Connecting communities between Israel and the Diaspora

Arutz Sheva speaks to Noa Lewis of the Connecting Communities project as well as two rabbis whose communities now share a connection.

Yoni Kempinski ,

Noa Lewis and Yoni Kempinski
Noa Lewis and Yoni Kempinski
Arutz Sheva

The goal of the Connecting Communities project is to create a "two-way relationship of warmness and care" between Israeli and overseas communities.

In an exclusive interview, Arutz Sheva spoke with Noa Lewis of Connecting Communities and the rabbis of two connected communities to find out more.

This panel was part of a three-day online conference produced by the World Organization of Orthodox Communities and Synagogues.

Lewis explained that one of the most important aspects of the project is for both communities to learn from each other in a mutually beneficial two-way relationship, to become "like a family."

The first stage is recruiting rabbis in Israel and overseas communities. And the second stage is finding a mach, looking for communities of different backgrounds to connect.

"If I take an American who just made Aliyah and connect him with his community back home in the States, it's not the (same)," she said. "I want to find someone in a kibbutz that doesn't have family or anyone overseas and be connected to someone in Upstate New York."

The project is three-layered. There is the community-to-community connection. There is the leadership, including rabbis, connecting and learning from each other, and developing programming. And finally, the in-person connecting between members of both communities.

Rabbi Zsolt Balla, the community rabbi of Leipzig, Germany and Rabbi Hillel Maizels, rabbi of Ohel Efraim in Ariel, spoke about their experiences connecting their communities with each other.

"We have a lot of people who want to connect to Israel and to the community in Israel and it's really a great experience to strengthen this idea that we are not a separate community," Rabbi Balla said.

Rabbi Maizels explained his community was very interested in the project. He added, "There was a lot of positive feedback and positive interest in creating these connections."

The partnership between the Leipzig and Ohel Efraim communities is relatively fresh still. However, the connections made between the two communities have been valuable and they are "at the beginning of a process... that is going to be a great outcome," Rabbi Balla said.

He noted they are already linking up community members with shared interests, such as artistic pursuits or wanting to learn better Hebrew or German.

He explained that the project gives his community members who may only have an abstract religious notion of the State of Israel a physical, real world connection.

"There is somebody you can relate to, not just an abstract image in your mind," he said.

Maizels said the project was about giving and connecting and gaining from overseas communities.

"It's important for people in our community to understand what's going on outside of Israel, to understand the challenges and to understand that we're all one," he said.

Lewis called being involved in the project "a blessing."

"To be part of a connection of people it's very special," she said.



top