Renewing The Bonds
Americans and Israelis renew ties forged with Community Birthright.
Mifgash: the Hebrew word for coming together. On Aug. 14, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit kicked off its Mifgash, a five-day event that brought together 100 participants from several recent Community Birthright trips with 25 of the Israelis who joined them on their experience in Israel. Through a busy schedule of programs and activities across the city, the Detroit and Israeli Mifgash participants renewed and strengthened the bonds that were forged on their trips.
When the Israeli visitors arrived at Detroit Metro Airport, they were greeted by a group of 30 excited Americans who would host them in their homes for the entirety of their stay. The next four days were filled with learning, discovery, discussions and bonding. The program included interactive dialogues with Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis; a trip to the Holocaust Memorial Center; a tour of Detroit highlighting the Downtown Synagogue, the Heidelberg Project and a Quicken insider tour; an afternoon spent with the Tigers at Comerica Park; a canoe trip through Ann Arbor; and a NEXTGen Detroit “Good Shabbos Detroit” dinner at Aish In the Woods in Oak Park.
Detroit Community Birthright, a partnership program of Hillel of Metro Detroit and Federation’s NEXTGen Detroit and Israel & Overseas departments, offers young adults ages 21-26 a free, first-time community experience in Israel. Traveling with peers from their community, participants climb Masada, swim in the Dead Sea and tuck prayers in the Western Wall. They spend a day in beautiful Central Galilee, Federation’s partnership region, exploring and enjoying the hospitality of locals. When they return to Detroit, they are encouraged to continue their Jewish journey back home.
“The Mifgash is one of the things we do to help translate the powerful Birthright experience into an ongoing and, it is hoped, lifelong engagement in Jewish life and community,” says Ayelet Kon, Federation NEXTGen Detroit’s Birthright coordinator.
“Having made deep connections with fellow Jews from their community on this trip, it’s imperative that we give them opportunities to stay connected with one other as well as their Jewish community.”
The experience is a powerful one for the Israelis as well. Erez Opincaru, a visiting Israeli, spoke during the closing celebration and said, “This experience makes me think twice about my own Judaism, about who I am and what my part is in this world and community.”
A past Detroit Community Birthright participant wrote, “This Mifgash was another reminder to me of why being Jewish is important and makes me want to keep the faith a little stronger than I do now.”
Describing her overall experience, she said, “It was life-changing and affected me in a way I could have never imagined.”
Registration for the Detroit Community Birthright trip departing in December 2013 opened Sept. 10. For more information or to sign up for the December trip, visit www.detroitbirthrightisrael.com or contact Ayelet Kon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dana Applebaum, who works
in the marketing department of NEXTGen Detroit.