YAD and ECHAD: An eye-opening experience in Israel

In Summer 2011 over two hundred participants from 20 communities embarked on a unique Jewish journey to Israel as part of the Jewish Federations of North America's National Young Leadership (NYL) Summer Mission. The post below by Jessica Levy, a participant from the Bay Area, describes her experience visiting ECHAD, a program funded by the San Francisco-based Federation. See more pictures from the trip and upcoming travel opportunities for yound adults on our website.

By Jessica Levy, YAD Mission Participant & Ben Gurion Society* Member

Jessica Levy (left) and Albina Khazan in the Old City of Jersusalem

Jessica Levy (left) and Albina Khazan in the Old City of Jersusalem

As our large tour bus weaved up the steep road to the Druze village of Kissar-Samia to see the ECHAD program, I had no idea what to expect. I felt surprised that my local San Francisco Jewish Federation was funding a program in Israel not for Jews, but for Arabs. I honestly did not think it would be a highlight of the trip while browsing the itinerary pre-departure, but reflecting on the trip, I realize that the short time we spent seeing ECHAD and learning about the work of the Federation in Israel had a deep impact on me.

Primarily, I got to see with my own eyes what it means to have a San Francisco funded program in Israel. I saw young, smiling children singing in music class, and I saw other kids bonding with their mothers in an adjacent classroom. I learned that while this may seem commonplace to us Americans, this was quite novel to this community. Kissar-Samia did not previously have a physical place or programs for childhood development.

We heard the mothers of the children enrolled in ECHAD share how the program has given them resources and support on parenting, and has been critical to the relationships in their families. The entire row of women wearing traditional clothing expressed a deep gratitude that was heartfelt to the entire audience.

Kids participate in a learning activity together at the ECHAD program

Kids participate in a learning game at the ECHAD program

Moms and kids enjoy activities together at the ECHAD program

Moms and kids enjoy activities together at the ECHAD program

The visit gave me many new insights and I began to understand why the Federation is funding a program for Arab-Israeli children. First of all, an important piece of the fundamental Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, is that it is not meant only for Jews, but for all people in need. Furthermore, in order to promote a safe and peaceful Jewish homeland in Israel, we must help our Arab-Israeli neighbors in Israel. This work is basic to any realistic peace that we pray for.

Prior to the trip I did not have a concrete understanding of what the Federation did or what it stood for. After the site visit to ECHAD, I decided that I wanted to contribute to Federation’s Annual Campaign. ECHAD is one of hundreds of programs that would not be possible without support from Federation. I am happy to now have a direct connection to the Federation and to join the Ben Gurion Society (BGS)* to help guide my tzedakah and encourage me to engage in giving as a young Jewish professional.

*The Ben Gurion Society (BGS) is a national giving level for young leaders who make a commitment of $1,000 or more to the Jewish Community Federation’s annual campaign.

Categories: Israel, Young Adults


July 27, 2011


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