As a “numbers” guy, Bob has mastered an understanding of the local impact of dollars raised to support group homes, the Jewish Social Service Agency, Jewish day school sand JCCs for example. But for someone so involved and knowledgeable about The Jewish Federation, Israel didn’t originally play a part in his Jewish life and identity.
Until about five years ago, Bob thought of Israel as “over there.” But when his daughter, Erica, attended the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, he caught her enthusiasm for the Jewish state. Now, inspired by his daughter (and later his son, Adam, who participated in the Maccabiah Games in Israel), Bob discovered a new-found interest in the homeland.
So when Bob was offered a chance to visit Israel for the first time in more than 50 years as co-chair of the Faces Track of The Jewish Federation’s Israel Your Way Mission in 2013, he enthusiastically said, “YES!” He was told, and he agreed, this was a great opportunity, consistent with what he does for the local community. He was convinced that he needed to see how the “community” extends to Israel as well.
The last time he traveled to Israel was several years before his bar mitzvah, so this trip “felt like the first time all over again.” Bob and fellow participants visited the Western Wall amid jubilant Shabbat singing and dancing and felt a powerful connection that was only enhanced at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, where he heard speeches from Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, and Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The group visited an Ethiopian Jewish community and stopped at the Bialik Rogozin School, an educational melting pot for children from more than 40 countries.
According to Bob, this trip was a transformational experience, one that expanded his knowledge about the State of Israel, gave him a deeper understanding of its people, politics and ways of life and a better understanding of the important impact that The Jewish Federation programs make in the lives of so many.
In light of his experience, Bob is paying it forward—organizing, with his wife Holly—a Federation trip for adults who have never been to Israel, or haven’t been in a long time. Titled “Israel First (or again),” the October, 2014 mission will replicate the highlights of his recent trip.
“It feels good to put my energy into the Jewish community,” he says, explaining that the volunteer work influences others to become involved—from his family to his friends. And, as his own experience has shown, passion for the Jewish community is contagious.