Standing in the atrium of the Science Museum of Virginia, about two weeks ago with our Partnership2Gether Tikkun Olam Israeli Teen delegation, a community member asked, “Why do Israeli teens come to Richmond?” This is a great question.
The JCFR brings a delegation of Israeli teenagers to Richmond every summer as part of our Tikkun Olam Teen Program. We send teenage members of our Jewish community to Israel, and about a month later our community hosts Israeli teens and their chaperone.
Our P2G programming is people-to-people oriented and nothing builds relationships better than meaningful time spent together. The Israeli teens don’t happen upon Richmond, we bring them here. The program enriches both our community and our Israeli visitors.
Just ask the four teens - Shira Amar, Maayan Jan, Sagi Lavi, Dan Rumanovski, and Israeli Chaperone, Tsofia Bar-On; and Richmond teen Jacob Zedd. We also want to recognize community members who served as hosts - Ramona Brand and Harlan Loebman, Dana Crow, mother of Jacob Zedd; Diana and Bob Rubin, Amy Melnick-Scharf and Jeff Scharf, and Harriet Schanzer and David Raine and JCFR staff member Sara Rosenbaum.
Both here and in Israel, the teens participate in a vast array of Jewish Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) activities. Our Richmond program opened with an exploration of the concept of Tikkun Olam. We discussed Jewish sources (Torah, Mishna and Gemara), which teach that each of us have a responsibility to positively impact the world.
We discussed how those values are in action in our daily lives both in the U. S. and in Israel. For example, the teens were fascinated to see many of those values directly formed the Israel Defense Forces’ Code of Ethics, which is taught and distributed to every single IDF soldier.
We then quickly set those values to action. The Torah teaches us providing for the hungry is an imperative. The delegation volunteered for an afternoon at FeedMore’s Community Kitchen. While there they worked in the Meals on Wheels packaging program. On a typical day that program provides 1,100 meals to local people in need who otherwise would face food insecurity. The delegation represented both Israel and our Jewish community exceedingly well.
The majority of the volunteering Aug. 10-24 was at the Richmond Council for Jewish Education’s week-long Camp Sababa (held, this year, at Or Ami). While there the teens taught about Israel, helped provide programming for the 40+ children and staffed various roles.
Israel Day was a highlight for participants. Filled with everything from a display of authentic ancient Judean coins (generously shown to the camp participants by community member Michael Beall) to children sifting through a sandbox looking for artifacts, from decorating cakes in the shape of Israel to Israeli folk-dancing, the day went beyond connecting our community’s children with the idea of Israel; it connected them with Israelis. Their eyes filled with wonder and delight and a wonderful time was had by all.
While in Richmond, the group also visited the Virginia Holocaust Museum. Following a tour led by Holocaust refugee Alex Keisch, a retired U.S. Merchant Marine captain and VHM docent, our group discussed the meaning of the Holocaust to us today. Jacob Zedd, the Richmond Tikkun Olam Program participant, contrasted how the Holocaust has different meanings in America versus in Israel.
Of course, no U.S. visit would be complete without fun. In addition to the Science Museum of Virginia visit, the teens bowled, cruised the downtown canal, enjoyed a Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball game, shared pizza at KBI, were hosted for Shabbat dinner at Or Atid, shopped at Short Pump Mall, and visited Washington, D.C., and Colonial Williamsburg.
The P2G program connects our community with Hadera-Eiron at a person-to-person level. This summer, we’re exceedingly proud to have done just that.
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