Return Again, Return to the Land of Your Soul

With Yom Haatzmaut (Israel Independence Day) yesterday, I want to thank to Debbie Swartz, our Federation’s Israel and Overseas Planning Associate, for this week’s message.

“Return again, return to the land of your soul.”

This refrain written by Shlomo Carlebach calls us to return to the land of our soul—the land of Israel. After two years of a pandemic that made it almost impossible to travel to Israel, circumstances are finally letting up so that we can return. It’s time to go back, and the Federation offers numerous opportunities to do so. I recently received this thank you note from a recipient of our Israel Scholarship—a $2,200 non-need-based scholarship (need-based funds also available) that gives incentives for teens and young adults to connect with their Jewish identities by making Israel travel more affordable:

“I wanted to reach out to sincerely thank you and the Federation for the scholarship you awarded me so that I could go to Israel this summer. This assistance means so much to me and my family and we are deeply grateful for it. I am excited to experience Israel and I cannot wait to share with others what I learn. Thank you for making this possible.”

This recipient is just one of nearly a hundred teens supported by the Federation visiting Israel this summer. The Federation also supports the Diller Teen Fellows program, one of our community’s Partnership2Gether programs, and a transformative experience that gives Jewish 10th and 11th graders the opportunity to explore their Jewish identities, develop a relationship with Israelis and Israel, give back to the community, and meet Jewish teens from Pittsburgh and around the world. This flagship program includes a full exchange between the Pittsburgh and Karmiel/Misgav (our Israeli Partnership2Gether region) cohorts. Returning again after two years, our current Diller Cohort 13 will go to Israel this summer with hundreds of Diller teens from communities around the world. The application is open for Diller Cohort 14 beginning in September 2022. Scholarship funds are available.

In addition to providing for scholarship recipients and Diller teens, I’m looking forward to joining nearly 250 Pittsburghers who will spend 9 incredible days bonding with friends and family while traveling throughout Israel, on the Federation’s MEGA MISSION. It’s right around the corner, leaving June 12, but you can still register! Don’t miss out on what will be a phenomenal experience!

And coming in January 2023, for couples with at least one Jewish partner, there is Honeymoon Israel. Learn more online.

What better place to learn about Israel, than Israel? But in lieu of travel, there are things you can do right here in Pittsburgh to celebrate and explore Israel. On Monday, May 9th, join the Jewish Federation at the South Hills JCC to hear Federation’s Foundation Scholar Rabbi Danny Schiff discuss “Tackling Jewish Anti-Zionism from A to Z.” Unlike previous younger generations that exhibited a detachment from Israel, we are now seeing active opposition and antagonism toward Israel. What is the extent of this problem, and how can we respond? Co-sponsors are South Hills JCC, Beth El Congregation, Temple Emanuel, Carnegie Shul, and JNF.

Yesterday, May 5th, was Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s 74th Independence Day. In Pittsburgh, we are celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut on Sunday, May 15th at Schenley Plaza, with “A Taste of Israel.” Register online to join us and share your pride with Israeli dancing, activities by our shinshinim Amit and Shachaf, and an array of delicious foods that celebrate Israel’s diverse peoples.

Whether in Pittsburgh or Israel, we invite you to return again, return to the land of your soul.

Shabbat Shalom.

Debbie Swartz

Debbie Swartz

Israel & Overseas Planning Associate

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