July 11: Teen Mission Meeting Recap

July 11, 2014 | jewishde

Dear Teen Mission Parents,

Thank you for your support at yesterday’s meeting.  We can take pride as a community in our coming together for honest discussion and sharing at this difficult time.  If you were unable to attend, we would like to provide you a summary of the meeting.

The meeting was facilitated by Scott Kaufman, Detroit Federation CEO, and Rabbi Josh Bennett, Temple Israel, TM14 Clergy Adviser.  Other local community clergy also provided remarks, including Rabbi Aaron Bergman, Adat Shalom Synagogue, Rabbi Michael Moskowitz, Temple Shir Shalom, and Rabbi Aaron Starr, Congregation Shaarey Zedek.  Sherri Ketai, TM14 Chair, and Larry Tisdale, Advisory Chair, also participated.

From Israel, updates were given by TM14 Staff Team members Rabbi Daniel Schwartz, Temple Shir Shalom; Rabbi Jen Lader, Temple Israel; Rabbi Ariana Gordon, Temple Israel, Beni Levine, Lead Guide, and Danielle Longo, JFMD TM14 Coordinator.  Naomi Rockowitz, JFMD Director of Missions and Joe Perlov, President of Israel Experts, the TM14 Trip Provider, also participated.

The introductory remarks noted  that the safety and security of our community teens is the mission’s number one priority.  Should the situation worsen, contingency plans are in place.  The Federation has already begun working with our travel agent should it be necessary to shorten the mission.  It is expected that travel home could be within 2 days.  The professional and clergy team in Israel and Detroit are working closely together to monitor the mission and in making decisions best for the teens.

The mission team in Israel reported that there is a good atmosphere among the teens, that they trust the staff and feel confident that the staff are taking extra steps for their safety.  Our trip provider and Federation are monitoring other youth groups currently in Israel, which are also under the same security guidelines as the Teen Mission.  Other groups are also being positioned in the south and north.  No groups have left Israel.  Travel is by authorized routes only.

The following questions were included in those asked by parents:

  • What do the teen participants know about the situation in Israel?  Although we understand they are physically safe, what is their mental state of mind?  Do the teens have access to internet for the news?  Staff reported that they are being honest with the teens, always offering them an opportunity to meet with their counselors.  The staff has been open with the teens when making necessary changes to the program.  The teens do not have access to the internet, but the guides have presented a special briefing sharing honest news, without going into great detail.
  • What is the imminent danger for our teens?  Scott Kaufman noted the success of Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor, Air Defense System,  which has shot down the vast majority of Palestinian rockets it engaged during this week’s surge of Gaza fighting.  The current mission location, furthest south in Israel near Eilat, and the anticipated location for next week’s itinerary, in the North of Israel near Tiberias and Federation’s Partnership Region in the Central Galilee, are considered the best locations out of missile range.

Parents expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet in person and to be educated about the situation in Israel, and shared a sense of comfort following the discussion.  They stated their confidence in the experienced and professional Federation staff, mission team on the ground in Israel with the teens, and local clergy.

Some parents noted that their teens had expressed via phone “don’t make me come home”!  Federation responded that while this vote of confidence was greatly appreciated, JFMD reserves the right to make this decision for the mission, rather than by the teens!

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Amy Neistein, Director of Federation’s Israel & Overseas Department, aneistein@jfmd.org or 248-205-2543.

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