It was patently clear from listening to our Ramim graduates that they were powerfully changed by the experience.
One member of the Israeli contingent, Limor Rubin, has been moved to transform her community.
Limor, a journalist by profession who also describes herself as a "serial social entrepreneur," was paired with Rochester lawyer Matt Ryen. She was very impressed with Rochester’s Jewish Community Center as a place where Jews of all ‘stripes’ can congregate.
One of the threads running through the Ramim program was the difference between the way American and Israeli Jews have evolved internally. While Israeli Jews are traditionally considered either Orthodox or secular, American Jews have the three principal streams, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, in addition to Jews who resist labeling entirely. American Jews’ ability to co-exist across denominations, while clearly imperfect, was of great interest to the Israeli contingent of Ramim.
A tour of the Rochester JCC got Limor thinking about the hub of her own community, the Moriah neighborhood of Modi’in. Why couldn’t they have a center where all community members could congregate? Limor was concerned about those in her community who don’t feel like they belong anywhere – who aren’t members of a shul, for example, or who belong to immigrant communities that experience isolation due to cultural or language barriers.
Limor is equally passionate about providing the opportunity for Israelis to discover their Judaism – as she did on Ramim – and more fully understand their commitment to Israel.
“We must teach Israeli values, understand who we are and why we are here,” she explained at a gathering in her home where she made an informal presentation. “Life is tough here,” she said. “We must educate or risk losing” the more secular members of Israeli society.
After extensive communications with Rochester’s JCC leadership as well as her own municipality, Limor is embarking on a plan to transform her community with the establishment of an “Israeli Community Center” where all – the Orthodox and the secular - will be welcome to congregate, learn and get involved in a variety of activities. Limor has already garnered support from the municipality of Modi’in for a one-year pilot project to help make the center a reality.
Hearing the passion in Limor’s voice – as well as the commitment of other community members involved in the project – made all of us “qvell” as their vision clearly evolved through the Ramim experience.
At the same time, it was crystal clear that the strength of Ramim, and its success, stems from the passion, talent and commitment of the members themselves.