Personal Stories


The Milwaukee Jewish Federation is sharing personal stories provided to us by people in Israel who have a Milwaukee connection and from their families in Milwaukee. Please check back often for updates.


Paz Goldschmidt

Paz Goldschmidt, former Shaliach to Milwaukee (2009-2011)

August 2, 2014 – 4:45 AM (CST) – The passing week was very difficult. It feels there is “balagan” in my brain, so many thoughts, so many things to take into consideration. We are in a War, no operation, a war. Most of the time we are very sad and worried. At work the TV is on every morning when I come, so I am updated, and then I ask the staff [at a home for the elderly] to close it till the people go to sleep at noon. It confuses them and makes them restless. To some of them it reminds them of wars they took part in, to some it reminds the bombing from Lebanon (in the North), and one of my women lost her child years ago as a pilot, and she keeps telling me she hears the bombs and airplanes (which is impossible, we are far from there).

The reality is that we don’t feel the War, as we are far from the south. We don’t hear bombing, and we don’t hear sirens. Our kids keep their routine life, and so do we. My family in Raanana goes to shelters once a day, but they also keep their general routine. People who live in the south, their lives stopped and who knows when will they continue. Many of them left their homes and life and stay with family and friends or in places that people donated, the government pays for, etc. We hosted in my Moshav kids from the south for a week, and it was a good feeling to join the efforts. So my kids know that something is happening, but up until last week it was something in the distance that we talk about only when they go to sleep.

Paz Goldschmidt and her family (Ido, Noam, Yoav, Paz and Amir) Aug. 1, 2011.

Paz Goldschmidt and her family (Ido, Noam, Yoav, Paz and Amir) Aug. 1, 2011.

Last Tuesday, a boy from our community died in the fighting and since then it is hard to live. We do our best to keep our routine. We went to the beach with friends yesterday, for our kids, for our sanity, and also for Nadav who died. He died so we can live, so we must live. But it is burning inside. As all those young boys who die, he was such a special little man. In the beginning I was so angry, that I told Amir I would bomb Gaza myself. Now I mostly feel helpless. There is no hope. We are confronting a group that doesn’t care of human life, they want to kill our boys, more then to save theirs. They will use their people as human shelters and then show the world the pictures of the destruction Israel is doing in Gaza.

We said yes to none ceasefire agreements and all of them were a fiasco…the last one was the saddest, as a few minutes after the ceasefire began, they send a terrorist to bomb himself near soldiers so there will be a mess and they will be able to kidnap a soldier….you understand? They send a person to die so they can take one of ours…so who do we nagotiate with?

Hamas people don’t care about them, don’t help them, all the money they get for humanitarian help they use to build tunnels so they can kill us. The Palestinians in Gaza live in horrible conditions and there is no one that can help them. Even the UN, the Red Cross and who else that is there, didn’t they see what was going on there? Why don’t they screem to the world that people are being killed by their own leaders? And we bomb them since we have no other possibility….that is why I feel helpless.

Those pilots who talk of the things they take into consideration before bombing, I am sure they build some wall on their hearts so they can keep sleep in the night. Some of my friends talk of moving from here, not because they don’t love Israel, not because the economy…because it is an abnormal situation to grow kids in. We are in War for so many years now. This one will end sooner or later, but the next one is just around the corner. I don’t want my kids to have to think if it is okay to kill kids and woman to protect their own… So you see, I am overwhelmed with thoughts and ideas and mainly am sad.

From Paz Goldschmidt, former Shaliach to Milwaukee (2009-2011).


July 31, 2014 at 1:44 PM (CST) – Update from our beloved Ro’ee and Michal and family!

roeeandmichalsafeAfter 17 hours of road trip to New York and 10 hours of flying to Tel Aviv, we arrived safely and happily in Israel. When we landed, we saw that TV crews waited for us. Well, not really for us, but we were there. They covered the story of people who got stuck outside of Israel because some flight companies canceled their flights. We heard about the community gathering last week to support Israel and we are sorry we missed it, but once again we are touched by the deep connection and commitment the Milwaukee Jewish community has to Israel. Since we arrived, we’ve spent the last week at Michal’s parents, in a small village next to Jerusalem. We are far enough to not be affected by the rockets, but you can feel the tension in almost any other aspect of life. The TV is constantly reporting about the situation, and some of our friends were called to duty. With that, we also see how strong our people are, how much they support each other and, and how much solidarity there is among us. Slowly, we’re trying to get ourselves together, get settled and start our lives here once again. And one more thing – we forgot how hot it is here!!!

Miss you all already!
Ro’ee, Michal, Matan and Na’ama.

From Ro’ee Peled, Milwaukee’s most recent Shaliach, who just returned to Israel. 

July 29, 2014 at 3:38 PM (CST) – This morning, on the 21st day of “Operation Protective Edge”, we were informed that ten additional soldiers have lost their lives in one of the most difficult days we have seen during this operation in the Gaza Strip.

Although the battles are taking place in the south and the echoes of the explosions and battles don’t reach the north, it is important that you know we are all at war – parents of soldiers, family members of reserve soldiers at the front, neighbors and friends who are fighting in Gaza, and even family members that are under fire in the south and in the center of the country.

There have been a total of 53 soldiers killed since the beginning of the operation, four of them are from our Region: Oron Shaul from Poriya, who fell in the war and whose place of burial is not known and of Guy Boyland from Kibbutz Ginosar who was buried in his kibbutz two days ago. During the past day two additional soldiers were killed from the Sovev Kinneret region: Niran Cohen from Tiberias and Nadav Raymond from Shadmot Dvora.

My son Shay went to school together with Guy Boyland from Ginosar. Shay is just at the end of his military service and is now serving at the Gaza border. When he received notice about Guy’s death he was given a 24 hour leave in order to attend the funeral of his close friend.

I was born in this country and grew up here. I served in the military, my father and husband took part in the wars of Israel, this situation is always difficult and worrisome. Yesterday when I had to support my son who lost his close friend in battle and afterwards tell him good by when he returned to the base in the south  – I confess that it was an especially difficult moment for me.

There is no one who doubts the justice of the purpose we set out to battle, there is no doubt that we must continue the operation until its aims will be achieved and there will be quiet for the residents in the south, but there is also no end to our worry and sorrow for the high price of war.

In these difficult hours the beautiful face of Israeli’s society becomes so apparent. Our soldiers relate their moving experiences of citizens and organizations that are sending an abundance of food and needed items to the front.

I am happy that our Partnership has also enlisted and purchased hundreds of socks and underwear to send. Soldiers of the Golani Unit 13 received  these things from the Partnership last Thursday and asked us to send you their warm thanks.

During the days of fighting we are witness to the demonstrations of support and empathy that are taking place in your communities. The knowledge that you are there for us in your support and solidarity strengthens us – and we send you our heartfelt  thanks and appreciation.

“He who makes peace in his high places, he shall make peace upon us”. – עושה שלום במרומיו הא יעשה שלום עלינו ועל כל ישראל

We pray that peace – shalom – will come quickly in our time.

From Mali Turgeman, Partnership2Gether Operations Coordinator for Sovev Kinneret, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s  partner region in Israel.

July 26, 2014 – An unbelievably surreal situation….


Nir Barkin, Rabbi Hannah Greenstein and Sue Strait

Shabbat. Anat and I are relaxing in lounge chairs in the small backyard of our home We call it the “Nachlaot garden” – as the foliage that we’ve cultivated for the last dozen years well as the wood and pine and Jerusalem shutters give it the feel of that Jerusalem neighborhood known for its old-style housing and hidden courtyards. As a former Jerusalemite, it was important to me to imprint something of the flavor of my Jerusalem Kimchi family home – which had been in Nachlaot since the mid-19th century.

Omri, our middle child, 19 years and two months old, a “mommy’s and daddy’s boy” – or at least that’s how we viewed him until yesterday or the day before.

Omri – who just yesterday would finger his “smichi” – an old work shirt of mine – trailing it behind him like a cape pretending to be Popeye’s son Swee’Ppea.

Omri – a house “kitten” who overnight has become a panther.

Omri is a combat soldier in one of Israel’s elite units and is fighting on the front in Gaza. We haven’t heard from him in six days and the worry and anxiety are eating away at our souls. For most of the day, we manage to avoid the nightmares, but the nights….the nights. But I’ll return to the nights later.

The weekend newspapers lay strewn around us in piles, as in homes everywhere – here in Israel and abroad. This weekend everything – the news items, endless interpretations, assessments, speculations of “what if” and “maybe”, opinion columns and feature articles – deals with Operation Protective Edge (Tzuk Eitan) which began 19 days ago and shows no signs of ending.

I think to myself “I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel”. I don’t share my thoughts with Anat who is trying to pass these difficult and suspenseful hours by flipping back and forth between TV news channels and internet sites. She has created a Whatsapp group for the parents of Omri’s unit – a collective therapy support group of parents equally as helpless as we are.

The exposure of the threatening Hamas tunnels, the discovery of huge stores of ammunition directed at Israeli settlements as well as the continued firing of rockets at Israeli targets all leave me with the feeling that this is a just and unavoidable war – even given all the evil and horror that war general – and this one in particular – brings.

I choke when I hear the phrases “A war for our home” and “An unavoidable war” – not because I have the slightest doubt that these statements are true, but because this is the first war in which Anat and I are parents of a combat soldier at the front.

During the Six-Day War I was eight months old. From that war, my father returned injured to the Ezrat Nashim hospital in Givat Shaul… and later, my parents separated. During the War of Attrition in the late sixties and early seventies, we were already living in the North – and we were constantly bombarded with Katyusha attacks as were the rest of the Northern communities. Terrorists from Lebanon attacked the towns around us: Shamir, Misgav Am, Kiryat Shemona, Ma’alot and more. The face of evil that I saw as a young child shook the peace and basic fortitude that every child needs to grow. The Yom Kippur war forced us – second-graders on Neot Mordechai – to spend weeks in a dank, dark bomb shelter – sleeping on basic wood plank beds surrounded by the smell of the chemical toilets. Our horror was exacerbated when we left the shelter to learn of the deaths of three beloved Kibbutz members: Haim, Shimson and Ilan.

In 1982, I was in the eleventh grade when I found in my brother’s closet – my brother who fought as a paratrooper in the first Lebanon War – the envelope of the farewell note that he left us “To Be Opened if I Don’t Return”. Happily, that envelope was never opened. And yet, once again, I repressed my feelings and put up yet another defensive wall in my inner bunker in order to survive.

And then there were more terrorist attacks and the Intifadas. And more military operations whose names I’ve repressed.

We have been fighting daily for our very survival for more years than we have had a State. A war for our home. An unavoidable war. Truly there is no other option. Those who study history know this to be true. A hand extended in peace (and mine is extended despite everything) is no substitute for a watchful eye and eternal caution. Any peaceful solution or resolution will be greeted by me with wary caution. I am suspicious of international friendships – not surprising given the complicated and conflicted neighborhood in which I was raised.

It’s one thing for Anat and I to have been in a lifelong, continuous struggle to maintain our sanity – as children, adolescents and adults in this country. It’s quite another to have a son fighting at the front.

It’s one thing to be a six-year old child planning your escape from a terrorist who has infiltrated the children’s home on your kibbutz. It’s quite another to think about our son navigating the dark and evil alleys and mazes in Gaza.

We somehow get through the days… but the nights. The nightmares cross decades of traumas. They leave us with black circles under our eyes, with a perpetual feeling that it’s difficult to breathe and with a terrible fear – a fear of an unexpected knock on the door, of a Red Code siren, of a telephone call notifying us that…..

We are so impatient to hear the phone ringing with the special ringtone we’ve set for Omri’s calls. So impatient to hear his beloved voice in real time saying “Hi Abba….I’m okay” – tired and battered but whole in body and soul. We are so impatient to learn that the traumas of war that have accompanied us have not been imprinted on his flesh.

With all the modern communications networks, isn’t there a way for us to see Omri here in our “Nachlaot” garden in our home, lighting the end of the tunnel with a inextinguishable light of hope?

From Nik Barkin, Former Milwaukee Shaliach from 1999 – 2003.

July 22, 2014 1:51 PM (CST) – You read the name online, and you feel like you’ve heard it before. You hear someone read the name out loud from a mass text, and there’s a familiar ring to it. You see the name on the news, and where he’s from, along with a picture, and the memories begin to flood…

How he was known for playing soccer with the big kids, and how scared I was being in goal and seeing him wind up for a kick. How he won the school, and later national, championships in checkers. How he and his family hosted me for one night in my visit in four years ago. How my dad called me over to come look at his pictures, and told me how even though he got accepted to a prestigious army program, he decided to draft to a combat unit instead, and even passed a try-out for the special units.

Yesterday someone I know, along with 12 more soldiers, died. And that’s hard to digest.

13 boys no different than me. Boys who couldn’t buy a beer in the U.S. Boys who’d come back after two weeks on base and have their mom do their laundry. Boys whose ability to cook stops at cereal and milk. Boys who can’t grow facial hair. Boys who just a few hundred days ago had to ask a teacher for permission to go to the bathroom, and now are given a personal weapon to use in their judgment. 13 boys no different than me.

“Why him, and not me?” The classic question. He and I did the same training. Same marches, same exercises. Apart from the color of our beret we are no different. But with a lucky roll of the dye I’m guarding a quiet, even beautiful, northern border, far away from everything, and it doesn’t feel right. Things seem smaller in perspective.

I hear a lot of opinions about Israel targeting civilians, and I don’t want to get into politics, but I will say this: No one here wanted a ground operation. No one ever does. No one wants to send their children or friends into a dangerous war. And everyone knows that the goals of this war can easily be achieved through the air and sea.

But there are boys… truly boys, in Gaza right now because Israel is trying to protect civilians on both sides.

The reason I couldn’t sleep last night, and that I had to talk to my dad on the verge of tears, and that my entire village is aching and crying with one family, is because the IDF and all of its soldiers have the morals and standards of protecting and sparing every innocent life they can… And in a weird way, I couldn’t be prouder.

13 boys… 13 men.

Rest in peace.

Reflection from Idan, a Milwaukeean who is now serving in the IDF as a lone soldier

July 21, 2014 11:45 AM (CST)My name is Hagar Hofesh. I am a medical clown. I work for with children at a hospital near Ashkelon for a group called Dream Doctors. I works with children of all ages from 0 to 15. The ward is not fully packed because doctors are sending children to hospitals in safer areas. The conditions here have become very difficult, very stressful. The children are now being cared for in a shelter, a very small, narrow place for staff to work.

Medical clown Hadar Hofesh at a hospital shelter near Gaza.

Medical clown Hadar Hofesh at a hospital shelter near Gaza.

I’ve been working in this hospital with this staff for years, and we have been through a few wars together. I can see in the eyes of the nurses, and I can read their body language, to know they are under stress. The parents are under stress too. They talk about getting to shelters, about moving into shelters to live, about where each bomb hits. The stress has gotten higher since our soldiers are in Gaza. The kids of the nurses are fighting.

It’s a very fragile situation for me. I have a ten minute drive from my village to the hospital but it seems like the longest drive. I am praying for no sirens when I’m on my way there and my way back. When I leave, I ask people in the shelter to pray for me, that nothing happens.

A few days ago a siren went off two minutes after I left the hospital shelter. I just left my car with the keys in it and ran for my life. All of the people around me also left their cars and went to find shelter, but there is nothing. I just lie on the road with my hands on my head crying hysterically because it’s a scary, scary thing.

Medical clown Hagar Hofesh with soldiers at a hospital shelter near Gaza.

Medical clown Hagar Hofesh with soldiers (whose identities are protected in this photo) at a hospital shelter near Gaza.

I thought I would get used to the sirens and to the bombs. I feel like new fears have joined other fears that were deep inside. The nurses are joking about bringing a sleeping bag for me – so I can work there and stay there to be safe.

Social workers come from time to time to talk to doctors and nurses to help us with the stress. I learned my lesson not to work alone, taking lots of responsibility on my shoulders. Now I work with another clown because not everybody wants to come to this area, but we are trying to work together, to support each other.

My head was a little quieter because I sent my kids away to their grandma who lives in a kibbutz. I knew they are in a safe place. Yesterday I went to pick them up, and now we are here together.

Received July 17, 2014 8:23 PM (CST)Former Milwaukee Shaliach Mishka (Moshe) Ben David, his wife Shina and their daughter Shiri were sitting at the Ben Davids’ home finalizing plans for their son’s wedding that was to take place a few days after the attack on Israel began. Security was already on their minds. Minutes into their conversation, they were startled by loud sirens warning of incoming rockets. Calmly, Shina and Shiri went down to the basement to take shelter, while Mishka rushed to his car and drove the two blocks to Shiri’s house to help her husband take their three children to the security room.

Mishka and Shina Ben David today.

Mishka and Shina Ben David today.

Approaching his daughter’s home, Mishka heard a piercingly loud explosion coming from the direction of his own home. Within seconds, his daughter Shiri arrived with her car to check on her kids. She explained to her father that a rocket had hit on the opposite side of their house as she was rushing to her car, frantically trying to get to her kids. Seconds later his cellphone rang and Shina was on the line – she was OK, but the house sustained damage.

The huge rocket fell about 50 yards from their large patio doors. From the explosion, many of the windows shattered, and shrapnel flew straight through the living room, tearing into their grandchild’s playpen, hitting the opposite wall, and front door. On her rush to be with her children, Shiri passed through the front door seconds before the rocket hit. Counting their blessings, they began the clean up.

The following day Shina was on her way back home from a long day in Jerusalem. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the loud sirens warning of incoming rockets blared again. She followed the procedure of stopping the car and lying by the side of the road until the danger had passed. The other cars on the road also pulled over and people yelled to each other to take cover.

Lying on the side of the road, Shina looked up in the sky and suddenly she saw a ball of fire high above  approaching her location. Seconds later, another ball of fire appeared, but this time it was rising from the ground and shooting straight upward. Within seconds the two balls of fire converged and exploded in the air. The Iron Dome saved Shina and the other motorists’ lives!

The next day – a beautiful wedding and a great simcha for the Ben David family, in a farm near Jerusalem. No rockets in Jerusalem!

Mishka and Shina Ben David in Milwaukee in the late 1970s.

The Ben David family in Milwaukee in the late 1970s.

The evening following the wedding day, Shina was on her way back to Jerusalem with her newly married son Regev and his bride Sigal. Minutes into the trip the sirens were on again! By then she was a veteran and knew exactly what to do, so the three of them found themselves flat on the side of the road waiting for incoming rockets.  A few seconds later they heard an explosion and later found out that once again, another incoming rocket was shot down in that area by the Iron Dome.

Despite all the difficulties, their spirits are high and they hope for a quick end to this chapter in their life.

Mishka Ben David and his family live in the Jerusalem region. Mishka and wife Shina (Shoshana) were shlichim (emissaries) in Milwaukee during the years 1977-1980. Mishka represented the Israeli security forces at the 2011 Yom Hazikaron program in Milwaukee. They have many friends in Milwaukee. These events were retold by Avner Porat as they were described to him by the Ben Davids.

HarpazJuly 17, 2014 posted to Facebook approximately 3:00 p.m. (CST) – A post and picture from my dear friend Michael Harpaz who lives with his wife and daughters in Tel Aviv: “The ‘Kindershelter’ or the ‘Sheltergarden’ – I haven’t decided on the name yet – where my daughter’s going to spend her 2nd birthday. We’re doing a “our-country’s-under-attack-move-the-nursery-to-the-bomb-shelter” theme. Happy birthday motek.” From Noach Jubelirer, Director of Community Planning, Milwaukee Jewish Federation. 

10483130_617486018350500_2232056516496266872_nJuly 17, 2014 posted to Facebook approximately 11:00 am (CST) – I left the house today, coffee in my hand and found a newspaper just outside the front door. My cousin [in Israel] left his house today, his kid in his hand and found this (pictured right) just outside his front door…. From Noach Jubelirer, Director of Community Planning, Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

July 16, 2014 approximately 7:30 am (CST) – Rakefet Ginsburg, our community shli’cha from 2006-2009, said that money donated to the MJF Campaign helps her in her current job. It helps sends about 600 kids to camp who would not be able to go. This is especially important now, since sending kids to camp allows parents to go to work. With the sirens and bombs, kids can’t stay at home. This money provides camps in shelters in the south and allows kids with disabilities to go to camp in the north. Parents know that their children are safe. YOUR DONATION MAKES A DIFFERENCE. From Nancy Barnett, MJF Israel and Overseas Chair, in a social media conversation with Rakefet. 

Sent in July 15, 2014 11:58 am (CST) – Yesterday while Eliraz (my daughter) and I were driving us on Highway 5 to Ramat Hasharon, we saw an accident involving a motorcyclist. We decided to see how we could help. A 30+ year old man had been hit by a car while on his “tustus.” I introduced myself and looked to see how badly he was hurt. Then, I introduced Eliraz as a medic.

An ambulance had been called for before we came, so besides keeping the guy comfortable and remaining conscious, all we could do was wait for the ambulance to arrive.

Then, there was a siren. A rocket was on its way. We looked at each other wondering what we were supposed to do. Eliraz made everyone move away from the parked cars and the injured motorcyclist and squat down covering their heads. We moved about 2 meters away. The motorcyclist looked like he was getting disoriented, so Eliraz immediately went to him and covered his head. While she was going to him she turned to me and told me to watch the sky for an incoming rocket. I looked up in the direction of Gaza and she continued to protect the motorcyclist with her hands. Eliraz told me afterwards that she felt protected because her ema was watching out for her.

It took the ambulance over 30 minutes to arrive. Eliraz gave the paramedic all the information he needed and the ambulance took him away. We also got back into our car and continued on. Written by former Milwaukeean Benay Katz and submitted by Liza Wiemer (Benay’s niece).

photo 4July 14, 2014 4:55 pm (CST) – The photos are from today (Monday) at the Kotel.  There was a huge police presence – officers in full riot gear – a necessity at this tense time. I downloaded the Red Alert app, that sends a message every time there is a bomb, and every few minutes alerts are coming in from the South, but also from Tel Aviv and the Golan Heights! Thankfully no sirens today in Jerusalem. From Amy Kahn, Vice President of Financial Resource Development, Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

July 14, 2014 posted to Twitter approximately at 1 pm (CST) – I visited with a family today who apartment was bombed. The family was traumatized and the children have refused to leave the bomb shelter and go outside to play or day camp. Fortunately, there are trauma experts that are focusing on the children in this conflict zone. War is bad, and it is always worst for the children. From Dan Bader, Treasurer and Chair-elect of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, is participating on a JFNA solidarity mission to Israel. Follow Dan on Twitter @dan_hbf.

July 14, 2014 posted to Twitter approximately at 12 pm (CST) – Spent the day in South of Israel … In bomb shelters. We were safe, but we heard a lot of intercept missile shooting down Hamas rockets. From Dan Bader, Treasurer and Chair-elect of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, is participating on a JFNA solidarity mission to Israel. Follow Dan on Twitter @dan_hbf.

Israel Trauma Coalition

July 14, 2014 posted to Twitter approximately at 5am (CST) – Dan Bader, Treasurer and Chair-elect of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, is participating on a JFNA solidarity mission to Israel and talked with Israel Trauma Coalition. According to this organization, an average 14-year-old in Sderot has been exposed to over 600 rocket attacks. Follow Dan on Twitter @dan_hbf.

July 14, 2014 posted to Twitter approximately at 3am (CST) – Dan Bader, Treasurer and Chair-elect of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, is participating on a JFNA solidarity mission to Israel and heard Medical Director from Barzali Medical Center in Ashkelon explain how the center protects patients from Hamas rockets. Follow Dan on Twitter @dan_hbf.

dan bader 1

Dr. Eran Lerman

July 13, 2014 posted to Twitter approximately at 11 pm (CST) – Dan Bader, Treasurer and Chair-elect of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, is participating on a JFNA solidarity mission to Israel and listened to Dr. Eran Lerman, deputy director of the National Security Council speak about the Hamas Covenant. Follow Dan on Twitter @dan_hbf.

July 13, 2014 posted to Facebook approximately at 11 am (CST) – Dan Bader, MJF Treasurer and Chair-elect, on JFNA solidarity mission to Israel: “Preparing to go into conflict zone on Monday. We are being briefed by our security detail about the dangers of going into this area of Israel. Once again, it’s important to note that people live in Sderot, and they don’t have the choice that I do of whether to be there. My thoughts are always with the innocent people, on both sides of the Gaza border who are the victims of terror.” From Dan Bader, Treasurer and Chair-elect, Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Follow Dan on Twitter @dan_hbf.

July 13, 2014 9:10 am (CST) – Here is a video of our CCD mission group being entertained by a group of seniors from the FSU who live on special subsidized housing provided by a JAFI program called Amigour.

Tova Alder

Tova Alder

Danielle Newman spoke to our group about the work of JAFI, and we heard from, the director of Amigour, Ezer.  Tova Adler, a diminutive 87 year old Holocaust survivor, shared her incredible story surviving Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen, a story she shares with more than 50 groups like ours each year. The highlight of this session was the spontaneous breaking out in dance – catching the vibrant spirit of these seniors despite the sirens. From Amy Kahn, Vice President of Financial Resource Development, Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

July 12, 2014 @ 6:23 PM (CST)Mission participants had a quiet day that included walking tours, synagogue attendance, a Shabbat lunch and informal sessions. The restfulness of Shabbat was shattered at about 5 or 6 PM, when we heard a siren and headed to the safe space in the stairwell on each of our floors. We heard that there were many rockets in other parts of the country, as well, and that 40,000 troops have been called up. At a very inspiring session, the hotel manager came to visit and express a special thanks that we are still  here and did not cancel the rest of our trip, as so many are doing. We really feel so good about being here with our brethren, despite real concerns. From Amy Kahn, Vice President of Financial Resource Development, Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

Andrea Schneider and Amy Kahn holding signs in support of the Federation's humanitarian aid campaign.

Andrea Schneider and Amy Kahn holding signs in support of the Federation’s humanitarian aid campaign.

July 11, 2014 @ 2:44 PM (CST) -I am sitting in the airport after an incredible day.  Such a day of mixed feelings.  I have been nervous and anxious much of the day–nervous about being here, nervous about flying out tonight, nervous about friends I’ve met over the years in Israel that are not flying out tonight, and nervous about my extended family in Israel.  Life appears normal–shops are crowded, people are out–but as my cabdriver told me tonight, no one watches regular television shows, they only watch the news.  And the feeling of dread, that this conflict is not over and will not be over soon, pervades.

We met this morning with four people from the South–a mayor of a town, a social worker at an absorption center, a director of a center for independent living, and another social worker in a small town near Gaza.  To a person, they thank us for being there.  And yet they are the ones providing incredible service to their citizens–our family.  Ohad, from the absorption center, tells us about how hard it is to explain to Ethiopian immigrants what is going on.  Dahlia, from the center for independent living, talks about how the disabled and elderly cannot race to shelters fast enough to save themselves.

Niv with his youngest daughter.

Niv with his youngest daughter.

She mentions one man in a wheel chair who has his family rush under the staircase while he just prays.  And Niv, discusses how it has become easy for him to work since he sent his family north.  In fact, his family meets him in the hotel ballroom in Tel Aviv because they haven’t seen him in a week.  (The picture shows Niv with his youngest daughter–she will not let him go.)  In the middle of the session, almost fittingly, the siren goes off.  But as we are already in the basement, we are safe. You can hear my recording of the siren by clicking on the play button below:

Then we head up to Jerusalem for Shabbat.  Before lunch, the parents of one of the kidnapped and murdered teenagers, Gilad Shahar speak to our group.  And it is all I can do not to burst into tears just looking at them.  Gilad was 16.  The father of Gilad tells us that he was shocked and suprised by the global outpouring of support for the families.  He received message and phone calls from the U.S., Australia, Uruguay, and Italy–and was visited in person, left messages on the phone, sent emails, received letters, and even texted via the What’s Up app.  His grace is unbelievable.  He hopes that his son’s legacy is to bring more love, more tolerance, and more understanding into the world.  And, by now, every one of us is crying. From Andrea Schneider, MJF Annual Campaign Chair


July 10, 2014 @ 4:06 (CST) – “What an adventure we have had, and we have only been in Israel for not even 12 hours. Upon our approach to Tel Aviv, we started circling. After 15 minutes, the Pilot came on over the PA and announced that the Israeli authorities would not let us land. What we didn’t know, and thank Gd that we didn’t know, was that a rocket was fired into the airspace quite close to Tel Aviv, in Rishon Le Tzion. The Israeli Army has what is called the “Iron Dome ,” which is an anti-missile defense system. So the missile exploded before it hit the ground.” From Tamar (Kravitz) Rubinstein. Friend Tamar on Facebook for more.


Amy & Andrea with Airplane portrait

Andrea Schneider and Amy Kahn in Israel

July 10, 2014 @ 1:42 AM (CST) – “Hi from Tel Aviv.  Amy [Amy Kahn, VP of Development at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation] and I had our first experience with a siren this morning.  At 8 a.m. the sirens went off.  There are shelters on each floor of the hotel–we spent about 5-7 minutes in it and then received the all-clear signal.  Surreal.  I had taken a walk on the beach around 7:30 but cut it short because it’s not really fun to be scanning the sky.  And now it’s all back to normal with kids playing, people going to work, sunbathers out, etc, etc.  Just amazing.  I know we are both honored to be here on behalf of our community.” From Andrea Schneider, MJF Annual Campaign Chair