Finally, after a COVID-induced pause of almost 3 years, Memphis Jewish Federation Israel trips are back.
On October 20, a delegation of dads from the community, led by staff member Larry Schaffer, embarked on the MoMENtum Dads’ Journey to Israel, where they are enjoying empowering classes and exploring the magic of the country. In late November, 10 moms from Jewish Memphis will make a similar trip, joining women from all over the world for the MOMentum Moms’ Journey, a revitalizing week of self-exploration, unforgettable experiences, and inspiring Jewish learning.
“It’s almost indescribable,” said Bill Naids, a first-time visitor to Israel and a Temple Israel member, from a video dispatch sent from the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City only a few days into the Dads’ Journey. “I’ve always felt a magnetic attraction to the land here. The closer we got to the trip, the more that magnetic attraction increased. But being here has exceeded all of my expectations. The camaraderie with guys has been wonderful. Visiting the Kotel was absolutely moving, the physical embodiment of the spirit we all share, the connection to generation after generation. It’s just overwhelming.”
When asked what advice he would give to others considering joining a Federation trip to Israel, Bill’s answer was immediate and simple: “Run, don’t walk. This is one of the best choices I’ve ever made.”
The Memphis crew, which also includes Richard Faber, Ken Kramer, Jeff Lewis, and David Peterson flew in early, landing in Tel Aviv to make their way to Shoham, Memphis’s partner city. There, they gathered with friends old and new, and enjoyed breakfast at the home of Orli Lehat, the founding Israeli Chair of the Memphis-Shoham Partnership.
The Dads’ and Moms’ Journeys are designed to create connections in the travelers; connections to Israel certainly but also connections to Judaism, connections to Jewish ancestors, connections to family, and connections to the Jewish communities in their hometowns. This is achieved through carefully curated experiences led by hand-picked guides and teachers. From Shoham, the Memphis crew joined almost 200 other men from across North America to begin the Dads’ Journey proper, with a visit to Latrun, the site of a fierce battle during the 1948 war and current home of a tank museum. Next on the itinerary was Tzfat, where they took in the sights and participated in an exercise designed to help the men strengthen important relationships in their lives and grow closer to their loved ones back home.
The exhilarating and emotional tour continued from there with stops at Yad Vashem, Mt. Herzl, and a hike up Masada. Soon they will experience Shabbat at the Kotel, and a final day exploring how their life path will intersect with Tikkun Olam to make a real difference in the lives of their loved ones, in the Memphis Jewish community, and in Israel.
“I hadn’t visited Israel since I was in high school and I was excited to see it all these years later as an adult,” said Men’s Trip leader Larry Schaffer, Donor Relationship Manager for Jewish Community Partners, which manages Memphis Jewish Federation. “It’s amazing to take in the sights, interact with the people, sample the amazing food, and absorb what we were taught by world-class Jewish educators. It’s also special to bond with these five guys, all of whom will be life-long friends.”
In November, 10 Memphis Moms will embark on a similar journey, led by Federation’s Chief Impact Officer & Executive Vice President Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein. Like Bill Naids, most of the women are making their first trip to Israel, a detail that Bluma finds significant.
“It’s exciting to be able to be with them sharing the special experience of first-time Israel visitors,” she said. “It’s also very exciting because it is a spiritually-oriented trip. Even for the women who have been before, they’ve never been on a trip like this, which focuses on their family’s connection to Judaism and to the land of Israel.”
Participants on the Moms’ trip will spend time in Shoham and will be joined on the trip by three Shoham women. From there, they will explore bustling Tel Aviv, experience the spirituality of Jerusalem, feel the mystical power of Tzvat, hike Masada and bathe in the Dead Sea, enjoy Shabbat with former Memphian Chaya Kaplan Lester and her family, visit Jerusalem’s ancient Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, visit Yad Vashem – Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, visit Tzvat’s Mikvek, visit Tel Aviv’s Independence Hall where Israel was created, and more. “I look forward to these fabulous women coming back with a love of Israel, a love of their Judaism, and a love of their role as Jewish mothers and Jewish women in fostering positive Jewish identity in their families,” said Bluma.