I&O Department News: September 2022

Summer 2022 Recap – We Are Back and Better Than Ever!

It should come as no surprise that the Israel & Overseas Department has been very busy this summer. First, our 2021-2022 Shinshinim: Amit, Itay, Noa and Ron spent an incredible summer at Tamarack. They oversaw the Jewish Programming specialty area and knocked it out of the park. Due to Covid, this is the first time we’ve been able to have our Shinshinim volunteer at Tamarack since the program started in 2019. After camp ended, the group returned to Israel and are now preparing for their army service. We are very proud of them and beyond grateful for their time here in Detroit. They developed many relationships and close ties with the community. Here’s what Rebecca Starr, one of our host families, had to say about their experience:

“Six months ago, we opened our home to one of our community’s Shinshinim.

Itay Schwartz joined the Starr family in March and instantly became just like our own. My heart is aching after taking him to the airport today, but we know this is just לְהִתְרָאוֹת (lehitraot) and not goodbye because, b”h, we will see him soon in our other home across the ocean.

Not only was it inspiring to watch Itay (and Noa, Amit, and Ron) work to bring understanding, love, and education about Israel to the Jewish community of Detroit and Camp Tamarack, but we were also honored and grateful to watch him connect with our own children, our parents, our synagogue community, and our friends.

Our community is blessed to have four Shinshinim each year, and each one of them brings great leadership, commitment, and wisdom to their work. When we originally agreed to serve as a host family, we thought we were doing the mitzvah. In fact, in turned out that Itay was the one doing the mitzvah. He gave us so much love and honored us by being part of our family. We were really the ones who benefited from his presence. Our sons added a brother, and we added a son. Itay left his home and his country one year ago. He also left his family to come to this community and not only did he serve it well, he added to the size and strength of our family.

My heart is so sad today and yes, there were many tears. His shoes are not by the door, his room is empty, his car is not in the garage, and the basketball hoop lies quiet, there is an empty seat at our table, but I’m also so grateful for this gift of the last six months. We are sending him home but also know that he will always have a home with us as well.”

Two other programs that were brought back for Summer 2022 following a hiatus due to Covid are The Sue & Alan Kaufman & Family Teen Mission and the Israeli Camper Program (ICP). Both were incredibly successful. ICP brought 96 campers from the Partnership Region for a summer of fun at Tamarack, and Teen Mission had over 100 Detroit participants and 18 Israelis from the Partnership Region.

Additionally, thanks to the Davidson Foundation, we sent 33 Detroit young adults to participate in Onward Israel, a summer internship program in Israel. The participants were in internships ranging from sports management to the medical field. When they were not working, they were enjoying traveling around Israel and participating in educational and volunteer activities.

Unfortunately, due to one of those crazy summer Michigan thunderstorms, our annual Ride for the Living bike ride was canceled. The purpose of this ride is to raise funds for the JCC in Krakow, and while it is always an important fundraiser, it is so much more so now, given the war in Ukraine and efforts of the JCC to assist with the 5.9 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland. With 100% of the participation fees going to support the JCC in Poland, we were thrilled that despite the cancellation, almost everyone agreed to donate their participation fee anyway. What an incredible community we live in!

Lastly, in late August, we welcomed our new 2022-2023 Shinshiniot: Aya, Daria, Lihi and Michal. We are so proud of this community for so many host families stepping forward and vying to host these girls. They are settling into their homes and workplaces and would love to meet you at their Meet and Greet on Friday, September 16th (see the information at the bottom of this newsletter).

As the Director of this team, I am humbled by two things – the very hard work of our I & O team who come to Federation every day with a positive attitude and the singular goal of keeping Israel relevant in our community, and the dedication of our volunteers, without whom none of this would be possible due to both their financial contributions but also their leadership of all of the above. Thank you to all of you who are reading this for both!

Jennifer Levine

Senior Director, Israel & Overseas Department