YAD connects with Israeli Sister City, Kiryat Yam

by | Jul 16, 2018 | Other News

The United Jewish Federation of Tidewater has a special bond with its Israeli sister city, Kiryat Yam. The coastal city is just 12km north of Haifa, and like Norfolk, is also known for its mermaids.

After a mission trip to Israel in 2016, UJFT’s Young Adult Division’s Kiryat Yam committee saw the community’s needs and helped create a Theater Arts and Therapy Program for the Levinson Religious Junior High School.

Joe Ruthenberg, a committee member, says, “It’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to describe one’s experience after visiting Israel for the first time—the food, the history, the feeling of being a place that is unabashedly Jewish—all these things make it a truly special place. I thought my most lasting memories of Israel would be the burnt sienna colored landscapes that engulf you while hiking up to Masada, the cobalt blue waters of the Mediterranean, or the unrivalled gravity and history of Jerusalem.

“While all of those sites where wonderful and moving, my most lasting memories were of the people, and more specifically the people of Kiryat Yam,” says Ruthenberg. “From a rousing Shabbat dinner filled with dancing, singing, a ‘few’ drinks, and enough food to feed an army, we were all immediately welcomed in as family. We toured the preschool, early childhood center, absorption center and both high schools, all places our community has assisted, and saw the progress that was being made, as well as the challenges they were facing.

“The most telling moments where when I had one-on-one interactions with the people of the city, more specifically the children,” notes Ruthenberg. “They shared their hopes and dreams and a desire to make themselves and their country a better place. It was in these moments when I saw the true impact that could be made in the city, not in an abstract way, but in a deeply personal and affecting way. That is what I think our committee and our community as a whole are all about, giving the children of Israel a small boost in achieving their dreams, and in turn helping the city and the country as a whole.”

This program will help benefit underprivileged students who must overcome many barriers to success—poverty, violence, language, and cultural differences— but can thrive with the support of their community and Tidewater’s.