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Solidarity Mission Blog to the US

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

Follow Dror Israel's COVID-19 solidarity mission as they visit US Jewish communities and leaders

Shabbat 6/20 - on our way back home

After five days of our solidarity delegation meeting so many amazing people in the New York area, we are tired but satisfied and on our way home, leaving via an empty JFK airport. Looking back on these 5 days, we met so many wonderful people and partners who appreciated our genuine solidarity gesture. We are so glad we took this journey, learned so much, and lent our support to our brothers and sisters in US Jewish communities who were so hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Friday 6/19 - On zoom with Richard Heideman, Herbert Block and Alicia Post

We had an interesting conversation on zoom with Richard Heideman, the President of the American Zionist Movement (AZM), Herbert Block, the Executive Director, and Alicia Post, the National Program and Communications Director. They told us about months of online work at home including long periods of time without leaving the house for some. They shared with us the wonderful work AZM has been doing during the time of the COVID-19 crisis to help Zionist youth movements from fundraising to offering online events. They promise to spread our message of solidarity to the many organizations and movements that are part of the AZM and like always, we are appreciative of their partnership.

Friday 6/19 - with Deborah Fishman Shelby

Deborah Fishman Shelby, the founder of FED, a platform for ideas built into an inclusive Jewish intentional community, met with us in Morningside Park in Harlem. She shared with us her experiences of building community over zoom during the last few months and her understanding that because the crisis will have long-lasting effects on current Jewish institutions, like JCCs and synagogues, there will be a need for Jewish individuals to gather in different ways in order to create a lively Jewish life.

Deborah with Gary and Hod

Friday 6/19 - with Sam Norwich

We met with Sam Norwich, the current President of the Forward and past publisher of the English and Yiddish Forward, for a meaningful conversation underneath the Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo, Brooklyn. He shared with us his personal fears of contracting the virus during the first weeks of uncertainty and the initial panic in New York City surrounding packed Intensive Care Units in city hospitals. He told us how the COVID-19 crisis has already influenced the world of journalism as print newspapers took a major hit in an already general downward trend.

Friday 6/19 - with Daniel Seltser

Daniel Seltser, the Associate Executive Director of the Kingsbay Y/JCC Brooklyn, shared with us stories which painted a bleak picture of the reality of COVID-19 in South Brooklyn and specifically in relation to the Russian Jewish community, including personal losses of his own family. We met with him outside Kingsbay Y, a community center that for the last few months in addition to other social initiatives, has functioned as a food bank delivering service to elderly residents. The retirement home situated next door was the first retirement home in New York in which the pandemic spread.

Daniel Zeltser and his child with Carmi and Hod

Friday 6/19 - with Ifat Bechor

We met with Ifat Bechor, the Head of Business Development and Innovation from Birthright North America, for a morning coffee in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. She shared with us her perspective on the current relationship between Israel and North America and the clear need during this historic period of time to strengthen ties. She spoke of the generation of Jewish young adults and the specific difficulties they face in light of the COVID-19 crisis in terms of campus life, well being and of course their connection to Israel and the challenges and goals of Birthright in addressing these needs.

Thursday 6/18 - with Mark Medin

We met with Mark Medin, the Executive Vice President of the UJA-Federation of New York, in his backyard in New Rochelle, New York. He told us about the much needed work the UJA is doing during these hard circumstances. He shared with us stories of immense loss and hardship like that of the Syrian Jewish community in Staten Island which had to hold 14 funerals in one day. He told us about the much needed help the UJA provided to the Hebrew Free Burial Association in order to allow them to answer the overwhelming need of ensuring Jewish burials, including their need to sadly purchase first and foremost a refrigerator truck to hold bodies. Mark, as someone who has arrived to Israel on many solidarity missions, thanked us deeply for our show of solidarity during these troubling times.

Dror Israel delegation with Mark Medin

Thursday 6/18 - with Tara Slone-Goldstein and Karen Everett

We were happy to meet our marketing team and dear friends, Tara Slone-Goldstein and Karen Everett in Larchmont, New York. We appreciate as always their partnership in our endeavours, and of course the lovely socially distanced lunch they shared with us!

Karen and Tara from our marketing team

Thursday 6/18 - with Marc and Harriet Suvall

We sat with Marc and Harriet Suvall on their back porch at their lovely home in New Rochelle, New York. New Rochelle was "ground zero" of the outbreak in New York. After isolating at home for 3 months, our visit was "like a Bar Mitzvah!" in Harriet's words. They spoke of the many losses and of individuals who fell sick in the community and the quick response and huge support synagogues and Jewish organizations have managed to provide during this time of huge need.

Marc and Harriet Suvall with the Dror delegation

Thursday 6/18 - with Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie

We met with Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, the Founding Spiritual Leader of Lab/Shul NYC, on the streets of Manhattan. He shared with us briefly the complicated reality of the last few months in New York, explaining the intersecting challenges of many communities of both Jews and non-Jews.

Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, the Founding Spiritual Leader of Lab/Shul NYC

Thursday 6/18 - with Dani Dayan

We met in the late morning with Dani Dayan, the Consul General of Israel in New York at the Israeli consultant in Manhattan. He shared his understanding of the importance of the connection between Jews in Israel and Jews in America and emphasized the challenges that lie ahead for the Jewish communities in the US. He was deeply appreciative of our arrival and praised us for being the first delegation of Israelis to come and show solidarity in this way.

Delegation members with Dani Dayan, the Consul General of Israel in New York

Thursday 6/18 - Washington Cemetery

We started our day today at the Washington Cemetery in Midwood, Brooklyn. We sadly learned from the cemetery's manager that during the last month of May, more than triple the usual number of burials occured as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

May their memories be a blessing.

Wednesday 6/17 - with Chuck and Alisa Levin

Chuck and Alisa Levin, two dedicated lay leaders of the UJA-Federation, hosted us in typical Brooklyn fashion for a glass of wine on their front stoop and a warm conversation about the great work that the UJA Federation has been doing over the course of the past few months and challenges that lay ahead.

Chuck and Alisa with the delegation

Wednesday 6/17 - with David Mallach

We met with David Mallach, Vice President of JFNA and former Managing Director of UJA-Federation of New York, at his home in Maplewood, New Jersey. He told us about the uncertainty which lies ahead for Jewish organizations in the US and we discussed the present reality in Israel.

Wednesday 6/17 - with Judi Harrison and Norman Weinberg

We met with Judi Harrison and Norman Weinberg, two great lay leaders of Greater Metro West Jewish Federation in Norman's backyard in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. We listened to their experiences over the last few months, including how zoom and the time at home has allowed for learning and teaching Hebrew!

Wednesday 6/17 - with Meara Razon-Ashtivker

We met with Meara Razon-Ashtivker, the COO of Masa North America, in the backyard of her beautful home in Springfield, New Jersey.

She discussesed with us the larger financial trends and resulting difficulties for families and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. She explained the new needs of young adults and college students and we discussed different opportunities for how Israel and Israel programs can answer these new needs.

Meara Razon-Ashtivker with the Dror Israel delegation

Wednesday 6/17 - with Jan Gurvitch, Steve Weinberg and Dorna Silverman

This Morning we met with Jan Gurvitch, President of Naamat USA, Steve Weinberg and Dorna Silverman in East Windsor, New Jersey for a socially distanced conversation beside the river. Jan updated us about how Naamat is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and described creating national events on zoom.

Both Steve and Jan spoke about their worries in connection to the fact that there are very few Jewish camping experiences this summer and no trips to Israel for American kids and youth. They are concerned about how this will influence families' Jewish identities and connection to their Jewish community.

Jan Gurvitch, Steve Weinberg, Dorna Silverman with Dror Israel's delegation

Tuesday 6/16 - with Refael Tessler

Today we visited Crown Heights, Brooklyn, one of the areas most devastated by COVID-19.

We met with Refael Tessler, a member of the local Chabad community. Refael lost a close friend, a man in his mid-forties to the virus. The Chabad community has lost some of its key leaders to the virus, including members of the Beit Din and the historical personal secretary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Crown Heights is home to many members of the African American community and has been a focal point of Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Rafael recently participated in a solidarity march in support of the African American community. Sadly, local Jews have been targeted by many anti-Semitic attacks in recent months. Whichever way you look at it, Crown Heights is a neighborhood in distress.

Refael and Gary

Tuesday 6/16 - with Gal Ben-Shimol

We had an inspiring meeting with Gal Ben-Shimol, head of the annual Delegation of the Jewish Agency.

COVID-19 hit close to home for Gal when the 41-year old doorman of his building died as a result of the virus.

Gal is working these days from New York City, making sure all the long-term shlichim are safe and healthy and producing educational activities for thier communities.

Yasher Koach Gal!

Gal Ben-Shimol and Hod Laish

Tuesday 6/16 - with Joan Glatman

Our first meeting was with Joan Glatman, Dror Israel's dearest friend from the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City.

Joan is a supporter of Dror Israel’s programs. She and her family had to postpone their daughter's wedding due to COVID-19 regulations.

Joan: "It is so kind of you to make all this effort to come under these circumstances. I deeply appreciate it, it means a lot to me."

Joan and Gary

Monday 6/15 - Leaving Ben Guryion Airport

Hod and Gary, Just before boarding the flight to JFK

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