Tag Archives: Associated

Send in the Clowns

jill maxBy: Jill Max, Chair, The Associated’s Israel Engagement Center

I hate the circus. The primary reason for these feelings stems from my childhood and my family’s requisite annual pilgrimage to Madison Square Garden to witness the “greatest show on Earth.” The smell of the menagerie was bad enough, but it was the clowns that really freaked me out. Fear of clowns: Coulrophobia (it’s a real thing, Google it).

When I discovered that we were going to hear from Tsour Shriqui, the Director of Medical Clowns, I immediately worried that he would bring one of their professionals with him. Fortunately, he was alone and thanks to him, I was able to see clowns through a different lens. Medical Clowns are actors who spend several months training before they are sent to work with patients in hospitals throughout Israel. There is extensive research about the positive effects on the patients they work with, particularly children, their parents and people with PTSD. The clowns are very busy these days, many have been sent to hospitals in the South like Barzilai and Saroka.

As we wound our way North through the hills to Nazareth, I was struck by the serenity and quiet in this largely Muslim Arab town. When we arrived at the Nazareth Industrial Park, perched on a mountaintop, we gravitated to the outdoor patio on the top floor and marveled at the breathtaking view.

The Nazareth Industrial Park was built 2 years ago to promote the development of industry in the Arab sector of Israel. It is the first Arab/Jewish industrial park. We learned about the Interagency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues, a coalition of 100 Jewish Federations, foundations, religious and service organizations dedicated to learning and raising awareness about Arab society and Jewish-Arab relations in Israel.

We had the opportunity to hear from Julia A-Zahar, a leading Arab businesswoman whose company, Al Arz Tahina produces some of the best tahini and halva in the country. She is also a community activist, lay leader and the Chair of the the Masira Fund, a program for the advancement of people with disabilities in Arab society. It was an inspiring afternoon, particularly following our experiences on our way out of the Tel Aviv in the morning.

As the bus continued to wind through the mountains, I watched the sun beginning to retreat behind both clouds and hills. We arrived at Baba Yona Ranch and were greeted enthusiastically by representatives from Dalton Winery. The weather was glorious and the wines were lovely; however, we soon learned that we were not exactly going to relax and enjoy a leisurely outdoor dinner. Instead, we were divided into three teams and tasked with preparing the meal ourselves. Under normal circumstances, I would have loved this activity, but I was tired, and soon realized there were too many cooks in this makeshift kitchen. I headed back to the wine tasting and had a great conversation about what we’d learned in Nazareth with some new friends from the Lehigh Valley Region of Pennsylvania.

It was the first time since my arrival that I momentarily stopped thinking about sirens. I looked up at the clear, starry sky, breathed in the clean air and let out an audible sigh of relief.

Jill is currently in Israel on the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Campaigner’s Mission.

Happy Hour

By Jill Max, Chair, The Associated’s Israel Engagement Center

Jill Max 3Last night, I walked to the beautiful Tel Aviv port (don’t worry, there are plenty of places along the way to duck and cover) and had dinner with two Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) staff members and four young adults from Baltimore who are participating in the Onward Israel program that The Associated subsidizes. The eight-week program matches college-age students with internships in Tel Aviv (and many other cities) that suit their educational or career-related pursuits. I knew half of the group, and I knew that all of them had anxious parents at home who were eager for reassurance that their kids were all right. Each one had a different level of comfort with the situation, but I was so impressed with their maturity and their ability to see this as a unique opportunity for growth. One young man shared his newfound culinary skills, while one of the girls was proud of her ability to take the bus by herself to her internship. They all spoke candidly of the challenges of being here at this time, but none of them was considering leaving. Sadly, a few of the participants did decide to go home, and of course I support that decision. This is not an easy situation to deal with on a daily basis, particularly without your family around.

This morning I had the opportunity to make two site visits with the director of the program and the internship coordinator. Both of the interns we visited expressed how much they were learning and how beneficial they felt their experience was for them. Their supervisors clearly valued their work and were very enthusiastic about their contributions. I couldn’t stop thinking about how different these experiences were than most of the one’s I’ve heard about at home. These interns were really part of the team, and felt valued. It was a great way to start the day!

I spent a few hours this afternoon with a dear friend who lives in Tel Aviv. Abraham Silver is one of the most interesting people I know, as well as brilliant. Abraham made Aliyah in the early 80s, a pioneer from Brooklyn who became a date farmer in the Negev. That, however, is not where his story ends. Abraham served in the Israeli army and reserves as an elite paratrooper, he is an historian, and is arguably the best tour guide I’ve ever known. Oh, and by the way, he got an MA in Architecture about a decade ago, commuting between Tel Aviv and the University of Pennsylvania. I first met him when our family traveled to Israel on the Associated’s Family Mission in 2007. Since then, every time I come to this land, I make sure to see Abraham. He is my touchstone to what is really happening here, my guide to a uniquely Israeli perspective on the situation, and aside from all of that, a wonderful father and adoring husband. I should also mention that his wife, Alisa, is a world-renowned brain researcher and was recently named Teacher of the Year by Tel Aviv University. Unfortunately, Abraham and his seven-year-old twins, Shiri and Libby were unable to attend the ceremony, due to the red alert.

It was 5:20 in Tel Aviv, officially Happy Hour, and I’d returned to the pool to relax and do some reading before my mission officially began this evening. The wi-fi was spotty, so I had trouble connecting to both my email and Facebook, but I was feeling content, enjoying my glass of wine and people watching by the pool. I had just begun to return an email, and as I was typing, the sirens started blaring. Several people around me were blissfully sleeping, and I moved efficiently from one to the next repeating, “sirens, sirens, get up, get up” (Note to self: I am a pretty cool cucumber in an emergency). The lifeguard quickly directed us to the stairwell, and we made our way down three floors. Once again, I had the opportunity to meet new people and to hear everyone’s stories about their experiences with the sirens thus far. After about 10 minutes, I was back in my chair (I took the wine with me) and enjoying the breathtaking view as the sun began its daily descent. The lifeguard confirmed that the Iron Dome intercepted two missiles over Tel Aviv. “Don’t worry, please enjoy your vacation: the Iron Dome has got us covered,” he assured me.

I’m sleeping with my balcony door open tonight, as I did last night. There’s a beautiful breeze and I find the sound of the waves soothing. And yes, it is easier to hear the sirens.

 Jill is currently in Israel on the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Campaigner’s Mission. 

International Moishe Houses Gather In Odessa

Moishe House

By: Marina Moldavanskaya

Last week, Odessa was proud to host the international conference for Russian-speaking Moishe Houses. Yevgeniy Klig, the Director of Russian-speaking Jewish Programming shared, “The conference was comprised of the residents of all Russian-speaking Moishe Houses in the former Soviet Union and the United States. The purpose of the conference was to provide an opportunity for the residents to share experiences of their communities, to learn new skills and information from professional trainers and other Moishe Houses and, of course, to establish deep friendships and relationships that will lead to better relations between young adult Jewish communities in different cities.”

The program included a history of Moishe House as well as a review of goals and objectives. The participants had a chance to get to know the Russian-speaking American Moishe Houses that were successful in engaging young adults from Russian-speaking families in New York and Chicago. The conference aimed to assist Moishe House residents in creating projects, planning volunteer programs, making budgets and attracting visitors.

Odessa Moishe House opened in November 2012 with four residents, yet, it very quickly proved to be a strong community space for young adults. Each month, the residents organize a minimum of seven programs. In addition, the Odessa Moishe House received the award for the Best Moishe House in April 2013, topping 54 other houses.

Odessa Hosts 2013 Limmud Conference

2013 LimmudBy: Marina Moldavanskaya

For the third time, Odessa was proud to host this month’s Limmud Conference. Limmud is a celebration of Jewish education and relationship building through unique lectures, trainings, workshops, discussions, meetings, concerts, discos, night gatherings and more.

This year, the Limmud Conference was dedicated to the connections between Odessa and Tel Aviv as well as the 140th anniversary of Chaim Nahman Bialik. Many families from Odessa moved to Israel and ultimately settled in Tel Aviv; therefore, the city has absorbed Odessa architecture and culture. The first mayor of Tel Aviv was Meir Dizengoff who lived, studied and joined the Zionist movement in Odessa. After Dizengoff became the head of the town planning in 1911, Dizengoff was elected mayor when Tel Aviv was recognized as a city. Chaim Nahman Bialik is a very important model for the Jewish people in Odessa and worldwide. A Jewish poet who wrote both in Hebrew and Yiddish, Bialik was one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew poetry and was eventually recognized as Israel’s national poet. Limmud 2013

Four hundred people from the former Soviet Union took part in the conference. The participants had the wonderful opportunity to attend lectures of many outstanding scientists, artists, journalists and politicians from Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Belarussia and Israel.

Jewish organizations in Odessa actively participated in the Limmud conference. JCC Migdal was a key partner of the conference as their staff was responsible for the logistics of the program. They coordinated the participants of the southern region and provided many of the speakers. JCC Beit Grand offered the Limmud conference participants many interesting hand-on projects in their studios and organized the Klezmer musical and stand-up comic event, all of which highlighted Odessa’s thriving community and proud Jewish history.