Today’s families lead busy lives, but a simple opportunity to communicate with each other — let alone families thousands of miles away — can be a rare delight. “The Same Moon” project has provided just that. Six months ago, the Weintraub Israel Center connected 10 Tucson families who have children ages 4 to 12 with similar Israeli families, in the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Partnership2Gether region of Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon.
The project creates a monthly family pen-pal relationship based on six questions in “The Same Moon,” a picture book written and illustrated by Adi Shacham, the Partnership’s people-to-people coordinator in Israel. The book’s premise is that two families who live in different places and come from different cultures will learn about each other, and along the way, may discover more about themselves.
“We wrote letters, emailed and sent photos,” says Rebecca Crow, Tucson Partnership co-chair along with Ken Miller. Crow and Oshrat Barel, community shlicha and director of the Israel Center, attended Partnership meetings in Israel from June 11 to 14.
The two wanted to meet with Israeli families participating in the Same Moon project. “We didn’t give much notice that we were coming,” says Crow. “All the families opened their homes to us and gave us a few hours of their time.” Those visits “gave us windows into their everyday lives. The families were very forthcoming about their lives in Israel.” One mother brewed beer and offered tastes, while at another visit a child played the violin for them. Crow and Barel brought gifts to the Israeli families from their Tucson correspondents.
For six months, the 10 Tucson families and 10 Israeli families wrote to each other, answering questions such as “How do you celebrate Jewish holidays?” or “What do you do in your spare time?” or “What’s the story of the place where you live?”
“We kind of fell in love with the project,” says Tucsonan Libby Quinn. “We got to sit down as a family, which is rare because we’re all so busy. Nora, my 9-year-old daughter, is so proud of having a friend in another country.” In addition, notes Quinn, writing letters is such a fun, interactive way to learn.
“There are two beautiful goals of this project,” Barel told the AJP. “It gives families quality time to get together and allows them to connect with an Israeli family. Adi did such a great job of matching the families. When Tucson families go to Israel they’ve said they would definitely visit the Israeli families.”
A party celebrating the completion of the six-month project took place Aug. 17 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. Seven of the 10 Tucson families will continue to stay in touch with the Israeli families, says Barel.
“We showed photos of our meetings in Israel” at the JCC party, says Crow. “Some of the kids and adults are even writing separately” to each other now. We’re planning three more parties for the families in Tucson who want to stay connected to each other, as will the families in Israel.”
Gila Silverman, mother of Isaac, age 9, has been writing to the Danieli family of Kiryat Malachi. They have two boys very close to Isaac’s age. Although Silverman has many friends and family in Israel, when she and Isaac were talking about a possible visit to Israel, Isaac asked if they could spend time with “our” family. Isaac explained, “I mean our Same Moon family in Kiryat Malachi.”
“A new connection has been made that will hopefully carry on into the future,” says Silverman.