By Shep Englander
Core to The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee’smission is to “promote supportfor Israel.” There is nothing morepowerful than experiencing Israel firsthand. Over the decades, our Federation has led countless trips to Israel for a broad range of participants, including teens, young adults, committed supporters, families, regional civic leaders and elected officials, as well as interfaith trips with Christian clergy. We are always looking for new and creative ways to help members of our community experience Israel, including joining in various national efforts.
Six years ago, one of our young community leaders, Julie Green, heard about the MOMentum Israel trips designed to help mothers raising Jewish children bring Jewish knowledge and tradition into their homes. MOMentum brings together Jewish moms who have children under 18 from communities across North America and around the world. The local group commits to a year of Jewish study when they return. Eventually, moms who found the trip very meaningful and inspiring requested a trip designed for their husbands and MoMENtum was born. In October, a group of local dads traveled to Israel on a MoMENtum trip. One of our participants, Nick Sakellarios, shared, “The three most important things for me on this trip were getting to know other likeminded members of our local Sarasota Jewish community; witnessing the remarkable growth and progress Israel continues to make; and sharing the trip with Israeli participants who were on our bus and brought the country to life with their personal stories and life experiences.”
Brian Hersh said, “The resilience and innovation of the Jewish people from thousands of years ago through today was evident.”
Nevin Hofing added, “I had no idea I would feel the heartfelt emotions I encountered during this past week. Tears of love and joy found their way out of my eyes at some point every day.”
Our Federation took the opportunity to supplement the MoMENtum core itinerary with a two-day “pre-trip” in Tel Aviv that included visits with grassroots Israeli organizations with which our Federation has had enduring relationships. Our group volunteered to pack rescued food – fresh food from farms, hotels, etc. – at the headquarters of Leket Israel, Israel’s national food bank. Leket distributes the food to hundreds of thousands Israeli Jews and Arabs in need every week. The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee has been an enduring funder of Leket Israel, as has Temple Emanu-El of Sarasota.
We also visited the Beit Daniel Center, one of the largest non-Orthodox Jewish congregations and learning centers in Israel. We are proud that Beit Daniel was founded by Ruth and Gerry Daniel z”l, who lived in Sarasota for decades. Gerry was a long-time, passionate member of our Federation’s Board of Directors. The Daniel Center also brought Sarasota’s Embracing Our Differences program to Israeli schools to endow the values of equality, tolerance and inclusion of each other, by recognizing our shared humanity.
The group ended the trip with several commitments, including continuing the relationships we built with periodic reunions. Some participants committed to rekindle some Jewish practices that they missed. And many committed to return to Israel with loved ones in the near future because the more you see of Israel, the more you want to see. And our Federation remains committed to help community members experience the wonders of Israel.
For more information about MoMENtum, MOMentum or Federation mission trips, please contact Trudi at 941.706.0037