Apr 26, 2013

Reflections from Jerusalem

This week, I’m writing from Jerusalem. I’m here in this most amazing of countries with 25 members of the Professional Advisory Committee (PAC) of our Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation. Our Mission Chairs Matt Kutcher, Jerry Wolf and Joel Yudenfreund have laid out a remarkable experience for this group of attorneys, CPAs, insurance professionals and private wealth managers.

Even after a couple dozen visits to Israel, I’m overwhelmed like a first-timer at the miracle of this young, yet age-old country. We’ve seen the story of this resilient country as told through the life of Yitzhak Rabin at the Rabin Center. We met with "Angel Investors," the lifeblood of the technology startup in Tel Aviv that’s driving Israel's economy. We’ve seen children of Kiryat Bialik, our sister city, playing in facilities our community’s funds helped build. And older girls from Kiryat Bialik’s Ethiopian community, who participate in Women's Empowerment programs funded by our Jewish Women's Foundation.

Some in our group are real first-timers to Israel. It’s a privilege and a joy to watch their connections form to the people and the land as they have for so many of us. When we stand on the Golan Heights and realize just how close by are the unstable situations in Syria and Lebanon. Or driving along the security fence separating the West Bank from Israel, where we can truly understand how Israelis need to feel more secure a decade after a rash of suicide bombings killed and terrorized our Jewish family there – men, women and children.

Driving into Jerusalem, we stopped to recite the Shehecheyanu, our ancient Jewish prayer of celebration, high above the city. The feeling of unity, of belonging to a group of people raised in different cities and states, from Orthodox to non-observant, and all moved by being at last in our golden city, was something we will never forget.

We still have a few days left to take in the sights and sounds of a city awash in controversy, and yet, where Judaism, Christianity and Islam coexist every moment of every day. It isn't perfect by any means, but it displays part of the unique nature of this extraordinary city and country.

My friends, we are blessed to have a group of seasoned and aspiring leaders who have taken this week to see for themselves the fruits of our labors in Israel - as a religion, as a people and as a community. Among them are both David Pratt and Rich Steinberg, our outgoing and incoming JJCF Chairs. Reflecting as we approach Shabbat in this land, I am proud to report back yet another sign that our future is bright in South Palm Beach County, with so many people ready and willing to help strengthen our powerful bonds to the Jewish Homeland.

I look forward to celebrating Israel’s 65 years of statehood with you on Sunday, May 19 when thousands of pro-Israel neighbors from throughout our community come together with pride and joy for our homeland. Our Federation's Israel Fest 65 at Mizner Park Amphitheater at 4:00 pm is free, fun for all ages, and features entertainment by the Maccabeats and the Boca Raton Symphonia. I'll see you there, and look forward to hearing from you at asktheceo@bocafed.org.

B’shalom,

Matthew C. Levin, President & CEO
Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County

Past Messages from Matt