I can’t believe that this dream is about to become a reality … on Oct. 15 I and more than 470 members of our Greater MetroWest Jewish community will step off a plane in Israel. First-timers and veterans alike, we’re about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime experience on our Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s commUNITY Mission to Israel.
Every time I step onto Israeli soil, I feel happy, like I’m arriving home. But this time is going to be different. I can’t wait to feel the energy and enthusiasm as we fill 12 buses with people from across the community — from Rockaway to Montclair to Scotch Plains and everywhere in between; people representing every denomination coming together to experience first-hand what our support of Israel means, what it looks like in action.
We’re going to see how we are changing lives in our partnership communities, including in Kibbutz Erez, by touring a bomb shelter and seeing the much-needed equipment that we have donated to help firefighters extinguish the flames that might otherwise engulf their crops. We’re going to Yad Vashem, but this time we can see the connection between the stories we learn and the important ways our dollars are caring for the survivors in our own community and around the world.
We’re going to see how we have supported programs for at-risk youth, built libraries and parks, and so much more. One moment I’m most looking forward to is presenting the IDF soldiers on a Navy Base with exercise equipment to help them stay fit while out at sea — a gift from our community to show our appreciation for their dedication and bravery.
I, and the other mission vice-chairs — Debbie and Allan Janoff, Beena and Steve Levy, and Erica and Steve Needle — have high hopes for how this event will inspire and, yes, even redefine our community moving forward. We are a geographically diverse group, but this mission will lessen the distance between us. We may disagree on certain issues, but this mission will unite us by our common respect for, and dedication to, Israel and its people. Some of our participants are already committed to supporting federation and its goals, while others have only a rudimentary knowledge of the work of the organization, but we will all return with a greater understanding of how, as a community, we have the power to literally change lives when we work together.
Nothing inspires a person to connect to their Jewishness more than visiting our homeland — to learn about and experience our common history, to witness the hardships Israelis endure on behalf of the world’s Jewish population, and to recognize that the future of our people depends on a thriving State of Israel.
Our dream is about to become a reality, but it doesn’t end when we fly home from Tel Aviv. It will continue as every person who participates in this mission will return with a newfound understanding of the power they have to help build and strengthen the Jewish community in Israel, here in Greater MetroWest, and around the world. That by whatever means they are willing and able to participate matters.
There are so many ways — whether through federation, synagogues, or agencies — to build on this mission in ways that are uniquely meaningful to them and that can have a lasting effect for generations to come.
Jane Wilf is the chair of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s commUNITY Mission to Israel. She and her husband Mark live with their four children in Livingston.