many encounters to concisely describe what all of us collectively and each of us individually got to experience. Perhaps equally as important as the visits to historic locations and to organizations supported by our Federation was the shared experience of being together in Israel. As I reminded everyone when I spoke at our MEGA Event at an IDF base, we began the MEGA MISSION at the newly opened Anu Museum, a stop that highlighted the significance of our group’s joint encounter with modern Israel. Very few from our community have had the opportunity to visit it, but nearly everyone who has ever been to Israel has visited its predecessor, the Diaspora Museum (Beit Hatefutsot). This newly reimagined, high-tech museum still tells the history of the Jewish people over millennium and across continents, and it also encapsulates and celebrates the incredible diversity of the Jewish people.
Anu in Hebrew means “We” or “Us”. The museum is named in this way because it tells OUR story, the story of the Jewish people. Likewise, our MEGA MISSION participant demographics had representation from the diversity of our Pittsburgh Jewish community. We had Jews from the South Hills, North Hills, eastern suburbs, the city and beyond. We had young and old. We had Reform, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, Conservative, post denominational, atheists and non-observant. We had in-married and intermarried couples and single people, too. We had Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and those of other political leanings. We had native Pittsburghers and “imports”. It was a complete amalgamation of what comprises Jewish Pittsburgh, supporting our newly adopted vision statement of creating “A flourishing Jewish community where EVERYONE feels included, supported and inspired.” As I’ve said and written time and time again, we are working to create unity in our Jewish community, NOT uniformity. This mission did that by creating new friendships and bonds that bridge the divides.
I must express deep appreciation for our MEGA MISSION Co Chairs: Elizabeth and Jesse Coslov, Lieba and Billy Rudolph, Scott and Stacey Seewald, and Rochelle and Jimmy Wagner. I also must thank our staff, those who were present on the mission and those who remained behind in the office. This great team worked hard to pull off a successful MEGA MISSION that will positively impact our Pittsburgh Jewish community for decades, the largest mission to Israel from any community in the world since the beginning of the pandemic.
Wishing Anu, all of us, a Shabbat Shalom. To all those who were on the MEGA MISSION, now that the mission is over, the itinerary is now confirmed!
P.S. Have a happy 4th of July!