It’s spring in Israel. The flowers are blooming and fragrant, the countryside is many shades of green, alive with plantings and trees full of fruit. The people are buzzing, the markets are full. It was wonderful to be back home again in Israel.
Like the spring season, our partnership with Afula and Gilboa is also renewed. The 11 Southern New England Consortium communities recently conducted a strategic plan which provides a road map for a reinvigorated relationship with the region where we can coalesce around a big impactful idea. During my trip I met with leaders in government, food tech/agri tech, educators, innovators and medical professionals to better understand the needs.
The trip also aligned with Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s economic mission to Israel. Governor Lamont was ecstatic to receive a replica of the Connecticut Avenue street sign presented to him by Afula Mayor Elkabetz and municipality staff involved in the partnership steering committee. While the sign was a highlight, it wasn’t the only one with many important business relationships renewed and others created during his trip. The Governor and his Connecticut delegation met with Ofra Strauss of the Strauss Group, innovation leaders, Ambassador Tom Nides, leaders from OurCrowd, President Isaac Herzog, leaders from Google and education leaders from Israel’s universities, Prime Minister Bennett, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. In partnership with the state government, Connecticut Innovations and JFACT (the Jewish Federations Association of CT), the governor met with important elected officials, leaders of industry, and shared his admiration for the start up nation. In addition to important accomplishments like a new order of Sikorsky helicopters, UCONN signed a MOU with the Technion to expand collaboration between the institutions.
The third component of my trip included advance scouting for our upcoming mission to Israel in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. With our departure one year away, I want to encourage all to join us. This highly customizable experience will feature tracks highlighting various areas, including arts & culture, food & wine, innovation & technology, geopolitics & adventure. All accommodations are 5-star, with each hotel featuring a lavish breakfast buffet served every morning. (If for no other reason, come for the breakfasts!) Our visit will begin in Jerusalem and will include a very special and meaningful Shabbat experience in the holy city. From there we will journey north to the Galilee and conclude our visit in the bustling, cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv.
During my trip I dipped my toe a bit into each of the tracks—I made pralines at a chocolate factory in Jerusalem, explored the Machane Yehuda market on a food tasting tour, met with Colonel Koby Marom on the Lebanese and Syrian border, met with the leaders of Margalit, an agri tech/food tech social investment start-up hub, sampled delicious Israeli wine, and visited The Mishkan Museum in our partnership region. Each visit was fascinating and at the highest level. Choose one track or choose a sampling of all—it’s totally up to you. And, if traveling to Israel on the mission isn’t enough, join us for a post-mission excursion to Morocco, a country that is part of the new Abraham Accords. While I will admit to feeling a bit euphoric as we re-engaged with old friends, socializing and living life in much the same way we did prior to Covid, it was impossible not to keep in mind that all of this was happening amids the backdrop of events in Ukraine, which we were monitoring closely.
Just a few years ago, I journeyed to Ukraine on a JFNA mission with Jewish Federation President Steven Fleischman and Foundation Executive Director Lisa Stanger. While there, we learned about the rebirth of Jewish life across a country that is home to 200,000 Jews. We saw first hand the work of our partners, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the JDC and World ORT who were working hand in hand to build a vibrant Jewish life and who were also the lifeline for about 10,000 elderly shut-ins, many of whom are Holocaust survivors, providing food, medicine and companionship. What would become of all of them if all-out war erupted?
Sadly, we know. Despite the early preparation of special centers to gather those displaced, people cannot get to the shelters and our partners are doing their best to reach them. Those who are finding their way to bordering countries are being helped to find food and shelter. JDC expects to spend an un-budgeted $16 million in the next two months alone. JAFI and our other partners expect to incur millions of expenses to assist in emergency aliyah and absorptions and to aid the five ORT schools and their 1900 students and their families.
When crisis happens, the Jewish Federation is there and when crisis happens, whether here in our backyard or thousands of miles away, our Jewish community is there to help. We believe in our core value—kol Yisrael arevim zeh la zeh — all Jews are responsible for one another.
The Jewish Federation in partnership with Jewish Family Service is reaching out to provide help and support to our community members who hail from the region, and we have opened an emergency funds mailbox so that you too can join in this important mitzvah. As always when emergencies arise, 100% of all contributions will go straight to where they are urgently needed.
May we know peace again soon.