Friends, this week our Federation marked a bittersweet occasion: We said farewell to our 2017-18 Israeli Young Emissaries, Roni and Tomer. We are so grateful for what they have brought to our community. For this week's Shabbat message, I've asked Heather Fiedler, Vice President of Jewish Education and Leadership and Director of the Greater Hartford Jewish Leadership Academy, to share her reflections on this subject. Shabbat Shalom. - Howard
We are a people of messengers. Since Biblical times, we have been told to go to another land or to scout out a land to see what it is like. This week's Torah portion, Sh'lach, tells of such a story. Moses is told to "Send people to scout the land of Canaan...." (Numbers 13:2). The scouts are to come back with reports about the land, the people, the agriculture, the cities and - in short - everything they can see.
Each year, we host two Israeli Young Emissaries, young adults who bring a piece of Israel to Greater Hartford through the support of Federation's Annual Campaign. Roni Svisa and Tomer Cohen have been with us for the school year and during that time, they have transmitted their love of Israel, a connection to the people, and a delicious taste of Israeli culture to our community's religious school and day school students and countless adults.
Now their time here is done, and soon they will return to Israel. While we learned from Roni and Tomer, they were also "scouting us out" in order to bring their perceptions of the American Jewish community back to the people of Israel.
The scouts in our Torah portion are on their mission for a mere 40 days. When they return to Moses, they report that the Promised Land is beautiful, flowing with milk and honey. But all but two of of the scouts are afraid. They tell Moses that the inhabitants are like giants, "and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them." (Numbers 13:33). This perception has a strong impact on the attitude of the Israelites, making it impossible for them to enter the land at that time.
Fortunately, Roni and Tomer are fearless "scouts," full of vitality and hope. They have been with us for much longer than 40 days - and they have shown us that both Americans and Israelis can grow beyond any initial trepidation to discover the richness of our respective and shared traditions and culture.
We wish Roni and Tomer the best of luck as they return to Israel. We know that they will always be a part of our Greater Hartford family and that it's not goodbye....just L'hitraot.
Vice President, Jewish Education and Leadership
Director, Jewish Leadership Academy
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford
Photo caption: Tomer and Roni celebrate Purim at Solomon Schechter Day School.