Amnon Maggid — Connecting Israel & Cincinnati
Suit and Changes: My First High Holidays Experience in America—by Alon Peretz
By Alon Peretz, Chaverim M’Israel
About a month ago, I arrived in Cincinnati as one of this year’s Chaverim M’Israel (Friends From Israel). Basically, Hadas Silver (my fellow Chavera) and I will spend the next year building bridges between Cincinnati and Israel by teaching about Israel and making relationships.
So, this was my first month in Cincinnati. So far so good!
Before I came here, I didn’t know what to expect. How hard I will work? How often? Will I have fun? Will I get along with my host family?
But my biggest question was: what do the High Holidays look like in America?
I came with an open mind, and I’ve learned that was the best decision I could have made.
I’m learning so much about Cincinnati—a wonderful community that was very excited to accept me into their family like I was born and raised here.
So far, I have had the opportunity to experience Rosh Hashanah for the first time in a Conservative temple, and let me tell you about my experience:
When I was getting ready to go to the temple, my host family told me I needed to dress fancy. In Israel, I wore my jeans and a nice t-shirt, and that’s it for me. That is being fancy. That is being fancy for the holiday. IN ISRAEL, NOT IN CINCINNATI. So my host family told me that I needed to wear a suit.
In my whole 18 years I HAVE WORN A SUIT ONLY ONCE!!!
So of course I was excited. I felt like I was really playing in the big leagues. I was wearing a suit. And when I changed from jeans into my suit, I’ll be honest, I felt like I had been recruited as the next Men in Black—only I got a better job: being a Chaverim M’Israel!
When I got to the temple, to be honest, I was afraid.
In psychology, when you learn about stress, you learn that one of the biggest causes of stress is change. And for me to walk into a temple where I didn’t know anyone besides my host family and maybe two other people, where I had no idea where the prayer books were … that was CHANGE NUMBER 1.
And then walking into a temple that could actually seat more than 40 people? Boom! I was amazed! And that was CHANGE NUMBER 2.
Also, for the first time, I saw boys and girls sitting together! CHANGE NUMBER 3.
And now, another psychology lesson: When you are stressed you have 2 options: fight or flight. I was either going to be so stressed that I would walk out of the temple because I couldn’t handle it (TOO MANY CHANGES!), or I was going to try to learn more about my new surroundings and appreciate what is so amazing about learning a new culture.
And can you guys guess what I chose?
I chose flight! I am done!! I’m going back to Israel!
Truthfully, it was the most amazing experience of my life. I loved witnessing this new way of doing things, and I feel so grateful to the community for giving me that awesome opportunity.
I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year, and to learning more.
Meanwhile, may the force be with you.
Follow Alon and Hadas’s adventures on Facebook, here.
This September the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati welcomed two new Friends from Israel, Alon Peretz and Hadas Silver, who will stay till the beginning of summer 2017. This year marks the 13th year of the Friends from Israel / Chaverim m’Israel program, which brings two post-high school teenagers from our partner city, Netanya, to Cincinnati to share themselves, and what they know about Israeli life, with people across the Cincinnati area. In 2014 alone, the two chaverim met over 5,000 local kids, teens, and families. They met with 19 non-Jewish organizations, and 55 groups in all.
The Chaverim/Friends of Israel Progam is part of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership2Gether Program, which is one of over fifty programs and agencies funded in part 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, Alon will be here all year, sharing what he knows about Israel and building bridges between our two communities.