Category Archives: Diary

Shlichim Update March 2016

Hello Westchester! We, your Israeli Shlichim (Israeli Emissaries) thought to update you on our activities in Westchester. Here is some of the work that our we have been up to these past few weeks – working on college campuses (Hillels of Westchester), numerous synagogues and youth movements:

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Helping in some Israel spirit at Pace University – with Hillels of Westchester

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Hillel partnered with the dance team on Manhattanville campus and our shlicha Yael taught them an Israeli dance (Rikudei Am) which they performed at campus’s International Bizarre.

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Sharing some Israeli food and culture with the dance club on Manhattanville College campus

Pace Krav Maga March 8 2016

Taught a basics of Krav Maga (Self-Defense) for Hillel students at Pace University

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Presented lecture on Zionism at SUNY Purchase University as a pre and post birthright curriculum. Our Hillel students will also be attending the AIPAC conference… look out for them there!

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Mini Israel lesson before screening “Beneath the Helmet” at Manhattanville College

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Our Shlichim brought together a very special crowd (Hillel students and Imam Adamu from Ghana) to learn about Project Ten in Westchester. To find out more about how you can get involved in making real change, contact Daniel Aschheim: daniel.a@tenprogram.org

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Advising the 2nd meeting of BBYO in Northern Westchester at the Rosenthal JCC

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1st class Peekskill March 9.2016

This past week Northern Westchester, First Hebrew of Peekskill, had their first Conversational Hebrew class with Yael! To join in for the lesson, email:yael@rosenthaljcc.org Sign up if you are interested!

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“Israel 101” class with Rabbi Greenberg’s teens on their Monday evening class at Temple Shaaray Tefila – Thank you for the invite!

IDF boot camp Shaaray Tefila March 7.2016 7thGrade

Yet another I.D.F. Boot camp program for the 7the graders at Temple Shaaray Tefila

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Our shlichim organized an evening with the Argov Program in Leadership and Diplomacy- the flagship political science program from IDC Herzliya’s Government School in Harrison. Students presented their research projects on tackling some of Israel’s biggest challenges.

 

Events coming up with our Shlichim:

* March 15th 7pm – Hispanic Kosher food night and short presentation by Yael Lewis on Spanish Jewry at Manhattanville College.

* March 16th 2pm – Lecture with Yael Lewis about Diversity in Israel at Anshe Sholom in New Rochelle.

* March 17th 6:30 pm – Israeli cooking at Purchase college

* And more….

For more information on any of these events contact- yael@rosenthaljcc.org

Contact our Shlichim Shaliach@wjcouncil.org / yael@rosenthajcc.org if you want some Israel programming for your campus, synagogue, youth group, etc. 

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“I Stand with Israel”

We stand tall and stand proud. And no matter where we stand, we stand with Israel.

Time of Anguish

In concluding this difficult month of November I wanted to share some big picture thoughts. We have seen a historical terror attack in France where 130 people were taken from this earth by terrorism. I would also like to acknowledge the death and injury of so many young and old innocent civilians that have been robbed of their future while freely walking the streets of Israel– as every citizen, whether Jewish or not, has the right to do. The continued random stabbings, car-ramming attacks and shootings have not only claimed the lives of Israeli innocent civilians, but has recently claimed the life of a fellow American student, Ezra Schwartz, who like many other students was doing a gap year in Israel. So on this dark and solemn Sunday evening I would like to share some of my thoughts during the last 2 months and perhaps give some positive remarks about the current situation.

“There is nothing we can do” (ein ma la’asot), “It’s not ok” (ze lo beseder) and “it will be ok” (yihiye beseder) – these are the typical remarks of an Israeli referring to Israel’s corrupt politicians, the exorbitant rent, the mandatory draft or the unjustified government funds that go to the Ultra-Orthodox population. And these are just a few issues out of the pool of issues Israel deals with.

Currently, a lot has been going on in Israel. This month marked 20 years since the death of Yitzhak Rabin. Over the past 2 months the atmosphere in Israel has been one of hesitation and uneasiness as random terror attacks fill up every Israeli’s newsfeed. Israelis think twice before leaving the house and do not walk the streets freely. It also marks a little over a year since Operation Protective Edge, or Tzuk Eitan, where Israel lost 64 IDF soldiers, who were mostly just boys. The current situation coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s death, marking a time when peace seemed attainable, brings a feeling of downheartedness and hopelessness throughout the country. Yet, these painful and hard times are not new to Jews in history.

Politicians were corrupt in countries such as Russia, Germany, and South America where Jews lived and still live today. Historically, Jews frequently had to pay “special taxes”, such as the Dhimmi/Jizya tax paid under the early Islamic period, in Europe in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries or under the Roman Empire.

There was a mandatory draft in many countries where Jews lived. In the 1800’s Russia drafted all including young Jewish boys. During the First World Wars many Jews fought proudly for their country. And just one generation ago, in South Africa, the mandatory draft was still in place – where my own father served in the combat infantry mortar division.

A few weeks ago I heard Professor Rachel Hallote speak about the historical context of Fiddler on the Roof at Hillel of SUNY Purchase College. She spoke about the old Shtetl in the areas of Poland as disenfranchised citizens who would, every so often, experience a looting or a pogrom by their neighbors. This got me to thinking that despite today’s hardships we are somewhat privileged today.

Although we sometimes forget, before the 21st century, the world saw war at least every century – the World Wars in Europe, Balkan Wars, The Crusades, the list goes on. Pertaining specifically to the Jews, were the 11th century massacres in Europe, persecution and later expulsion in Spain in the 15th century, pogroms in Russia in the 19th century, and so on. These incidents occurred every 100 years or so.

So yes, Israel has problems, like any other country has problems. The Jewish nation has problems, like many other nations that have problems. But these problems are our problems. They are not problems imposed onto the Israelis in the form of a “special tax” or an oppressive hostile government. Rather the Jews are a free nation living freely among many other free nations and governing themselves. The highly diverse population living side by side is positively mesmerizing.

We cannot let thoughts of opportunity, aspirations and hopes as a vibrant Jewish community inside and out of Israel be drowned out by the negativity that is so easy to succumb to. We must own our problems and continue to debate, discuss and argue for progress and improvement as the Jewish people have done throughout the centuries.

Although we are living in challenging times where it may seem that anti-Semitism is resurging and that the conflict in Israel is endless, we have been through worse. We must always remember that although we have many concerns and issues to deal with, we have the State of Israel in which we can still dictate what our future will look like. So the next time debating with someone, I would keep the big picture in mind because there is more that unites us than divides us – surviving a millennia of persecution and reviving a nation in the homeland called modern Israel that has become the desert bloom.

Through Three Lenses

First and foremost I see Israel through the lens of any Israeli. This wave of terrorism, in which the threat of attack by knife of gun is one more thing that we wish to not have to worry about. Yes- there are many dangers out there no matter where we are. But while the calculated risk of driving on the road was always there, the added, un-calculated risk of who might be walking behind me, towards me, or waiting around the corner is one that we simply do not need.

Secondly- I see Israel through the lens of the soldiers of Mishmar Hagvul (The Border Guards or Magav as the unit is commonly known)- who are on the front line all day, every day, and have notably  been present during the latest violence.

During the latter half of the second Intifada, I was that Magavnik you see today in videos and newspapers. It was a tense time in Jerusalem to be in uniform. I spent every ride to and from the Central Bus Station standing or sitting as close as possible to front door, eyeing everyone getting on and off. Every shift began with the list of warnings of terror cells working to execute suicide attacks on buses, car bombings or gun and knife attacks. While the intelligence we received made our job easier, and in certain cases prevented attacks, it was never these threats that I was most worried about. What worried me most was what we did not know. Intelligence, as we have experienced recently, stops short of getting inside someone’s head. I worried then, as I worry now, of this exact threat.

The third lens through which I have learned to see Israel over the past two years is the lens of Jewish communities around the world; specifically through the eyes of the community in Westchester. In my position as Senior Community Shaliach (Emissary) I have met and worked with individuals and organizations from across the political and social spectrum. I have spoken in synagogues across denominations and had the privilege of hearing from, speaking to and working with leaders of diverse faiths and cultures.

This diversity may seem sometimes to divide us, but it is the same diversity has the power to unite us. This week, from around the Westchester community, over six hundred people from sixty seven organizations and synagogues came together with one unifying message. On almost the spur of the moment the community postponed meetings, changed plans and mobilized, gathering under one roof not just to hear from religious leaders of various faiths, politicians and diplomats- but more importantly- to make their voice heard.

In the past two years I have learned that the lens through which I am experiencing Israel right now is one of passion and care, of love and affection. It comes from people’s kishkes, and so in times it is also a lens through which we inevitably dispute and argue on many issues.

But there are certain untouchable priorities for which a community must stand together. When it comes to the backbone of a strong, vibrant and secure Jewish Homeland, we make sure that the message is clear. No matter where we stand, Westchester stands with Israel.

Have you met Yael?

Yael Lewis arrived in Westchester about 3 weeks ago to join the shlichut (Israel emissary) initiative.Her head may still be spinning, but she has jumped straight into the deep end- running around the community to get to know everyone! If you have yet to meet Yael in person, here is what she had to say straight off the boat:

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I am not your “typical” Shlicha. I grew up in San Diego, California and made Aliyah to Israel at the age of 17. In Israel, I served in the army as a fitness instructor. Following my service I traveled and worked in various locations, before I started my a bachelor’s degree in Government, Diplomacy and Strategy from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Israel.  

I love learning languages and topics related to Jews and Israel, of course. I love travelling, sports such as tennis, swimming, and running. I love meeting new people and creating new networks of people.

Why did you want to come serve as a shlicha in Westchester?

First of all, I love the Jewish people and State of Israel. By being here, I hope to build stronger connections within and between the Jewish communities in Westchester, as well as with Israel. I hope to raise the level of debate and discussion within the community and create deeper understanding of the Jewish communities’ connection and relationship to Israel.

Since you made aliyah, what has been your most powerful “Israel moment”?

Finishing the Masa Kumpta (Beret Ceremony) with the Nachal Brigade at Masada. This is a long and arduous  50 km march, marking the end of a combat soldier’s’ basic training. This was the day I saw the young soldiers I had partially trained for seven months finish their basic training and move to the “real” work – guarding Israel’s borders (Gaza, Northern Lebanon border and the West Bank). It is an amazing thing to see the boys who join the army at the age of eighteen finish this seven month period and become men. They come in complaining about missing their mother’s cooking, and leave ready to defend the Land of Israel.

What has been your funniest “Israel moment”?

The time, after just arriving to Israel, when for the life of me I couldn’t understand how the word “סופרפרם” (transliterated = SUPERFARM) was read.  Someone had to tell me that it was actually an English word.

What are you hoping to achieve in Westchester over the coming year?

I hope to raise the level of awareness in the community and bring another Israeli perspective to the discussion, in order to better understand the diversity, complexity and beauty of Israel and its citizens. I hope to bring Israel as a complex, yet unifying force to the Westchester Jewish community.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Travelling; Learning new languages; Sport; Socializing!

Yael is available to come to work with your organization, synagogue or community on any Israel related topics. She can be contacted on: yael@rosenthaljcc.org and on Facebook.

The Westchester Community Shaliach (emissary) initiative is a county-wide program coordinated by the Rosenthal JCC and the Westchester Jewish Council with support from UJA-Federation of New York, Hilllels of Westchester and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), along with the generosity of Carol and Michael Lowenstein, the Adnim Foundation and the Nedivot Venture Philanthropy Fund of UJA-Federation.

The Galim Dance Group in Westchester

Yom Haatzmaut is close, and our celebration preparations are in full swing!

For all you dance fans out there, we have a special treat. The Galim Dance Group will be visiting and performing across Westchester during the week of Yom Hazikaron/ Yom Haatzmaut. The dancers, all high schoolers from the Jordan Valley, have a jam packed schedule, and are ready to bring the moves and flavors of Israel to our community.

Below is a list of the group’s performances in Westchester. All are free and open to the community.


Monday 4/20 at Shaarei Tikvah, Scarsdale

5:15 Galim Performance
6:00 Dancing with the Stars (Israeli dance)
6:20 BBQ Dinner

Tuesday 4/21 at Pelham Jewish Center

5:15 Galim Performance
6:00 Dancing with the Stars (Israeli dance)
6:20 BBQ Dinner

Wednesday 4/22 Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale

5:45 BBQ Dinner
6:45 Yom HaZikkaron Ceremony
7:15 Galim Performance
8:00 Dancing with the Stars (Israeli dance)

Thursday 4/23 Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester, Chappaqua 

5:45 Israeli Style Dinner
6:30 Galim Performance
7:15 Dancing with the Stars (Israeli dance) & Dessert

Saturday 4/25 Bet Torah, Mount Kisco

7:30 Se’uda Shlishit
8:30 Havdalah
9:00 Galim Performance
9:45 Dancing with the Stars (Israeli dance) & Dessert

Tomorrow-Israel and America’s New Challenges with Dr. Eric Mandel

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