Amnon Maggid — Connecting Israel & Cincinnati
A Part of Something Bigger—by Alon Peretz
Alon Peretz is one of our two new Friends from Israel, or Chaverim M’Israel. I am giving him, and our other Chavera, Hadas Silver, some space here regularly to share how their year is going. You’ll also see these posts in the Israelite, and can follow Alon and Hadas’s adventures on Facebook. —Maia
Hi guys! If you’re reading my second blog—welcome back. And if it’s your first time, then welcome aboard! (I’m using that term because I am literally on an airplane as I write this.)
I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’m calling this blog “A part of something bigger.” To help me explain, let’s do something together, ok?
Think about a time you felt you were a part of something bigger than yourself.
I don’t have to think for long about that moment for me. I just came back from a shlichim (Israel emissary) conference in Washington DC.
So what is a shlichim conference, you wonder? (I did too.)
Let me give some background. Right now, there are 300 Israelis whom the Jewish Agency for Israel trained for six months to be shlichim, or Israel emissaries.
Ranging from 18-year-olds like me, to 26-year-olds like our amazing Israel Fellows at Cincinnati and Miami University Hillels, and all the way to people that come from Israel with their entire families, like our amazing community shlicha, Maia Morag—these Israel emissaries come to communities across the US to teach about Israel and to build bridges between the two countries.
When the Jewish Agency trained me for six months, they had a vision—“bringing Israel alive” and “creating a partnership between Jewish communities abroad and the Jewish community in Israel.”
And guess what: I didn’t understand what they meant. (Seriously. Learning psychology was easier for me!)
When those six months were up, I was placed in the best Jewish community. I’ve now been there for three months.
Can you guess which community I am talking about? CINCINNATI of course!
Then, on November 13, I found myself in Washington DC at this shlichim conference. I saw all of my friends—it was so much fun, and it really felt like home.
At dinner one night, I walked into a room with another 300 people who all shared that same vision that the Jewish Agency had articulated to me—“bringing Israel alive” and “creating a partnership between Jewish communities abroad and the Jewish community in Israel.” And that’s when it hit me. Suddenly, it wasn’t just me and hundreds of my friends in that room. It was me and hundreds of my friends who left their homes with the shared goal of “building bridges between communities.”
I felt it from everyone. We were all having the same kinds of experiences. We talked about our love for Israel. We talked about our shared homesickness.
But there were some experiences that I realized were totally unique to my situation as an emissary in Cincinnati:
- Cincinnati is really a special place. It’s the only community where we, the emissaries, get to work with the non-Jewish community in addition to the Jewish community. (I know—we’re so great that it’s hard to share us!)
- Bar Mitzvah! This year, Jewish Cincinnati’s twelfth graders will be the first to graduate having grown up knowing a different Israeli emissary each year, from the time they were in kindergarten. That’s really a powerful thing.
- Partnership2Gether. Through this outstanding partnership platform facilitated by the Jewish Agency for Israel, Cincinnati and Netanya are partner cities. I learned that Cincinnati is the only community of all American partner cities whose emissaries are always from Netanya.
So you’re probably wondering: what happened to feeling a part of something bigger?
Well, I felt it at that conference. I felt part of a much larger Cincinnati community, because, without even realizing it, I was “showing off” Cincinnati to all of my fellow emissaries.
I felt it because I was a part of a group of 300 people who came together because of a vision, not just because we are friends.
I felt it because I am part of an incredible tradition in Cincinnati. The amazing emissaries before me did a great job bringing Israel alive for the same kids I’m teaching today. And that’s not the end, because I know that the emissaries who come after me will do great job, too.
When I got back to Cincinnati, I said something that caught me by surprise. I said, “Ahh, it feels so good to be back home!”
Wait. To be back home? In Cincinnati?
Yes. Cincinnati has become my second home, and the community here has become my family.