This year CJP’s Boston-Haifa Connection hosted five young leaders from Haifa to experience our dynamic and Jewishly diverse pluralistic community in Boston. After a long El Al flight, they immediately had an orientation about the week ahead. Their first stop on what was an incredible week started with a meeting with Barry Shrage, the president of CJP, to discuss the Jewish diaspora in the United States.
Over the course of the week, the mission went to Gann Academy to learn first-hand what a pluralistic Jewish education model looks like in America. One of the group’s most memorable activities was going to Mayyim Hayyim, the pluralistic mikveh in Boston’s Jewish community. It was a moving experience for the mission participants, including three participants who decided to immerse. The group also visited the Ruderman Family Foundation offices and met with the Ruderman family to learn more about the impact the organization has on creating safe and welcoming spaces for the Jewish community’s members with disabilities. The participants were able to learn more about the work the foundation does in day schools, synagogues and beyond—in Hollywood and in Israel.
One of the mission participant’s highlights was a dinner hosted by a Boston-Haifa Connection volunteer leader. The hosts opened their beautiful home to the Haifa Young Leaders, as well as the entire Boston-Haifa Connection committee. Shai, a young leader from Haifa, shared that the dinner was his fondest memory. “It felt like a scene from a movie,” he said. “I never thought I’d be surrounded by so many Jewish leaders in Boston and that they would be so interested in our activities in Haifa.”
The mission then visited the New England Holocaust Memorial together, followed by a different kind of Kabbalat Shabbat at the Riverway Project at Temple Israel of Boston. Together, the Haifa Young Leaders experienced a Shabbat dinner and service with over 200 young adults in the greater community. Another fun opportunity that the group took part in was a havdalah event at Brooklyn Boulders that focused on mindfulness, yoga, virtual reality, music, art making and Jewish tarot-card reading. To Shai, “this was a unique [experience] and an amazing concept. I’m sure that 90 percent of the people there would not go to any Orthodox-style Shabbat, and giving them the option of just being together is an amazing cause and without it, many of them would just stay at home or do nothing that is Jewish at all.”
Before long the week was up, and the Israelis were heading back to Haifa with a new sense of Judaism in America, and lasting connections made in the process. A few of the participants plan on coming back and visiting their new friends in Boston. This is a great example of how these connections have a lasting impact on the participants and the people they meet in Boston.