Tuesday, May 30, 2017

JNF Women: For Maia Aron, a 'beshert' connection to JNF


By Maia Aron

JNF, like many things in my life, was beshert. Before I tell you about why JNF is so important to me, let me tell you a bit about myself. I was born in Paraguay. Half my family is in Israel, and the other half in Paraguay. Both sides escaped Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s and found refuge in South America. I am a commercial litigator at a firm called Kozyak Tropin in Miami, Florida. I am married to Alex, the love of my life.

Two years ago, JNF Miami board president Ron Kriss invited me to a JNF event. I went and loved what I saw, but didn’t see young professionals there. So I decided to get involved and do my part to help JNF and Israel. I wanted to add my voice, with JNF’s help and Ron’s leadership. I told Ron I would get JNFuture Miami restarted. So exactly two years ago, I got a small board together and became president of my JNFuture chapter, and we haven’t stopped since. Our JNFuture chapter is strong and we are continuing to grow. We are a pioneer chapter!

Our board is made up of young professionals who range from lawyers to doctors to real estate brokers, and many others. It's made up of leaders who care about Israel and want to give back to their communities. We have our signature event -- a Tu Bishvat party that has been successful now for two years in a row. We also have beautiful and vibrant events at least every other month, including Shabbat dinners, happy hours, and educational and networking events. We sent members on JLIM (JNFuture’s young leadership mission in Israel) last year, and are sending members on the May Jerusalem mission. 

My JNFuture presidency will end in November this year, when I will start and lead JNF’s Women’s Society in Miami! It will be a wonderful way for women who have the same values and love for Israel to get together and improve the world. I am looking forward to this wonderful challenge. 

Tikkun olam and leaving a positive mark in this world are values my family has instilled in me. I thank my parents and grandparents very much for always teaching me to care for Israel. As I mentioned above, JNF was beshert. The story starts with my grandfather Luis Aron. He grew up in Chile and was a leader in the Jewish community. He was one of the founders of the Maccabi movement in Chile. Because he was a leader in the Jewish community, my grandfather and family were threatened in Chile. So my grandfather decided to make aliyah. Israel was there for my family – a safe place. 

Once he moved to Israel, my grandfather kept working as a civil engineer, building various neighborhoods. When my grandfather got older, he became a proud farmer on Moshav Mazor. He grew papayas, avocados, and later leaves for floral arrangements. My grandfather always instilled in me a love for the land of the Israel and a connection to it. My grandpa and I were very close – we had the same ideals and values, and were born leaders.


Maia's beloved grandfather on his moshav. 
When I told my grandfather, two years ago, that I had gotten involved with JNF, he was ecstatic and mentioned he had done some work with JNF when he was younger. Every time we spoke, my grandpa asked how JNF was going. Unfortunately, my grandpa suddenly got sick and, at almost 94 years old, passed away a year and a half ago. I never got to say goodbye. What I did get was our last phone call where he told me he was so proud of the JNF work I was doing, and to go forward with it. I was heartbroken when he passed away. My JNFuture friends saw how sad I was and decided to donate money to a JNF project in my grandpa’s memory. My friends asked me what JNF project I liked and I selected the Arava Institute. It was only fitting the funds should go to agriculture in Israel – what my grandpa loved. My friends’ gesture showed me my JNF family was there for me.

I didn’t go to my grandpa’s funeral because I said I would go to Israel on a positive mission to honor him. What I didn’t know was that JNF selected me to go on JLIMa mission to Israel for young JNF leaders from all over the country. What a surprise! Almost a year after my grandpa passed, I went to Israel. We visited JNF projects, and spoke with JNF’s partners on the ground who are working with us and benefitting from JNF projects. I also got to meet and become friends with other like-minded young JNF leaders. And I gained a wonderful JNF mentor, Nina Paul. Through programs like JLIM, JNF is shaping the next generation of leaders and ensuring continuity – l’dor v’dor.

The first thing I did when I got to Israel for JLIM was to go to my grandpa’s house to have Shabbat dinner with my family. As you can imagine, I was heartbroken walking into that house because my grandpa was not there. In the living room, I saw something I had never seen before. Hanging on the wall was a JNF Golden Book certificate given to my grandparents. I was told this certificate was given to them for the work they had done for our Jewish brothers and sisters. As I said earlier, JNF was beshert! I took my grandparents’ JNF certificate and proudly display it in my home. 

As the JLIM mission progressed, so did my healing over my grandpa’s passing. When I saw the young farmers in Halutza, I saw my grandpa’s eyes. I finally understood that as long as I’m involved with JNF, I will always have a connection with him. JNF gives me the avenue to continue my grandpa’s mission, and to connect with him.

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