It was a Wednesday morning and my whole life was packed into a few boxes and two suitcases.
I took a last look at my home in Israel, a few last pictures, gave kisses and hugs to my loved ones, and I was on my way to the airport to start a journey of a lifetime, to make a change in peopleís lives. I was on my way to start a year or two of shlichut.
Some of you have heard the world shlichut and know what the Hebrew word means in English. But I can tell you one thing, shlichut does not have the same meaning for every person.
Literally, shaliach means Israel emissary — someone who engages people of all ages in a range of Jewish cultural, educational and social activities. However, each one of us creates shlichut in his or her own mind.
When I was in Israel, training for this job, I thought that shlichut meant to connect with and to strengthen the connection between the community in Howard County and Israel. I thought of how many things I have to teach the people here and how I could enrich their lives with Israeli culture.
Now that I have been here for two months already, I’m realizing how much I have to learn from them and how much I have to learn about what it means to be a Jew away from Israel. You have to work in order to be Jewish, and you have to work to have a Jewish family and to find a Jewish wife or husband. You have to make an effort to celebrate the holidays and to have Shabbat dinner on Friday night after you have worked all day. It is not easy, and yet the community in Howard County shows me every day how much it wants to be Jewish and how much it wants to work hard for it.
Let’s go back to before that day at the airport and to how I became a shlicha in Howard County. I am from Menechamya, a small moshav in the north of Israel. I have worked with children since I was 14. I have been involved in the Noar Haoved Valomed movement, an organization that teaches about socialism and tolerance to one another, and I also developed leadership skills. I served in the military for three years, in the air force, and had been sent by the army and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) to be an Israel culture instructor at a summer camp in New Jersey.
When I finished the summer camp, JAFI called me and asked me to do a long-term shlichut.
I said yes right away, because for all of my life I was raised on Israeli patriotism and Zionism. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors who built and developed Israel when there was nothing there. I wanted to give of myself and to contribute my knowledge of Israeli culture and history to the Jewish people abroad.
I am so happy to be here and to experience this fulfilling journey. I hope that during this year, I will pass my love and passion about Israel to Howard County.
Gal Perlmoter is the new shlicha in Howard County. Her office is located in the Jewish
Federation of Howard County building.