First UJA Young Leadership Mission Welcomed in Israel

Thirty-three families, including 90 children aged 4 to 17, are participants in the first United Jewish Appeal Family Mission. The adults are all members of the UJA Young Leadership Cabinet. The over all theme for this first family mission centers on biblical and contemporary heroes of the Jewish people and the history of the land of Israel as an independent State.

The mission members’ professions and home towns represent an occupational and geographical cross section of American Jewry. The common denominator is a deep concern for Israel and the Jewish people. Asked why they decided to apply for this pioneering mission, many members pointed to their deep, time-consuming involvement in UJA, an involvement which sometimes leaves their children puzzled–even jealous–of long parental hours spent away from home. “We want our children to understand what our commitment is,” said Miami attorney Norman Lipoff, and to share that commitment.”

Mission chairman Dr. David B. Rosenberg of Vineland, New Jersey, summed it up this way: “My parents were sixty before they got to visit Israel; I was in my thirties when I made my first trip. My kids are here now.” The itinerary is a tough one, neither children nor adults are complaining. “Surprisingly,” says one father. “it’s the kids who want to keep going, long after we’re ready to think about calling it a day.”

The mission itinerary so far has taken its members to Jerusalem; to Modiin, home of the Maccabees; to plant trees in memory of the children of the Maalot massacre; and to the Haifa Naval Base and the Af-Al Pi-Chen Museum of Pre-state Illegal Immigration. Travelling separately, the children visited the grottos at Rosh Hanikra while their parents went to Beit Kay Convalescent Center, to talk with wounded soldiers. A highlight of the trip–for the youngsters and their parents– was a visit to the Jezreel Valley kibbutzim.

It is personal contact developed along the way that lends the mission its special flavor. The trip to Beit Kay gave Anita and Arthur Brown of Chicago the chance to meet Yair Cohen, a young soldier with whom the family had been corresponding since the Yom Kippur War. Finding him required some detective work for the mission’s planners; Yair’s last known address was Rambam Hospital in Haifa.

Former Russian activists David and Esther Markish came to the hotel to visit the Joel Sprayregens of Chicago–whom they had met on the family’s last visit to Israel–and stayed to discuss with mission members the problems of Russian immigration and adjustment in Israel. A tall, red-cheeked kibbutznik, aged 96, gave visitors to Kibbutz Hephzibah his own perspective on history. He told how he had set out on foot from Siberia to Palestine 76 years ago. He walked all the way to Greece, the old kibbutznik said, then sailed to Palestine where he helped found the Agricultural School at Kinneret and Kibbutz Rehavia.

The family mission concept was developed in order to enable American Jewish families to share a highly emotional and educational experience among themselves and with Israeli families, to better understand the basic importance of Jewish unity and the American Jewish community’s relationship with the people of Israel. The mission has been warmly welcomed by Israelis.

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