Day 2 Part 1: At the GA
Today the Milwaukee JWRP group, together with a delegation from Milwaukee Jewish Federation attended the GA: The General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. It was an extraordinary experience. We heard from so many impressive speakers. Below is a flavor of just a few of them.
Miriam Peretz, winner of the 2018 Israel Prize spoke to us about how she faced the incredible losses in her life with resiliency. Both of her sons died while serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Her husband, she said, died of a broken hear. Peretz didn't let her grief consume her. Instead she speaks to groups of soldiers, to parents whose parents have been killed, and to people across the country. Her courage, kindness, and faith brought tears to my eyes.
Danna Azrieli told us her story of growing up in Canada, and always knowing that she would someday live in Israel. Her father built Israel's first shopping mall. Today, she runs The Azrieli Group, Israel's largest real estate company operating in the fields of commercial real estate shopping malls, offices, and senior housing. She is helping build the country through her development, through job creation, and through her philanthropy. What an amazing role model.
Marius Nacht, an immigrant from Romania, grew up in a small apartment in Ashkelon. He is an investor and co-founder of aMoon Venture Funds told us about the work he is doing to develop healthtech and life sciences industries in Israel. He believes Israel will be at the cutting edge of this growing field, saving lives and continuing to build the economy of Israel. When we imagine the future of Israel, surely his work will make an incredible impact.
Uzi Hanuni told us that after watching the news about 9-11 and hearing about all the first res ponders who died because they could not communicate with one another, he was determined to create technology that would prevent that from happening again. He build the company Maxtech Networks Ltd. When the soccer players were trapped in a cave in Thailand, he donated communications technology and expert staff to save the lives of the children and their coach. Without this technology, they boys could not have been saved. The Ambassador of Thailand to Israel was there to thank Hanuni on behalf of her country. The creativity and generosity of people like Hanuni are one of many examples of how people in Israel help the world.
Chen Kotler Abrahams told us about how traumatic it is to leave in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, on the board of Gaza. She described the programs used to support children and adults dealing with trauma. After the tragic shooting in Parkland Florida, Israeli trauma specialists were sent to Florida to train the grief counselors there. The vice mayor of Parkland, Stacy Kagan, presented Abrahams with the key to the city. Again, this is one of many examples of how Israel and programs supported by Federations across North America help people around the globe.
After the plenary, we attended break out sessions. I went to a session called, "Can We Talk?: Peace Process Realities in Israel" facilitated by faculty from Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. After opening remarks, there were table discussions about specific texts. We explored by the meaning of "Galut" (exile) and the importance of the two largest Jewish communities in the world (Israel and the US) valuing and understanding one another. This was a rich and deep discussion that provided a lot of food for thought.
At lunch, we joined "A Conversation with Mutasim Ali, Israeli's 1st Darfuri Refugee." He spoke about his experience leaving Darfur because his life was in danger. He decided to go to Israel because he learned about Jews protesting the genocide in Darfur. He decided that the Jewish Homeland would be a safe place for him. He described the enormous challenges he has faced in getting refugee status in Israel (it took 5 years) and also talked about the thousands of refugees in Israel who are in danger of getting deported. To learn more, and to find out how you can help with the refugee crisis in Israel, visit www.israelandasylumseekers.org.
This was the first time I attended the GA. In one day I learned so much about what JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America) is doing for Jews around the world. I am grateful to Milwaukee Jewish Federation for providing us with the opportunity to attend.
Watch for another post about the beginning of our JWRP trip which starts tonight.