Lighting a torch at the Yom Haatzmaut (Israel Independence Day) celebration in Jerusalem opened me up to new experiences and introduced me to new individuals making a difference in Israeli society. From the brains behind the Bereshit rocket, to a leading mental health advocate in Israel, to a Druze director of a hospital that treated Syrian refugees, to three mothers who lost their children at the hands of terrorists and are advocating for true unity for the Jewish people, I am deeply moved by all of these incredible individuals. They reaffirm my love of Israel and vividly illustrate what her residents are trying to do to make the world a better place.
Leading into Yom Haatzmaut celebrations, the country is blanketed in grief as Yom Hazikaron remembers all of Israel’s fallen fighters and victims of terror. A powerful moment for me was participating in a MASA Yom Hakizaron ceremony at Latrun, the site of a bloody battle during the War for Independence. Thousands of young people on long term Israel experiences from all over the world filled the outdoor amphitheater to hear stories of those who gave their lives to protect the nation and in the sanctification of God. You could hear a pin drop as these young people hung on to every word about every victim. I was given the honor of laying a wreath, along with Isaac Herzog (the Chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel) in memory of our eleven lost souls. We were accompanied to the stage by two of our own Pittsburgh young adults participating in the MASA Teaching Fellows program. I kvelled knowing that our Community Campaign support of the Jewish Agency makes all of this possible. You should be able to watch the ceremony below.
My four night trip to Israel concluded on Yom Haatzmaut meeting with the newly elected mayors of Karmiel and Misgav. Our Partnership2Gether program is a cornerstone of our work to connect the Jewish community of Pittsburgh with the people of Israel. From the upcoming EKC Staff in Training trip to Israel, to the Diller Fellows to the Community Day School 8th grade trip going in the next few weeks, each of these groups are afforded an opportunity to develop real relationships with their counterparts in our region through P2G.
Just before I left for Israel, we received positive news about this year’s Community Campaign. As you all know, after October 27th, our Federation basically shut down almost all normal business. We lost over two months of usual work and everything we normally work on has lagged behind. Our 2019 Community Campaign had been running far behind in pace (not in dollars) but we caught up and have actually moved ahead of where we were last year on this date. I want to thank our incredible Campaign leadership for keeping us focused and working so hard. This Campaign is critical to continue to support our communal infrastructure, including Jewish community security. And the campaign is far from done as we strive to reach our $14 Million goal.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a very happy Mother’s Day.