Amnon Maggid — Connecting Israel & Cincinnati
Purim Came Early: Chavera Experiences First American Holiday—Liat Falah
Each September the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati welcomes two new Friends from Israel/Chaverim M’Israel. This year we welcomed Liat Falah and Stav Barkai, who will stay through summer 2018. This is the 14th year of the Friends from Israel/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 program is part of Partnership2Gether (P2G) at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.
By Liat Falah, Friend from Israel/Chavera M’Israel, Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
I don’t know why… but Purim came four months early this year!
Even as I settle into life in the United States, I keep learning new things about American culture. Purim, of course, is the Jewish version of Halloween. Sort of. Halloween is a holiday American Jews are familiar with, but one that was surprising to me as an Israeli.
All Jewish holidays are based on stories from the Torah, and commemorate important events in history or teach important lessons. Purim recognizes when Esther defeated a plot to kill the Jews in Persia. It is a joyous holiday, where people often dress up and party. Kids wear costumes to school and hand out candies and cards to their friends. Esther’s story reminds us to make the world a better place by standing up for what is right.
I’m still not sure what the meaning of Halloween is or why people dress up in the United States on October 31, but it’s definitely a fun and unique holiday! My host family told me Halloween actually has Christian roots, but I decided to embrace this American experience, and jumped right in and celebrate my first American holiday. Fortunately, my host sister agreed to go trick-or-treating with me.
All the kids in the neighborhood were wearing costumes and going house to house, asking for candy. The adults were all sitting outside their houses, wearing several layers of clothing, holding big bowls of candy, and waiting for the big question: “Trick or treat!”. Some even had bonfires!
I didn’t want to miss out on my first (and maybe only) Halloween experience, so I threw together a last minute costume—a “Greek god”—and walked around the streets of Wyoming with my host sister. We were back home five minutes later to grab our jackets.
It was fun to see all the neighbors sitting outside together, celebrating this holiday, willing to give candy to cute, dressed up kids; and, surprisingly, more than happy to give candy to two teenagers in costumes hidden under their jackets! I got way too much candy, but I really enjoyed the people and the environment, and without a doubt, had a great first Halloween experience—an experience unlike anything in Israel!
When I came to the United States, I thought I would be the one doing the teaching. My job is to teach people about Israeli life and culture. I’m doing that, of course, but in the process, I’m learning just as much—if not more—about American culture.
Next learning experience… a signature American holiday—Thanksgiving!
The Chaverim M’Israel are hosted in homes by community members. The experience of hosting is as enriching for the families as it is for the chaverim. Israel is now a part of each family. And each family shares a son/daughter in Israel. If you want to learn more about hosting an Israeli teen in your home—for shorter experiences or as a chaverim host, or to bring the chaverim and their story to you—please contact Sharon Spiege, Program Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to this year’s host families: Brett and Noah Stern, Felicia Zakem and Ken Heldman, Allyson and Jeremy Richards, and Michael Zaretsky and Adrian Parr.
Check out more about our local Emissaries from Israel, or about Partnership2Gether, a local program of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
The chaverim program and Partnership2Gether is funded and administered by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.
The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati: We look at the whole picture, taking into account the diverse needs of the entire community. Together we can do almost anything.
Thanks to you and the help of our partner agencies, like Jewish Agency for Israel, people like Liat are able to meet about 5,000 kids, teens, and families. They teach in both Jewish and non-Jewish schools and organizations across Greater Cincinnati.