Supporting Israel: There’s Something for Everyone
This speech was delivered by the Green family at their Temple's Yom Kippur
Dena: In Israel, there is something for everyone. In fact, there are many somethings for each of us. I’ve been to Israel 8 times. In high school for a teen tour with United Synagogue Youth, in college to study at Hebrew University, with family for Passover, with the Wexner Heritage leadership program, for our twins’ Bnai Mitzvah ceremony, and three times to conduct global health research as part of my work at Yale. The point of every trip, of course, was to be in Israel, but each time I came away with something else- new friends, new knowledge, and a new way of experiencing Israel.
Eric: It has been one of Dena’s and my greatest joys to experience Israel with our children. And there has been something different in Israel for each of them.
Eve: I made my first trip to Israel with my 8th grade class at Ezra Academy. Seeing Israel with my friends was exciting because everyone was as enthusiastic as I was to see the country, and we all learned together. It was such a fun trip, even more fun than going to Cancun, because in Israel I could practice my Hebrew, and it was way easier to find a kosher hamburger.
Ben: I was grateful to travel to Israel last December for Mia’s and my Bnai Mitzvah ceremony. At the Kotel, it was hard to believe that I was standing in a place where our people have been praying for thousands of years. And it was finally my turn. The something I found in Israel was a sense of being connected, and also that riding jeeps in the Golan is pretty cool.
Mia: Having my Bat Mitzvah ceremony in Israel was very significant to me. It made me feel like part of the line of thousands of Jewish women who have lived there and who have helped to grow our people and the State of Israel. I left Israel knowing that it was my turn to take on Tikkun Olam, making the world a better place. I also learned that I would be pretty happy working at the De Karina chocolate factory in northern Israel.
Lily: I loved being in Israel for our family trip, especially riding camels in the desert, digging for pottery in a cave, walking on the beach in Tel Aviv, and buying chocolate rugelach at Marzipan bakery in Jerusalem. I love that Israel is part of my life, whether it’s learning about Israel at Hebrew School or Camp Ramah, hosting Israeli emissaries at our home, or dancing to Israeli music with my friends.
Eric: In addition to experiencing Israel as a tourist, I am a tax attorney, and I have been able to create the opportunity to help Israeli businesspeople and attorneys to start and expand their businesses in the United States. There is something special about directly helping Jews in Israel. It gives me a reason to travel there and creates meaningful relationships.
Dena: There are many ways to experience Israel, and many ways to support it. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in Israel with representatives of the Jewish Agency visiting Greater New Haven’s sister city of Afula-Gilboa as well as other places in the country. I visited Beit Singer, a program for at-risk youth who have been removed from broken homes to live and go to school in a therapeutic group setting. I met graduates of the Alma pre-military academy, a leadership development program that enables young underprivileged women to advance to leadership positions in the army that would likely be closed to them otherwise. I went to Beit Uri, a residence that allows developmentally disabled adults to live productively and with dignity and joy. There are so many amazing programs to support.
In the spirit of full disclosure, my attorney here (Eric) advised me to share that I am the Campaign Chair for our Greater New Haven Jewish Federation. Wearing that hat, I have many conversations with people about their philanthropy.
Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing from more people that they will not give to Israel because they don’t agree with the Israeli government. I always want people to feel good about their tzedakah, and we all have our favorite causes, but it is difficult for me to understand the leap from disagreeing with the Israeli government to withdrawing support from all Israeli programs and services. It seems like throwing the baby out with the bath water.
What’s more is that Israel seems to be a special case. We don’t always agree with the U.S. government, but that doesn’t stop our philanthropy here. We may stop supporting a political party, but we don’t stop giving to homeless shelters, cancer research, or other causes sponsored by American organizations. Why is Israel different? Could it be that, as with family, we are sometimes hardest on the people we care about the most? That we wouldn’t be so upset if we didn’t care so much?
And the truth is that Israel is a special case. It is the country of our dreams, our sweat, and our blood, of our holiest sites, and of our prayers across the ages. We cannot abandon her.
As family, we don’t always agree with each other, but we still- we always- love and support each other. It’s the same with Israel. We are family. We may not always agree with Israel’s political leadership, but we need to support its vital programs. So find the cause you love in Israel, be it planting trees, supporting a start up, giving to a hospital, or contributing to a program in Afula-Gilboa. I am pretty confident that you will find something, because in Israel, there is something for everyone.
The Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven can facilitate your support to powerful worldwide movements such as Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and Jewish Joint Distribution committee as well as directly to the Afula-Gilboa community. Contact Amy Holtz, Chief Development Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org. 100% of your gift will go directly to the agency/agencies of your choice. This would be a supplemental gift to your annual campaign gift.