Thursday, March 18, 2010

An Inspirational Conference

These past few days have truly been a highlight of my time in Haifa.  I had the opportunity to participate in the Boston/Haifa Connection’s Joint Steering Committee conference, an experience that re-affirmed my desire to become more involved in the partnership’s activities and projects.  Even though I knew generally what each of the 7 committees did, I learned a tremendous amount about the specific projects they work on and plan to start, as well as the pilot programs and special missions the Haifa/Boston Connection has recently initiated (such as the truly inspiring Hatikvah mission of Israeli soldiers who will be traveling to Boston to commemorate Yom HaShoah.)

I enjoyed meeting and talking with people from both sides of the partnership, from new friends involved in the Young Leadership on the Haifa side, to the dedicated and talented professionals and lay leaders with whom I look forward to working when I return to Boston in June. 

The meeting of the Joint Steering Committee coincided with the Volunteer Week spearheaded by the Young Leadership of Haifa—over 1200 young adults volunteering their time in different areas across the city.  I have had the opportunity to take part in a wide variety of community service projects during my year on OTZMAl, and it was particularly refreshing to go to the Fichman elementary school and the Beit HaKehilla community center along with the Young Leadership Committee to see many other Haifaim involved and energized to help their community.  At the Fichman school, we were able to be in a few places at once, as we split up between helping out in a first grade classroom, assembling and planting a “wishing tree”, and painting a mural on the school’s outside walls (somehow I managed not to screw up the mural too much and came away with zero paint on myself…quite a success!) 

But personally, our volunteer activity on Tuesday was particularly meaningful because it was a fitting way to say goodbye to the community center where I volunteered every Tuesday.  We visited Beit HaKehilla in the Sha’ar Ha’Aliyah neighborhood, which is a community center for Ethiopian Israelis and is supported by both Shiluvim and the Leo Baeck Education Center.  Given the upcoming start to Pesach vacation, it was my last day at Beit HaKehilla, so it was really nice to see our Boston/Haifa volunteers interacting and gardening with the kids I’ve been working with, and for me to have the chance to say a proper goodbye afterwards. 

Through my work at the Haifa/Boston Connection office here in Haifa, I was able to see first-hand how much time and energy Lital, Vered, and Yehudit, along with dozens of other committee members, spent, preparing for the meeting of the Joint Steering Committee. And as I think was apparent to all of us who were able to attend, they did a fantastic job planning and organizing the meeting, allowing for a good balance between time for the individual committees to meet together, and time to mix and interact outside the committees, such as the dinner and karaoke at the Binyamina Winery.

Hit it here for my most recent pics 

Also, if you made it this far, check out the amazing work my sister Becca has been doing leading U. Maryland's Alternative Spring Break trip to Rancho Feliz, Mexico - they're doing some really cool things....kudos Beccs

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