• Nir Kafri, The Jewish Agency for Israel ©
Israel In Your Community

Coming Full Circle to St. Paul

Even before Tal Dror applied to serve as a shlicha in Minnesota, she had gotten to know the area through The Jewish Agency’s Partnership2Gether program. Today, her history with St. Paul’s Jewish community makes her shlichut all the more meaningful.

“My shlichut means I’m coming full circle,” says Tal Dror, the 22-year-old shlicha serving the Jewish community of St. Paul, Minnesota.

From a young age, Tal grew up in an area of northern Israel that has a partnership with St. Paul’s Jewish community, as well as those of Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a teenager, she studied at the Kadoorie Agricultural High School, which was active in the community partnership.

“The amazing thing about my shlichut is that when I was a girl in Israel, I heard about the community of St. Paul,” she explains. “And when I went for job interviews in the community, it was a great honor for me that they offered me the chance to be a shlicha in St. Paul. I had heard about the community when I was in school. Now I’m here.”

Today, that backstory is just one factor in the personal ties Tal has built with the community she serves – connections that she sees as an essential part of her role as a shlicha.

“Communal life is an integral part of shlichut, and the shaliach’s ability to get to know the community and work with it is an important part of their activity,” she says. “As a shlicha, I see my role as a bridge between the North American Jewish community and Israel.”

Guided by that idea, Tal takes an active role in diverse communal programs and institutions.

“I am involved with a variety of Jewish youth groups in St. Paul. I started teaching Hebrew classes,” she notes. “Last Hannukah, I organized a Hannukah party for young people at my home. I’m also involved in social activities that take place at the local synagogues.”


Fostering Substantive Israel Education

Along with an emphasis on interpersonal relationships, Tal aims to educate community members in order to give them an authentic understanding of Israeli society – even when that means speaking about painful topics.

“I work at a school and run classes that relate to my perspective, which I bring from Israel. Sometimes I talk about my childhood and my adolescence, and sometimes I discuss painful subjects like the loss of a classmate in Operation Protective Edge [the Gaza conflict of 2014],” she explains.

As personal as that loss was for Tal, she sees it as an important story for the local Jewish community to know.

“I was in the graduating class of Nadav Raimond, who was killed in Operation Protective Edge,” she says. “And [local community members] hear about Nadav from me. I am the bridge, and I bring personal stories about him from his parents and friends. Because Israel is built of many personal stories and personal connections.”

Tal has even worked with Nadav’s mother, Yuval, on a project involving collecting recipes for Nadav’s favorite meals.

But as much as she strives to bring the real Israel to St. Paul, Tal is a strong believer that there is no substitute for actually spending time in Israel. She hopes to see more local teenagers do just that – an especially high priority for her in light of the need for Israel advocacy on college campuses.

“One of the goals of shlichut is to bring to Israel adolescents who will become familiar with the State of Israel and experience what happens there,” she states. “They’re the future generation. They’re the ones who are going to colleges where there are many anti-Israel groups. And they’re the generation that will be our advocates (maybe) in the future.”

But as for the present, Tal has only positive things to say about the people around her – members of that same community that she first got to know as a kid. And she hopes to help them feel the same way about Israel.

“The people in the community are hospitable and very warm, and it really is a home away from home, because I am welcomed wonderfully,” she reflects. “It’s important to me for every Jew in St. Paul to know that across the ocean, all Jews have a home. It’s important to me that they feel that connection.”

Learn more about Jewish Agency Shlichim >

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This article was reported by Nathan Roi for The Jewish Agency for Israel

14 Feb 2018 / 29 Shevat 5778 0
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