A Letter To Our Community: What We Learned During Our Two Years As Shlichim

To Our Beloved Community in Madison,
Before we leave and start the phase of longing, we wanted to share some thoughts and feelings with you. These were amazing, life-changing, and mind-opening two years for us, and all thanks to you. We have a huge sense of gratitude for your trust in us, for the love and the friendship. We learned so much from you, and we believe we became slightly better people with broader horizons because of you. During these years, we had the privilege to work with so many people of diverse ages and different and fascinating opinions.

From the sweet kids in Gan HaYeled Preschool, we learned to give and get, unconditional love, and how songs can open hearts. From the students at the synagogue Sunday schools, we learned to ask questions and how important it is to have friends within the Jewish community.

From the campers in Camp Shalom, we learned what Ruach (spirit) is and to create strong connections with our non-Jewish friends.

From the teens in Midrasha Hebrew High School, we learned commitment, persistence, and the relationship with Israel should be around our interests and values.

From the students of UW Chabad, we learned how important it is to feel proud of our Jewish identity and connections to our brothers and sisters in Israel. We learned how much courage it takes to bring yourself, your traditions, and your values anywhere you go.

From the young adults, we learned how to create a community in a new place, integrate our Judaism into life, and enjoy the city of Madison!

From the young families, we learned how much investment and commitment is needed for educating kids to connect to Judaism and Israel in the United States and how much creativity it takes to make it fun and interesting. (And also, how hard is it to integrate events AND nap time;)

From the adults we met in the congregations, at events, and especially in our sessions at Beth Israel Center and Temple Beth El about Israel, we discovered how deep their connection is to Israel, how much they care about what's going on there, and how important it is to them to make their voice heard to the Israelis. We learned that the conversation about Israel can make us closer and help us open our hearts to one another, especially when we disagree sometimes. Our gatherings so moved us.

From the older adults we met in L'Chaim and Capitol Lakes, we had the privilege to learn a lot about the Jewish history of the United States, about unlimited love for Israel, and about special traditions they had been keeping for years.

From the Rabbis, the educators, teachers, the staff of the Jewish Federation of Madison, Jewish Social Services, and the congregations, we had the opportunity to learn so much about creativity, educational approaches, and deep love for what they are doing.

From the entire community, we learned how much at the end, despite all the cultural gaps (Chocolate Hummus is not a thing!), the complicated politics, and the different denominations - we are all family, and the Jews here and the Jews in Israel are much more similar than what they might think. We all care about the future of our people. We all want to keep our traditions. We are all worried about Antisemitism, here and there. We all want to have a connection with one another. We all want to do Tikkun Olam, and we all care about Israel. Sometimes we have disagreements about the way, and sometimes we misunderstand each other. But first and foremost, we share so much in common, even if sometimes we forget.

Even before we arrived in Madison, our goal was to strengthen the bridge between the Israeli Jews and the Jews here. This is not a cliché. We truly believe that these communities make one family. Although we believed in it before, we didn't imagine how much we would experience it personally. For us, this is no longer a theoretical statement. We have a Jewish family here in Madison, and now we are returning to our Jewish family in Israel. If there is one thing we want you to remember, it is this idea. We believe we should all extend our caring and sympathy. To be happy when Jews are celebrating in Israel, like on Yom HaAtzmaut, and to cry when there is a tragedy. To get angry and share criticism when there are mistakes, and always strive for a better place.

More than that, we can't leave the situation in a one-way relationship. Part of our Shlichut was (and will be) also to strengthen the connection and caring of Israeli Jews towards the American Jewish community. And we won't stop until our dream comes true, and there will be American Shlichim in Israel:)

Thank you for two years of community, emotional depth, and meaningful conversations. Thanks for teaching us more ways to be Jewish. You made us into better people, and that's the biggest compliment we can think of.

Please stay in touch, and reach out when you visit Israel, even if it will be years from now. Our Israeli personal emails are hanna24598@gmail.com and Ozbinnun@gmail.com, and we are here!

Before the end, we want to share with you a beautiful poem written by an Israeli poet named Ariel Zinder, called Ani Ma'amin - I believe. May we never stop believing in each other.

Ani Ma'amin - I believe
by Ariel Zinder

In every corner of the house there is one Kohelet or two
That sing in a choir "Who cares"
I suspect that they appeared when the heart was blocked…
But I care.
Between the branches, in the invisible movements of the tree trunk
In the heat that passes through me and feels like tears.
In every corner of the house, there is a windmill, or two
Screeching, strong, playing hollow whistles.
I suspect I built them by myself
From bricks and cement that were bigger than me.
But I'm riding into battle against them,
Waving songs and prayers and kids and seeing their falling
That can still happen, that must happen
That will be when the heat will become tears.

Love you,
Hanna and Oz

Editorial Note:
We bid a heartfelt todah rabah and l'hitrot to our Community Shlichim, Hanna Bloch and Oz Bin-Nun, who are returning to Israel after two years in Madison. It is hard to believe their time with us has come to a close. Hanna and Oz hit the ground running from day one, creating meaningful programs, events, and connections with Israel, and capturing our community's hearts during their time here. All of us at the Jewish Federation of Madison are grateful for their hard work, dedication, creativity, and passion - and sincerely appreciate and value their being a part of our staff team.