A few months ago, an invitation to attend the dedication of a new house of worship in Yokneam, Israel appeared in my inbox. I was flattered and touched. It was not taken lightly or for granted.
I was introduced to Dana and Dassi — and their start-up — about six years ago through my work with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. I immediately admired and was impressed with these young, smart, determined women who fiercely believed in the need for religious pluralistic opportunities in Israel. But I cringed inwardly over the uphill battle that surely lay ahead of them — as secular Jewish Israeli women — along the path to secure a spiritual home and build a following for Ohel Menashe (Tent of Menashe), a Traditional/Conservative (Masorti) congregation. I vowed to support their efforts through the allocation of any resources within my power to give. And so began our relationship.
As predicted, Ohel Menashe suffered many challenges over the years. One of significance included the inability to find appropriate real estate within which the Kehillah could grow and thrive. In addition to their efforts and others’, even I had several meetings with the mayor of Yokneam attempting to gain his help and support. At long last however, an acceptable place was found and its dedication was to be held this evening.
When the invitation came, along with a request for me to offer remarks at the ceremony, I knew I had to attend this auspicious event in Israel. I wanted to attend. It especially mattered because, even though I no longer work at the Federation, I still am — and still am considered to be — a loyal friend of Ohel Menashe. More importantly, I wanted my presence and words to reflect the deep roots and connections between Jews in America and those in Israel, and the imperative to fight for religious freedom and acceptance for all.
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It was a challenge to get to Israel for this trip. Due to inclement weather, I missed two different connecting flights (Delta and Air France) out of New York’s JFK airport. I made the third option (El Al) with 10 minutes to spare, but my suitcase did not. And I didn’t care (thankfully I had my make up in my carry-on!!). By the time I boarded the nine-plus-hour flight, I already had been enroute for nine hours and was totally exhausted. I was thrilled that I would get to Israel with plenty of time to get some toiletries and a flat iron (thanks, Randi!), a hot shower, a good night’s sleep, and then a train-ride to meet my friends.
When I finally arrived in Yokneam late this afternoon, no one cared that I was wearing the same outfit from yesterday and the day before. I was happy and relaxed. All that mattered was that I was here to celebrate with a community that has become my home-away-from-home.
Now, in my friend Bernice’s guest room, I’m happily looking forward to a relaxing weekend with family and more friends…and to being reunited tomorrow with my long-lost suitcase full of fresh clothes.