Face-to-face meetings are the key to understanding connections with Israel


The Jewish Federation-sponsored Focus Israel initiative, designed to strengthen ties between the St. Louis Jewish community and Israel, recently sent a delegation of rabbis, educators, and lay leaders to Israel for a 10-day journey. From those of us who have lived in Israel to those making their first trip, we all returned feeling excited, engaged, and eager to put our newfound inspiration into practice.

Yet the big question remains — how can we accomplish the goals set out by the initiative? We have many months of brainstorming and hard work ahead of us, certainly, but two initial answers seemed to arise in our time together.

First and foremost, there is simply no better way to foster a love for Israel and to deeply embed Israel in the culture of our community than to provide encouragement and opportunities for travel. As one of my colleagues so candidly expressed, even with the best intentions, no amount of falafel and Israeli dancing can ever equal the experience of simply setting foot on Israel’s soil. This is a challenge, but one to which we must devote our time and energy.

Second, the key phrase of the trip was mifgashim — face to face meetings with Israelis.

We played games with children in Yokneam, celebrated Shabbat with emerging liberal synagogues and picked carrots with Israeli high school students. Each encounter introduced us to a new generation of chalutzim, pioneers who are ensuring that Israel will be a state based on Jewish values where all Jews will always have a home.

What a blessing this journey was for us! I hope that our entire community will be touched by this amazing initiative.

For more information about Focus Israel, contact Adina Frydman, director, at [email protected].

Rabbi Amy Feder serves at Temple Israel.