Under rabbinic supervision
Leroy and Bobbie Feig waited two years for Congregation Anshei Israel’s Rabbi Robert Eisen to lead another congregational tour to Israel, which he did from June 18 to 29. Just as the rabbi is inspired by seeing Israel through the eyes of others, the Feigs wished to do the same through their grandchildren’s eyes. They hoped to instill in these five youngsters, ages 11-16, the importance of their Jewish roots and to inspire their own love for our homeland.
The couple took their entire family — 13 of the 19 mission participants. This was Leroy and Bobbie’s third trip to Israel. Each of their three grown children had traveled on Israel teen trips — Betsy (Lawful) (of Scottsdale) through United Synagogue Youth, Marc (Scottsdale) with the American Zionist Youth Federation, and Dan with the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization. Planned by Israel Maven Tours Ltd. and led by an “exceptional” Israeli tour guide, the itinerary took them from Ammunition Hill to Akko, Mount Bental to Rabin Square.
On their “unforgettable” list:
* watching Chasidim and soldiers dance the hora at the Western Wall at Kabbalat Shabbat
* receiving a warm welcome and dinner
reception at Shevet Achim, CAI’s sister synagogue in Gilo
* listening to Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent and analyst for the Jerusalem Post, give a political update
* rafting down the Jordan River and riding a jeep in the Galilee
* packing food baskets for needy families at The Jaffa Institute in Tel Aviv
* seeing the changes of the last 15 years in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv and an expanded Yad Vashem in Jerusalem
Some CAI “kids,” who grew up in Tucson and made aliyah, met the group during the trip: Max Gan, Emily Singer (now Hurvitz) and Allison Abraham. During the 11-day mission, Leroy and fellow traveler Anne Landesco celebrated birthdays. Rabbi Eisen’s daily blogs gave commentary and insight to those back home who were following the entourage so they felt as if they were part of the journey.
UA Birthright sojourn
Taglit-Birthright Israel is celebrating its Bar/Bat Mitzvah this year. (The first Birthright flight landed at Ben Gurion airport on Jan. 4, 2000.)
For 10 days in May, Rabbi Yossi Winner, of Chabad at the University of Arizona, led 40 UA students on a Birthright trip organized by Mayanot, one of the largest tour providers. Many Mayanot groups include the presence of a campus rabbi, bringing an educational and spiritual dimension to the Israel experience. Rabbi Winner cited highlights such as hiking Masada, touring ancient Jerusalem, visiting the holy city of Tsfat, celebrating a spirited Shabbat at the Kotel, and watching the history of the Jewish people unfold in front of young Jewish college students.
What touched Winner personally was officiating at the B’nai Mitzvah of seven students at the Kotel. On Thursday, May 17, the group celebrated — donning tefillin for the first time, praying, singing, lifting each celebrant on a chair, each giving the customary Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech. “The theme was Israel, the backdrop was the Kotel, and the thousands of guests and soldiers at the Wall were their families!” Winner exclaimed.
Tucsonan Daniel Marks, 20, a UA junior studying creative writing, was one of the B’nai Mitzvah celebrants. “I knew that this was my opportunity to finally become a man in
Judaism and I seized it,” he said. Daniel continued: “Our spectacular trip was jam-packed with creative bonding activities that crafted 40 individuals into one cohesive unit.”
Boaz Cohon and Daniel Lapidus, juniors at Catalina Foothills High School, traveled on the North American Federation of Temple Youth’s Adventure in Israel. For four weeks, the two traversed the country, encountering fun, friendship, and transformative Jewish growth experiences.
Adina Artzi and Shelby Kotz, also CFHS juniors, spent 10 days in Poland followed by six weeks in Israel, as part of the Ramah Seminar. In Poland, the Ramahniks learned about the vitality of Jewish life prior to the Holocaust and the atrocities committed during World War II, before landing in Israel to continue digging deeper into their Jewish heritage and identity.
Earlier this month, Eli Peskin-Owens, a recent Tucson High Magnet School graduate, left for Israel on Nativ’s college leadership program. This gap year combines academics and volunteer work. For the first four months, Eli will study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem; during the second semester, he will live at Kfar Hasidim Youth Village, near Haifa, performing community service.
Shlichim Daniel Saban, 21, and Ravit Rokach, 20, served as summer camp counselors through the Jewish Agency for Israel at the Tucson Jewish Community Center’s Camp “J.”
Both Israeli emissaries have completed their compulsory military duty. Daniel, from Kiryat Tivon, was a commander of new soldiers, helping to prepare flight material for the pilots. Ravit, of Rishon Letzion, served in a unit in charge of civilians who work for the army.
During the 10-week camp period, Daniel
interacted with mostly 13- to 15-year-old campers, while Ravit acted as the Israeli culture specialist. Halfway through, they reversed roles. Both Israelis bonded with each other, their fellow staff and their host families, who included Tiffany and Neal Brock, Robin and Art Cohen, Melissa Oberman-Hall and Garrett Hall, and Suzanne Baron Helming and Bruce Helming.
A decade of directorship
On July 20, during alumni weekend at Camp Charles Pearlstein in Prescott, Jodi Woodnick was honored as the camp’s director for the past 10 years. Woodnick, née Tilsner, is a Tucson native who grew up here and graduated from University High School, She attended the University of Arizona as a psychology major and received her master’s degree in social work from Arizona State University. Jodi was a CCP camper for several years before meeting her future husband, Gregg, who was also a counselor. The couple now resides in Scottsdale with their two young children.
The camp is owned and operated by Congregation Beth Israel of Scottsdale. During the alumni weekend, the camp was rededicated and renamed Camp Daisy and Harry Stein, following a major gift pledged by CBI member Jay Stein to honor his parents, Daisy and Harry Stein of Tucson. The camp will be informally known as Camp Stein.
Over the years, Tucson has sent a sizable contingent of campers to CCP. This past summer, the camp sent its first group of campers to Israel on The Big Trip Israel. About 30 teens now in 11th grade participated. No Tucsonans were among the travelers; however, upcoming eligible campers aspire to be on that bus in future years.
Preparing to serve
Israeli-born Tucsonan Shoham Ozeri, 18, a 2011 Tucson High Magnet School graduate, flew to Israel in mid-August to voluntarily join the Israeli army. Shoham, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, explains her motivation: “If I didn’t have this experience, I wouldn’t feel like a complete Israeli.” She will join the Israel Defense Forces through Tzofim Garin Tzabar, an IDF progam for Israelis who left the country as children and are now “lone soldiers,” without a local family support system. Following preparation in the United States, her group of 31 will live on a kibbutz from August to October, studying Hebrew and transitioning into Israeli life. Once assigned to an army base, they will return to the kibbutz on weekends as their home away from home. As a returning Israeli, in exchange for her two-year military service, Ozeri will be eligible for four years of tuition at an Israeli university. May she go in peace and return in peace.
Time to share
It’s a new year for all. Keep me posted at the Post — 319-1112. L’shalom.