Israeli Chronicles — Connecting Israel & Cincinnati
For Young Emissary, Making Connections ‘Worth the Risk’ of Leaving Israel
Each September the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati welcomes two new Friends from Israel/Chaverim M’Israel. This year we welcomed Darya Solomon and May From, who will stay through summer 2020. This is the 16th year of the Chaverim M’Israel program, which brings two post-high school teenagers from our partnership city, Netanya, to Cincinnati to share their stories and teach people across the Cincinnati area about Israeli life. This is a Partnership2Gether (P2G) program of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.
I am now three months into my journey: a year of living and breathing American culture, and of sharing some of Israel, too. I thought about celebrating the anniversary of my new, sweet, and exciting relationship with the Jewish community of Cincinnati. I thought about getting flowers—or at least having a slice of chocolate Costco cake. But just as suddenly as the thought occurred, it passed. All of the sudden, after that brief honeymoon phase, I was settled in and looking forward instead of back. Life had become routine—not in a tired or lifeless way, but in a comfortable way that allowed space to take it all in, to think deeper about my values and the things that are important to me. For me, this year is all about gaining independence.
I grew up with my mother Limor, who is a psychotherapist but also part-time Wonder Woman. She taught me compassion, and the importance of love, and how if you give those to the world, it will change your life.
My mother always encouraged me to develop and seek new worlds and ideas. She has always said that our home is a house of learning—not just from books but from the people around us. So, as her only child, I had to bring new people into the house in order to expand the views of our household. I had to make friends. I think this is what made me the person that I am today: one who loves what I do here in Cincinnati.
It is all about stepping outside of my comfort zone and bringing people in.
Throughout the years, my mother and I have developed a very strong connection. She is my person. I tell her everything, and she always has the best advice. The truth is, while life in Cincinnati is usually very interesting and certainly fulfilling, navigating life as a teenager away from home and my family can be pretty hard at times. During those moments, I always want to call my mother and ask for her help working out the challenge. The problem is, at that point, it’s 4 a.m. in Israel, and I don’t want to wake her up, knowing she will go back to sleep feeling helpless that her daughter is across the ocean and struggling, and there is little she can do to help.
In the midst of that struggle, though, is an opportunity to learn to solve problems myself, to use the tools I have acquired over the years to just figure it out. While I’m still early in the process, I have learned to trust myself and my instincts, and I have gained the confidence to be myself and know that is enough.
This lesson could not have come at a better time. This year, this opportunity, this community is the perfect atmosphere in which to grow. Also, this work is the perfect platform to get better at what I’m most passionate about: creating real, meaningful connections with people. Each time we go to Rockwern Academy and have lunch with the kids after class, and each time we teach classes at Kulanu and Mercaz, we have a fresh chance to reach people and bring them in—to Israel, to Judaism, and into community.
I have also been helped by the support of a wonderful host family. From the first day here, Pam and Jim Geller have made me feel at home. Of course it was strange to sleep in a different bed, a different house—all in a different continent—but my three new siblings made me feel part of the clan instantly. I have bonded with Jenna (12) over music, Drew (14) over technology, and Kayla (15) over just being teenagers. It has been amazing to experience how their family opened their hearts and their home to let in a person they had never met.
It is funny how quickly a place can become home. A few weeks ago, the Chaverim M’Israel from Detroit came to Cincinnati to attend an event. Moments after meeting them, I became their official tour guide. I wanted to show them everything in Cincinnati! I felt so proud of our city and so eager to share it.
The Cincinnati community has been so welcoming. It’s been amazing to see how much respect people have for each other and how the sense of kehilah (community) is at the center of daily life. But it goes beyond community for me; I feel like I have an amazing, huge family here in Cincinnati. So sometimes it’s hard: being along in a different country, having left my friends and family behind for something unknown. However, each time I see a child smile because I made them laugh, and each time I fix an issue myself, I feel the rewards of taking that risk.
Thanks for caring about our community and what we do.
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