Jenna Langert, 23, a 2014 University of Arizona graduate, is currently pursuing a two-year Master of Arts degree in international economics and finance at the Brandeis International Business School. Her specializations are in data analytics and business economics.
Jenna traveled to Israel May 18-28 as part of the Hassenfeld Fellow Overseas Immersion Program. At Brandeis, she was one of 20 students selected to participate in a half-semester course focused on the culture and economy of Israel. In Israel, their studies were based on the book “Start-up Nation,” which discusses why Israel is at the forefront of entrepreneurship. The group visited cultural sites, met with an official from Bank of Israel, Israeli venture capitalists and Ben Gurion University MBA students, and viewed presentations by MassChallenge Israel and other high-tech start-ups.
This sojourn gave Jenna a different perspective than previous trips to Israel, which included family travel, a Tucson Hebrew Academy eighth-grade trip, and a USY Spain/Israel Pilgrimage. In the future, she hopes to work with Israeli start-ups, having experienced through this fellowship the abundance of entrepreneurial opportunities there.
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A year ago, Barry Weisband joined the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona staff as director of planning and partner relationships. This summer, he spent time in our Partnership2Gether region, getting to know and better understand the Kiryat Malachi-Hof Ashkelon area. He met the people, connected and assisted with overseas programs, and saw firsthand what our money does for project recipients. Adi Shacham, the partnership’s People2People coordinator, arranged his June 24-26 itinerary, and Dvora and Freddi Attal served as his host family in Kiryat Malachi.
On this trip, Weisband attended the Jewish Agency for Israel’s General Assembly and Board of Governors three-day meeting in Tel Aviv and another full day of meetings with JAFI and the JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) in Jerusalem. During this working vacation, he spent Shabbats with his brother and family in Jerusalem and got to “hang out” in Haifa as well.
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One might say it was beshert (“meant to be”) that in August 2014, Joey Poreda traveled to Israel with Taglit-Birthright Israel … and stayed.
His mother, Marcy, explained that Joey, 23, a Mountain View High School graduate, had experienced challenging teen years. In Tucson, he had no sense of purpose and was just getting by. She and Joey’s grandmother from Chicago encouraged him to travel on a Birthright trip. Marcy and her husband, Ken, instructed their son: “If something happens and you find your passion in Israel, stay. There is nothing to come back to.” And that’s exactly what happened. She continued: “Joey took advantage of this small window of opportunity where he had a moment of clarity. It took 11,000 miles for Joey to find himself.”
Joey had a wonderful time on Birthright. In our homeland, he found a new spiritual purpose and renewed passion for life. Marcy called Oshrat Barel, Tucson’s community shlicha (Israeli emissary) and Weintraub Israel Center director, and used family and friends on Facebook as resources. Messages came in, doors opened, and Oshrat connected Joey with Vered Otmy, an artist from our Partnership region. Vered and her husband, Doni, became Joey’s “adopted” family when, in December 2014, Joey became a lone soldier, having recently completed paratrooper training in the Israeli Special Forces. Locally, Rabbi Stephanie Aaron of Congregation Chaverim wrote a letter that had facilitated Joey’s joining the IDF and completing the process of making aliyah. The congregation has also adopted Joey as a lone soldier, sending cards and care packages. According to Marcy, Joey loves the structure, discipline and camaraderie of the Israeli army, and is now a proud Israeli citizen.
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From May 31-June 10, Miriam Zveitel, 19, a Northern Arizona University junior, traveled on Yael Adventures Hi-Gear Taglit-Birthright Israel. This action-packed specialty trip included hiking, climbing, rappelling, rafting, camping and swimming while traversing the country.
Miriam’s highlights: “In Eilat, our group met in the courtyard of our hostel before the Kabbalat Shabbat service. One of the IDF soldiers began to play guitar and everyone started singing along to “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu” (“Indeed it will come, peace upon us”). In that moment, I had never felt so connected to a group of people or foreign country that I had only known for a few short days. My favorite site was the Western Wall, becoming emotional and overwhelmed, standing in the same place my great-grandmother stood praying 39 years before me. This Birthright opportunity was amazing, life-changing, friendship building; a winter reunion is being planned with future Israel travel in our sights.”
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Rachael Weinstein and Madyssen Zarin were chosen as two of five Jewish National Fund Schwartz-Hammer Alexander Muss High School in Israel Impact Fellows. Rachael, an Ironwood Ridge High School senior, and Madyssen, a University High School senior, had visited our homeland previously as tourists and now returned as students. Here are their impressions following the six-week summer program.
Rachael: “Recently back from Israel, not a moment goes by where I don’t think about it. Whether it’s a memory, a feeling, or a text from a friend, HSI is always on my mind. HSI uses the entire country of Israel as a classroom; everyone should have the opportunity to learn about Judaism in this way. One comes home from HSI with not only a better understanding of Judaism but of oneself and others. I did things that I never thought possible, met people I will cherish for the rest of my life, and most importantly, I reconnected with my religion and people. I miss Israel every day but will always have the memories of this magical journey.”
Madyssen: “We began our studies at the biblical period and chronologically worked our way forward to the modern era. With each time period or major event, we traveled to the site. There was an unspeakable awe about the magnificence of standing in Tel Gezer upon the ruins of King Solomon’s building, seeing a replica of the second oldest piece of Hebrew writing while simultaneously learning of its importance. Between educational trips, we spent our days in the classroom, on the streets of Hod HaSharon, and in each other’s rooms, learning more about ourselves than one another. While I was lucky enough to have had a Jewish education prior to this trip, I loved watching other teens find their connection to the land, people and culture. I loved the freedom we were given which enabled many of us to mature and truly feel like an Israeli teen. Not only did I learn about Jewish history, spend six amazing weeks traveling, gain a great addition for college applications, and make tons of friends, but I found myself and my personal connection to Israel.”
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Michaela Davenport’s love for Israel has been apparent. She traveled on the 2013 March of the Living trip to Poland and Israel, participated in Young Judaea’s 2014 Machon in Israel teen summer program and is now attending Young Judaea’s Year Course, a traditional gap year experience. Michaela, a 2015 Sabino High School and Hebrew High graduate, will split her nine months between four months studying in Jerusalem (taking academic courses for credit), four months volunteering in Bat Yam, and one special interest month exploring Israel. Go in peace and return in peace.
Time to share
Those are a sampling of Tucsonans’ recent (and current) sojourns in Israel. A happy, healthy New Year to all and keep me posted on your news — 319-1112. L’shalom.