by Mary Sue Grossman, Program Coordinator, The Center for Jewish Life
It was a great reunion for a group of Israeli and Omaha teens in late April when the Israelis traveled to Omaha as part of this year’s Partnership2GETHER Teen-to-Teen Delegation. The Israelis reunited with Omaha teens who visited Israel in late December as part of Temple Israel’s teen trip.
Nine Israeli teens, along with their chaperone, enjoyed the warmth of home hospitality and had a variety of experiences during a whirlwind two-and-a-half-day visit. In a collaboration including Temple Israel and the Center for Jewish Life’s Partnership2GETHER program, Cantor Wendy Shermet, Rabbi Josh Brown and Eliad Eliyahu Ben Shushan worked together in planning the visit.
Activities included meeting with the students at Friedel Jewish Academy and participating in Friedel’s Yom HaShoah service; having a special session and making presentations to the Temple teens; spending a morning and giving presentations at Millard North High School; volunteering at the Food Bank of the Heartland; socializing with teens during bowling, at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Defy Gravity. The visit concluded with a farewell dinner at the home of Cantor Shermet.
“The teen-to-teen programs provide a unique opportunity for Israeli and U.S. teens to learn about their many similarities. Of course they also learn about their differences” said Eliad. “The teens had a terrific time in Omaha, and it was really great to see how well everyone got along. And thanks to social media, they keep connected all the time.” Eliad added “The only complaint I heard was the kids said they didn’t have enough time with their Omaha friends!”
From Omaha, the Israeli teens traveled to Youngstown and Canton, OH before returning to Israel. Eliad, in his role as Partnership Education Coordinator, helped plan those visits as well.
“We loved having the chance to meet the kids who our teens spent time with in December” commented Susie Norton. “Being able to return the home hospitality that Justin had during that time was such a pleasure, and it was wonderful to watch the kids together. I am sure these friendships will last for years.”
Cantor Shermet agreed with Susie’s comments as well. “Seeing the kids together again was such fun” said Cantor Shermet. “We wish the visit could have been longer and look forward to keeping the connections going.” Cantor Shermet also reports that since returning from their Israel trip, the Temple Israel teens raised $1,000 for the two soup kitchens at which they volunteered in Israel – The Jaffa Institute and Machsan Ahesed in Nahariya.
For Rabbi Brown, this was a chance for him to meet the Israelis the Temple teens had been talking about since December. “Experiencing the connections these kids have in person was great. The energy and ideas they have together – not to mention the fun – is just what we wanted everyone to gain from this program.”
Providing home hospitality for the teens were Susie and Mike Norton, Cindy and Brian Stoneking, Tami Field and Larry Gendler, November and Steve Eisenberg, Larry Budwig and Cantor Shermet and Len Burrell. Also helping with the visit were Sharon Comisar-Langdon, Toby Fellman, Henry Ginsburg, Shari Hess, Randy Langdon and Joan Marshall.
Partnership2GETHER, a program of the Jewish Agency for Israel, promotes people-to-people relationships between Israel and communities throughout the world. Omaha is one of 12 cities in the U.S. partnering with the city of Akko and the Matte Asher region in northern Israel, sharing cultural, social, medical, educational and economic programs. Omaha’s Partnership programs are coordinated by the Center for Jewish Life. For more information on Partnership, call 402.334.6445. For information on Temple Israel’s teen programs, call 402.556.6536.