What I like best about my job is the fact that I don’t have to spend too much time on precise planning, sophisticated predictions, and scientific expectations.
The pioneering spirit in our MetroWest community led us to set the stage of partnerships and connections, lay the foundations for intuitive activities, and to create the platforms for many unpredictable results. Now, we only have to provide the encounters and treasure the magical moments that they produce. I’d like to suggest that these unexpected moments have the strongest influence on people and communities, much more than many of the fine tuned, carefully planned structured programs. Let me give you some examples to demonstrate my claim:
● Our Peoplehood project, now a nationally recognized signature project, began as an unplanned endeavor. We only knew that if we brought together, in a meaningful way, a group of American Jews from New Jersey and a group of Israeli Jews from Ofakim-Merchavim in order to ignite the spark of their souls and identity, good things would happen. And they have.
The most unexpected moment of this most unplanned project happened at the Mt. Herzl cemetery. There, where many of the fathers and mothers of Zionism are buried next to hundreds of our sons and daughters who are IDF casualties, an earth-shaking moment took place that shaped the identity, understanding, and commitment of all of the Peoplehood participants to Israel and to each other. Through the eyes of their peers, they discovered an entirely different perspective that united them as one.
Recently, there was a disputed advertising campaign by the State of Israel aimed at encouraging Israelis living abroad to return to Israel. Diaspora Jewish communities were offended by the way it was presented and complained. Prime Minister Netanyahu decided immediately to stop the campaign. Lots of op-eds, posts, and articles were written about this incident as it was a reflection of many of the issues that divide us.
However, I didn’t feel that we were really talking about it. A few separate monologues do not create a dialogue. My point is that such issues should be dealt with in a candid, direct, and honest way, hopefully face to face and not via Facebook. Our Peoplehood project participants from both sides of the ocean were doing exactly that on Mt. Herzl and thereafter. That is why they can’t be divided again.
● The Israel Center of MetroWest is an umbrella platform for all Israel-related committees and departments in our community. It includes the Israel and Overseas Committee, Religious Pluralism Committee, Partnership 2gether Committee, the Legow Family Israel Program Center, and the MetroWest Israel office. Together we have built a very solid living bridge between our New Jersey community and our partnered communities in Israel. Now that we have the bridge, let’s just help people cross it. We don’t have to plan too much. The results will appear and the unpredictable moments will shine.
My personal moment was a couple of weeks ago when I suddenly realized that in the upcoming month of March, no less than 150 people will cross our MetroWest bridge and meet with their peers on the other bank. They are participants in five of our Israel Center programs: ICE, MWG4, DTF, Gvanim, and Mifgash. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t recognize the names or acronyms of these programs, just know that there is always something going on at the Israel Center that can fit your needs. And yes, don’t plan so much. Just come and we promise that the unpredictable magic moment will happen.
● For many years the MetroWest Religious Pluralism subcommittee has been a national leader in promoting pluralism and religious tolerance in Israel. Over the years the committee has taken some active advocacy actions but there is nothing like the personal connection. When a member of our greater community is facing a difficult moment, we feel the pain.
Rosie Davidian from Merchavim experienced such a moment when the rabbi who conducted her father’s funeral didn’t allow her to deliver a eulogy during the ceremony. Things like that happen on a daily basis all over the country. However, when I reported to MetroWest about Rosie, I planned the unpredictable. I didn’t have to say much. The community leadership immediately felt as if they were personally hurt. E-mail chains were created. A moving letter to Rosie and to the leadership of the region was sent out. These leaders will have to pay serious attention to it as they know that this is not just some lip service from American Jews who are far away physically and spiritually. It came from the heart of the same MetroWest leadership that arrived to the region during Operation Cast Lead to support this community under fire.
● BJ Reisberg is our new Partnership 2gether (formerly P2K) chair. A few weeks ago, I took him to our partnership region of Ofakim-Merchavim for a day of orientation. Three times during that day, three different people from three different backgrounds and age groups, without being asked, told him the following (and almost the same) thing:
“The most meaningful, constructive, and moving peoplehood moment for them as Israelis in Ofakim-Merchavim was when they were under fire during Operation Cast Lead and a delegation from MetroWest came to visit and volunteer, while rockets were being launched on the region.”
They didn’t know that BJ’s wife, Linda, was one of the delegates of this heroic delegation. BJ still thinks that we planned these moments, instructed the people to show up during the day, and practiced this sentiment with them. Of course we didn’t. We just planned the unpredictable.