Friday, October 4, 2019

At JNF conference, student has a powerful revelation about Judaism

The author, pictured top right.
By Ruby Rosenthal

In many ways, Judaism has a moral compass built in. After attending Hebrew school for six years, and five subsequent years assisting as a madricha, or youth leader, I've realized there's a common theme that permeates my religion: Judaism is about giving.

Growing up, our Hebrew school classes began with a tzedakah box. I remember it very clearly as being blue and green and featuring the state of Israel prominently on the front. As students, we'd often shake it, trying to see how much was inside by listening to the clang of the money against its tin walls. 

Every week, we were instructed to bring in a few coins or dollar bills to slip through the slit of the box, and later, we'd sing a song to explain why we weren't saving the cash for ourselves: "Tzedakah, tzedakah, we do what we can / To help other people and our fellow man / With quarters and nickels and dimes -- pennies too! / Tzedakah, tzedakah it's the best we can do."

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

My life-changing journey to JNF's women's leadership circle

Author Civia Caroline has been involved 
with JNF since 2014.

By Civia Caroline

My Jewish National Fund story began with a sheet of paper and a pen. It was 2014, and my first time participating on the JNFuture Leadership Institute Mission, an educational retreat in Israel to learn about JNF's work. JNF CEO Russell Robinson asked us to draw "our story." I had been involved with Jewish National Fund on a local level in Los Angeles, but it was the first time I had to ask myself, "Why am I here? Why is this important to me?"

The answer came to me quickly. I grew up with the strong values of tikkun olam and Zionism instilled in me by my parents, and Israel was always part of my DNA. I was raised in an observant household, Israel is where we pray toward, it’s the Promised Land, and it’s also where my extended family lives. It was never something I had to think hard about or work hard for.

As I started to forge my own path and a career in the music industry, I found myself surrounded by people from very different backgrounds. Most in my social and work circles were either not Jewish or completely disconnected. I felt something was missing, so I began to really search for it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The unforgettable night in Israel I prayed with every Jew in the world

The author (third from left) and his classmates from AMHSI at the Kotel.

This summer, Mason Solomon of Weston, Florida, attended Alexander Muss High School in Israel, a study-abroad program that turns Israel into a classroom. Here are his reflections on a life-changing Shabbat the students spent in Jerusalem.

On our overnight in Jerusalem, we got to experience the beauty of Shabbat in the holiest place on Earth for the Jewish people. That night was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. We started off on a long walk in the sunset to the Kotel. The streets of Jerusalem Shel Zahav, the city of gold, shimmered brightly. The roofs of the old stone buildings reflected the light of the desert sun onto the people walking in the street. It was a beautiful walk through the quiet streets of Jerusalem. We had seen those streets before so vibrant and busy, but now they were completely closed down for Shabbat.

We arrived at the wall to see masses of people in white clothes and black hats all coming together to celebrate. We walked down the stairs that connect the Old City to the wall and joined the hundreds of people there to celebrate Shabbat. Right away, my friends and I jumped right in. We went straight to the wall and got through masses of men with long beards and huge hats. It was surreal how they were all praying so deeply and intently. We found a space on the wall and we took a moment to pray and take in this Shabbat at such a holy place. I pushed my head up against the wall and held my hands flat against it. As I began to pray, I noticed each crevice in the wall. I felt myself connecting to the wall as I had a long, meaningful moment that felt like an eternity.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Advice for jump-starting a career in Israel after aliyah

Rachel Gang, living her dream as a therapist in Israel.
By Megan E. Turner

It was the need that attracted Rachel Gang to Be'er Sheva. The need and the opportunity to answer it. "I really liked the southern part of the country, and I saw that Be'er Sheva was lacking resources for mental health services," said Gang, 29, a social worker and educator who made aliyah from Baltimore in the summer of 2018. "I’ve always been social justice-oriented, so I didn’t want to go to Tel Aviv or the center -- I wanted to go where there’s a need." And that’s exactly what she did after spending summers and an academic year teaching English in Israel's north and south.

"Even in the U.S. I always worked in 'the frontier,'" Gang said, "usually in an education-related field, whether it was as a teacher or a social worker." When deciding on where to live in the south, community life was an important factor in Gang’s decision, and Be'er Sheva's revival as an attractive, hip city for young people -- thanks to projects spearheaded by Jewish National Fund's Blueprint Negev -- made it the perfect place to call home. "It’s also more affordable than the center," she said.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

American eats meet Israel as L.A. transplant brings food trucks to Golan

Shimon Shain, holding one of the food items from his food truck, Shimmy's.

By Alan Rosenbaum

"We’ve basically made a mini-restaurant on wheels," said Shimon Shain. "Even the health inspector was impressed with the design of the food truck." Be it sushi, tuna melts, a classic falafel sandwich, fish and chips, fries, waffles, hearty pancakes, a refreshing ice coffee, or just plain toast, Shain and his small fleet of food trucks around Israel's Golan Heights serve anything and everything to tourists, workers, and students. But don’t expect the menus to stay the same for long; they vary as clients' demands change.

Brooklyn-born and raised, Shimon, 34, and his wife, Sara, moved from the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles in July 2016 to the calm and tranquility of Hispin, a scenic town of 1,400 residents in the heart of the Golan Heights. "We like the cattle and the agriculture. We preferred to live in the north or the south -- in a quiet area," Shain said.

The Shains felt like there was still something missing from the Golan scene. Shain, who studied at the Jerusalem School of Culinary Arts, used his expertise in gastronomic studies and his extensive experience in the food industry to establish Shimmy’s, a mobile food service -- known as the beloved food truck in the U.S. -- that prepares and sells food throughout the Golan region.

Grainy photo at Jerusalem historic site stirs tears: 'This is who we are'

Ammunition Hill: 1 of more than 150 heritage sites around Israel open to visitors.

By Doran Miller

My personal connection to Israel runs deep. My mom and grandmother are Israeli. My grandfather was born in Germany and fled to British Mandate Palestine in the early 1930s to escape the rising Nazi regime. My entire life, I've been steeped in the stories, music, and culture of Israel. I'd been to Israel before, of course, and I consider myself very familiar with Jewish National Fund’s work, so I thought I knew what to expect from this summer's Jewish Leadership Institute Mission: an action-packed week traveling around the country to see JNF affiliates and projects firsthand. The truth is I had no idea how powerful the experience would be.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Brewer from Kansas crafts creative beers in the heart of Tel Aviv

Jason Barnett, an oleh from Shawnee, Kansas, took his beer brewing hobby and, with assistance from Jewish National Fund partner Nefesh B'Nefesh, started a successful craft beer brewery, Opus Brewing, in the heart of Tel Aviv. Here's his story.

What made you decide to make aliyah? 
I studied abroad in Israel my freshman year, just as the second Lebanon War broke out. The experience reminded me that the world can be a dangerous place for the Jewish people. I made aliyah in August 2010 and that October I entered the IDF's 101st Airborne Brigade.

How did you get started in the beer brewing business?
I loved sitting with friends at bars but didn't love needing to pay for the simple privilege of enjoying a beer with friends. I decided to make my own beer and began whipping up my first batch of amber ale. Truth -- it was terrible. After four years of amateur brewing, I got a job working as a brewer's apprentice at the Dancing Camel in Tel Aviv and began teaching brewing workshops. Nefesh B’Nefesh invited me to conduct my first workshop at their Tel Aviv Hub, and in January 2018, Opus Brewing was born.