How does one capture eight days of a jam packed mission where each 24 hour period packed in 36 hours of activities? I can't do it in my typically short weekly message. I do encourage you to go read the blogs and see the pictures. I also encourage you to watch some of these short videos:
a. a video produced during the mission capturing the first part of our travels
b. a video of our time in our Partnership 2Gether Region of Karmiel and Misgav
c. the Israeli news capturing our flash mob in Karmiel.
I was at a barbecue at a friend's house on the 4th of July and someone there asked me what the best part of the mission was. Without hesitating, my answer was having 290 Pittsburghers together, getting to know each other, forming new friendships and building community while in the only Jewish country in the world. As I have been watching my Facebook account these last few days, I have been gaining new "friends" from the mission and my computer is constantly dinging with notice that someone else has posted more mission pictures. This shared experience will bode well for our Pittsburgh Jewish community now and into the future.
For all who were on our mission, thank you for your trust in the Federation, thank you for opening yourselves up to the wonder and beauty of Israel and Israelis and thank you for making my trip so special. This Sunday is the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz. It commemorates the breach of the walls of Jerusalem with the ultimate destruction of the Second Temple on the 9th of Av, in just a few more weeks. In traditional circles, the fall of the Temple is thought to have occurred because of Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred) between Jews. Our mission brought together Chabad, Conservative, Modern Orthodox, Reform and completely unaffiliated from all geographic parts of the Pittsburgh region. New relationships were formed. The exact opposite of Sinat Chinam was what we achieved. I know that by building the love of one Jew to another we will continue to strengthen our Pittsburgh Jewish community enabling us to do amazing things.
One example from this past week of how the diversity of our community worked together was to help fight resolutions at the Presbyterian General Assembly, taking place here in Pittsburgh, calling for divestment from companies doing business in Israel. Our Federation’s Community Relations Council worked with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (funded by our Federation) and the Israel Action Network of the Jewish Federations of North America along with many others to help defeat this initiative. This effort brought together the right and the left of our Jewish community in a united fashion.
While the Federation may have changed its name in the last few years by dropping the word “United” from the United Jewish Federation to become the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, uniting our Jewish community remains at our core. (Don’t worry, if you make a check out to the UJF, we can still cash it!)
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom.
Jeffrey H. Finkelstein