A year ago, one morning in May we received a phone call from the ‘Suchnut’ (Jewish Agency): “I am happy to inform you that you have passed the final test and you have been accepted to the program to be Shlichim!”
We still remember the “WOW!” we felt. With the rush of excitement, many thoughts quickly passed our mind. We remember calculating the days from our wedding until the flight to the USA, thinking about how to store all our life’s belongings and how we were going to finish all the last papers and tests at the university before we went. Both our families and all our friends were tremendously excited for us and with us for this amazing journey on which we were about to embark. Many asked us, “Why? Why are you doing this?” and we told each and every one of them: “Because we love Israel.”
It is unbelievable how time has passed. As we write this final article, we have a really hard time grasping that a year has passed since that phone call. A year in Akron and Canton–communities that became our new home.
How can we start to describe our amazing journey?
First of all: the people. It is just unbelievable how warm, caring and loving the people in these communities are. Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts for making us feel at home. Thank you for inviting us to your homes to be a part of your families on holidays and on Shabbat. Thank you for asking how we feel every time you see us, thank you for supporting our programs and appreciating everything that we do. For you– the amazing people in this community we were happy to get up every morning and be Shlichim.
When we started to plan our year we had the idea to dedicate each month to a new subject. We decided to organize two in-depth programs on that subject and discuss it in our newspaper article, at our “Lunch and Learn” sessions and in each lecture we were invited to give in the Jewish and non-Jewish community. It is incredible to look back and see all the programs we had. Programs where we made friends, opened discussions and connected to Israel and our Jewish identity.
In November we learned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the key issues and we watched a special movie that showed both sides. In December we explored Israel as a “Start-Up Nation” and we had a business meeting to learn about entrepreneurship. In January we discovered the values and breakthrough ideas behind the community life in Israel–the Kibbutz and the Moshav. We watched the movie Children of the Sun that was produced by Ayelet Kait, Ofri’s sister. In February we went back in time to learn about our roots– “Shorashim” in Europe, Argentina and Morocco. We had the honor to explore heritage books and hear stories that individuals in the community shared with us.
In March we held mock elections and we casted our votes together with the people in Israel. We read the comments, discussed the charts and formed all the possible options for the new government. April was the busiest month of all– We hosted the Isareli K’far Vradim Youth Band from Israel, heard our best friend Oded Drori speak about his IDF experience, held a very important panel discussion about Remembering the Holocaust, commemorated Yom Ha’zikaron for Israel’s fallen soldiers, and celebrated Israel’s 67th Independence day on Yom Ha’atzmaut! These months were truly amazing and we loved to talk, share and teach. But it became an even a greater experience for us because we feel we have learned so much more from the community.
We are going back to Israel and we are taking a part of the Jewish community in Akron back with us. We feel that this year was an amazing journey to a new world of Judaism. In Israel we live a life that doesn’t require us to choose to be Jewish. As Tchernichovsky, a Russian Hebrew poet wrote – “Man is but the imprint of his native landscape.” We were born and raised in a country where Hebrew is the main language, a place where Jewish holidays are national holidays and all the customs, ceremonies, music and food are all Jewish. We absorbed our native landscape, all that was around, and it became who we are for the good and the bad.
We can proudly say that we grew up with the emphasis of being “Israeli,” but here during our Shlichut we learned the meaning of being “Jewish.” We spent more time in the synagogues this year than we have spent in Israel our entire lives. We learned about the beauty of each congregation and we now know by heart the songs each congregations’ services. We learned that being Jewish in America is being a minority and not a majority like in Israel, and that people around us don’t always understand our traditions.
We realized as Shlichim that we have a major role in educating the non-Jewish community about our lives as Jews and our homeland in Israel. That is the reason we dedicated a lot of time and effort in our work with churches, Christian trips to Israel and the program we are most proud of– our year’s work with Central Catholic High School in Canton. For the first time in our lives we felt what it means that you have to choose to stop everything on Friday night for a Shabbat dinner or take a break from everything on Shabbat. In Israel you feel that it’s Friday and you definitely know that it’s Shabbat, and we took these things for granted. We now understand that being Jewish is a huge decision that you make for your life and you have to choose to be a part of it. We learned that Judaism is not just a religion. It is a loving community, it is taking care of each other, it’s helping someone in need, it is celebrating everything with food, it is music, and 3,000 years of traditions. It is values and life ethics that will lead you in your highest and lowest times. It is life.
Being here in Akron and Canton, we chose being Jewish for the first time in our lives. We discovered beautiful traditions and stories that we would have never being exposed to in Israel. Thank you everyone! Thank you for this incredible year. We will always cherish this amazing journey and you will always have a place in our heart and in our home when you come to visit Israel!
Please keep in touch with us on our personal emails- Tohar21@gmail.com, Ofkait@gmail.com or Via Facebook- Tohar Gofer Kait, Ofri Kait.