Thomas Hofheimer Hineni! Young Leadership Mission returns from Israel

by | Jul 12, 2013 | Featured

Mission participants

Mission participants

After 10 months of leadership seminars, workshops, and discussions, and more than 12 hours of travel, participants of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s 2013 Hineni! Leadership Development program touched down in Israel on Thursday, June 20. For the next six days, the 12 participants of the Tom Hofheimer Young Leadership Mission trip experienced a whirlwind tour of Israel, including sight-seeing, discussions with key Israeli thinkers and heartfelt interactions with recipients of Tidewater funding.

Since last August, the group has gathered once a month to meet with mentors and discuss community development, the importance of tzedakah and Tikkun Olam, and the vital role they will soon fulfill as emerging Jewish leaders.

The mentors, including Sandy Katz from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, well-known leadership trainer Dr. Erica Brown, Miryam Rosenweig from NEXTG en Detroit and other notable leaders, facilitated learning sessions and discussions prior to the trip.

The monthly sessions also encouraged communication within the small group, opening up honest conversations, mutual respect, and eventually, a bond that would come alive during the journey across Israel.

Once in Israel, everyone hit the ground running starting with a visit to Neve Michael in Pardes Hana. Neve Michael is a home for children whom the Israeli government feel should no longer be in the sole, protective custody of their parents. These children, once removed from sub-par living conditions and relocated to Neve Michael, continue their education without missing a beat, and live a day-to-day life as a normal child should: with love and nurturing, having fun and learning, surrounded by the support of a family network of adults, volunteers, and other children just like them.

Tidewater’s Jewish community is a large benefactor of Neve Michael, supporting the center and its mission for nearly two decades. Starting the Mission trip with this site visit was no coincidence; as the group witnessed first-hand the immense amount of good the community offers these children who, without its yearly support, would be lost to the system, or worse, trapped in unacceptable living conditions without consistent access to food, education or love.

The over-arching theme of the importance of community was reiterated throughout the trip: at Yad Vashem (the Israeli Holocaust Museum), at the Western Wall traveling below the modern streets of Jerusalem, treading 2,000-year-old stones, at Pardes Katz seeing the incredible impact of the support shown by the Tidewater Jewish community, and even in a repurposed bunker, high atop the Golan celebrating Shabbat.

After six non-stop days of visiting ancient ruins, experiencing traditional Israeli culture, exploring the wilderness, enjoying authentic Israeli cuisine, learning about shared history and seeing the impact UJFT has in Israel, the week culminated with a group conversation about what had been experienced. Through laughter and tears, the group articulated all that the trip had meant, and about plans to bring what had been learned back to Tidewater.

by Rebecca Bickford