Misha Galperin, President and CEO of International Developtment at The Jewish Agency for Israel, in his regular newsletter, Misha's Musings, this week wrote about Labor Day falling in the same week as Rosh Hashana. For those in USA and Canada, Labor Day marks "a natural break to the summer and the time when we [in the Northern Hemisphere] re-orient ourselves to school and new responsibilities at work in preparation for the year ahead. There is a sense of anticipation and preparation in the air."
We would like to share with you a taste of the very many programs The Jewish Agency was involved in over the summer both in Israel and abroad, and look toward our new year.
Our Maccabiah Moments, operating summer camps in the former Soviet Union, and receiving our new Israeli citizens from Ethiopia remind us how important and meaningful it is to connect Jews to Israel and Israel to Jewish communities around the world.
The world's third largest sporting competition, the Maccabiah Games, brought over 7, 000 Jews from 76 different countries to connect on home soil, in Israel. Part sponsors, The Jewish Agency, erected a tent on its Wingate campus where young athletes could gather and engage more deeply with their Jewish heritage.
FSU Summer Camps
"Before I came to the Jewish Camp, I thought that everything about being Jewish is just about the past. I never knew my grandfather because he passed away before I was born. I only knew that he didn’t eat certain foods, and that he celebrated the New Year in the fall, because he was Jewish," says 12 year-old Olya, a camper at a Jewish Agency summer camp in Minsk.
"At camp we had an event devoted to Jewish-Israeli cuisine and our counselors explained to us all the kosher rules and the logic behind it. I understood that my grandfather acted the way he did not because he was strange but because he kept in his mind a part of tradition and of Jewish peoplehood, and that he and I are not only individuals but a part of an old, interesting culture," added a changed Olya.
Operation Dove's Wings
Last week saw the completion of Operation Dove's Wings, which brought 7,000 new immigrants to Israel from Ethiopia. Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky offically closed the Jewish school in Gondar, and donated it to the municipality. Families were reunited at a moving welcome ceremony on Wednesday 28 August where two planeloads carrying 450 new immigrants landed at Ben Gurion Airport. Sharansky noted that the completion of this journey closed a circle of 2,500 years of a longing to return home to Israel.
The New Year
As many of the round symbols like carrot-slices and round challot that we display on our Rosh Hashana tables indicate - this time of year marks a moment in a cycle that continues, and hopefully spirals upwards.
Like all of us, The Agency has reviewed the wonderful year that has passed, and looks forward to what we will be able to accomplish in the year to come. In addition to the programs The Jewish Agency is known for and has been running and partnering with over the years, this year we will be adding new ways to secure the Jewish future.
Of the many new initiatives we have planned, we will be expanding our Project TEN global tikkun olam network with an additional location at Kibbutz Harduf in the Galilee. We will keep you updated on our new post-army program, Afikim B'Negev, operating in Mizpe Ramon which, through a wide range of classes and paid-internships, prepares young Israelis for life and choices after the army. A group of Jewish Agency shlichim (Shin-Shinim) have just landed in London to open a new 'Kommuna' where they will work to engage the young Jewish community of London with Israel and their Jewish Heritage.
A very sweet start indeed.
Rosh Hashana "is a good time to thank you for your partnership and your steadfast commitment to the remarkable work we do together," says Chairman Natan Sharansky, adding: "The importance of our work is evident everywhere you look."