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Old and young share their experiences of Israel.

Carolyn Weisberger of Farmington Hills locks hands with Ashley Weisberg of West Bloomfield as they tell a tale they both can relate to. (Photo by Jerry Zolynsky)
Carolyn Weisberger of Farmington Hills locks hands with Ashley Weisberg of West Bloomfield as they tell a tale they both can relate to. (Photo by Jerry Zolynsky)

This winter, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit organized two very special trips to Israel, one for young adults and the other for Jewish seniors. Life-changing experiences in Israel brought these two groups together on Sunday, Feb. 10, when participants were able to congregate and speak about the importance, meaning and beauty they found in Israel.

NEXTGen Detroit, a branch of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, in collaboration with Hillel of Metro Detroit, supports community Birthright trips to Israel every summer and winter for young adults (ages 21-26) who have not yet been on a peer trip to Israel. This winter, 39 Detroiters participated in a Birthright trip led by NEXTGen staff Ayelet Kon and Tara Forman.

Departing shortly after the Birthright trip returned, the Dream Mission answered the lifelong wish of older adults from our community to experience Israel for the first time. The Mission honors the memory of Sandy Danto’s grandparents, Gitla Laja and Abram Jakob Moszkowicz, and Sara and Kalman Garfinkel, Holocaust victims who were denied long life and the opportunity to visit Israel.

Ayelet Kon was a co-leader of this winter's Birthright trip.
Ayelet Kon was a co-leader of this winter’s Birthright trip.

At the event, Jason Brooks, co-chair of the NEXTGen community Birthright program, facilitated a discussion around the importance of Israel and the impact of the common experience. Participants shared their favorite stories and their love of the food and culture; they expressed the power of experiencing Israel as a part of a larger group from Detroit and the meaning that comes with bringing that feeling back home.

“By going on these Detroit missions — to me, now we are all part of the same family,” said Sam Wolfe, Dream Mission participant.

Both groups had home hospitality visits within the partnership region of the Central Galilee that were organized by Partnership2Gether and the Israel and Overseas department of the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit.

Sandy Danto added, “We are all part of the Federation community, all part of the Detroit community and all a part of the same larger Jewish community.”

Tara Forman, co-leader of this winter's Birthright trip
Tara Forman, co-leader of this winter’s Birthright trip

Both sets of participants found harmony in their shared passion for the Jewish homeland. Everyone echoed the sentiment of Sean Martin, who went on Birthright, when he said, “It was truly the best gift I’ve ever received.”

Dream Mission participants found such joy in being able to share the exuberance of their first encounter with Israel with young adults who had the same excitement.

Shirley Freed, a Dream Mission participant, said, “I have Birthright envy. All these years the young people have to go back to explore and make a difference in Israel!” 

By Josh Kanter, Special to the Jewish News

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