It's hard to get excited about Tu B'shvat when it occurs between two snow storms and spring seems so far away. We try to connect with this lovely holiday celebrating trees and our connection to Israel. The time-honored tradition of holding special Seders where we eat special fruits and nuts typically grown in Israel is one way of maintaining our connection to our traditions and our Jewish homeland.
But with modernity comes change - and this year brought a whole new twist on Tu B'Shvat to our Jewish community. For nearly 20 years, your contributions to Federation's Annual Campaign have helped to bring the Israeli Young Emissaries program to Greater Hartford. Young Israeli high school graduates are selected from a large pool of applicants and trained to perform a year of service in a Jewish community abroad before starting their military service. Each year, two wonderful young people from our sister region of Afula-Gilboa spend a year with us, introducing Israel to our young people and our community. We often call them a "living bridge."
In this spirit, this year our two Young Emissaries, Eliav and Noam, decided to do something special for Tu B'Shvat. They helped students at the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy create a beautiful wall hanging that the students entitled "What Israel Means to Me." Then, since Tu B'Shvat coincided with the emissaries' winter visit to Israel, Eliav took the wall hanging to Maalot Nissim elementary school in Afula, where the students proudly hung it as a permanent reminder of their connection to our community.
But that's not the end of the story. For the past month, students at the two schools have been corresponding and getting to know each other, sharing letters and small gifts. They are learning that although they may speak different languages, they have more in common than they first imagined. And beautiful relationships are forming.
During this past week, the students finally got to meet each other as they all participated in a Tu B'shvat Seder via Skype. It was a digital, 21st-century living bridge - connecting schoolchildren from across the globe and strengthening their bonds as young people and as Jews. We hope these positive connections will last a lifetime.
The Federation is so grateful for the support we receive from our community that allows such beautiful, positive and constructive programs to occur. Thank you for making this living bridge a reality.
President and CEO