My First Israeli Friend
Her name was Tabi Weidenfeld. She was from Kfar Saba, just outside of Tel Aviv. She had two younger brothers, who would reportedly devour untold kilos of their mom’s chicken schnitzel every Shabbat when they came home from the army. Tabi herself was an architecture student at the Technion in Haifa. She had short black hair back in the summer of 1992 when we met. We were campers together at the BCI program in Los Angeles for Jews ages 18-26 to explore their Jewish identities.
It was a pivotal time in Tabi’s life and in mine. She was newly in love with her boyfriend back home. And I was in the midst of figuring out what my adult life might look like. We were surrounded by 60 fellow campers and a world-class staff of educators that included my first justice mentor Carol Levy and Rabbis Daniel Gordis, Levi Lauer and Karen Bender. For the first time in my adult life, I could see Judaism playing a major role in my life, and not just because the director of the program, Rabbi Alvin Mars, suggested that I should become a rabbi. For it was that summer that I began to appreciate the arc of Jewish history and the importance of the State of Israel . Plus I fell head over heals in love with Shabbat, Jewish justice work and with Rikud Am (Israeli folk dance).
What helped me fall in love with Israel that summer? Simply put, meeting Israelis: hearing their stories, understanding their pain and their dreams. I can still recall all of the stories they shared with us that summer. After camp, Tabi and 4 other Israelis came to stay at my parents house. We fed them, did their laundry and gave them a world-class tour of L.A. Six months later, I was in Israel. My first time as a curious Zionist. I had Shabbat dinner with Tabi’s family. I got to eat the schnitzel…and yes, I too ate kilos of it. And I fell in love with Israel and Israelis.
I tell you about about BCI, Tabi and the chicken schnitzel because I want you to fall in love with Israel and Israelis in the same way that I did. That is why we raised money to bring Adi Dardikman here to be our second shlicha. By now, I trust that most of you have seen her face. But have you invited her for coffee? A walk? A meal?
You should know that Adi will be soon be teaching a FABULOUS three-part class about Israel:
- Thursday, 12/1 at 6:30pm – Watch the 2012 movie The Gatekeepers about Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, from the perspective of six of its former heads in JCC Library
- Sunday, 12/4 at 4pm -Come hear Carmi Gillon speak, former head of Shin Bet (featured in the movie) speak in Rodef Sholom sanctuary
- Thursday 12/8 at 6:30pm – Discuss the movie and Carmi Gillon’s talk with Adi in JCC Library
Trust me, the movie, the lecture and the discussion will be lively. It will get you together in the room with fellow congregants who want to talk about Israel. Plus, it will get you in the room with Adi three separate times, putting you on the path to claiming your new(est) Israeli friend.
~Rabbi Michael Lezak