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sonal contacts & Hospitality

Virtual friendship

Participating in the Classroom Connections project allows Israeli
students to develop relationships with groups of Jewish students
in overseas Jewish communities. Encounters between the students
proceed via virtual meetings-videoconferences, voice chat, online
chat, forums and so forth.
In addition, the students send each other products of classroom
activities and engage in joint projects. Beyond the enjoyment of
meeting friends of similar ages who live in a far-off country, the
students are able to talk with each other freely. They also have the
opportunity to engage in discussions, facilitated by teachers, with
their new friends-of issues connected with identity (Jewish and in
general), social involvement, or any other issue they see fit.

The joy of the 'first time'

Jews of St. Louis, like many Jews in the U.S., are largely affiliated with the Reform movement. When the Federation sought a way to
strengthen Jewish activity in the Regional Council, they felt it was only natural to turn to the Reform movement in Israel.
Michal Ken-Tor, rabbinical student at H.U.C. and Reform movement activist in Israel, is guiding a Jewish renewal project in the Regional
Council. She explains: "Israelis are mostly divided into religious and secular, so their perception is that all religious activity is led by or-
thodox Jews. The Federation in St. Louis, which sought ways of encouraging residents of the Council, most of whom are secular, towards
Jewish renewal, found the Reform movement to be the most suitable body for this purpose: The values that the movement stands for are
very similar to and echo the values of collective agricultural labor settlements. Moreover, it is the right of each Jew to choose his or her
own image and identity as a Jew." "About two and a half years ago, they contacted us at the Reform Jewish movement in Israel. All of our
activity, which I am leading in the Council, is supported by the Partnership. I began seeking cooperative relationships, bodies and people
with whom we cold conduct Jewish renewal activity in the Council. Today, we conduct no small number of activities," says Michal, continu-
ing: "For example we organized a 'Tikkun Shavuoth' event, a new tradition we've begun over the past two years that consists of nighttime
learning and discussion revolving around Jewish sources. Once a month we hold a Kabbalat Shabbat ceremony in Kibbutz Megido and
occasionally in other kibbutzim such as Galed and Ramat Hashofet. This year we held Yom Kippur prayers at the kibbutzim of Megido and
Ramat Hashofet, led by the Reform movement. At Ramot Menashe we organized lectures prior to Yom Kippur as well as a performance
of Ladino hymns. At Ein Hashofet we held a hymn night called "From King David to David Avidan", organized by Yarden Erez of Yokneam
Moshava who met with a delegation of musicians from Atlanta after the event."
The list goes on: "We conducted a workshop for mothers and bat mitzvah girls at Kibbutz Megido, and one of the girls was actually called
to read from the Torah. We hold an interesting activity that combines midrash-style study and dance, led jointly by Tamar Lerner, a dancer
from the Council, and myself. The activity consists of groups of women who begin by reading and analyzing Jewish texts, followed by
Tamar leading them through movement and improvisation based on the texts. In the last meeting, for example, we dealt with the topic
of 'rosh chodesh'- the waxing and waning of the moon and the emptying
and replenishment of the body. In the near future we'll begin the Neigh-
bors project – six gatherings between Jewish families from the Council and
Arab families from Ma'aleh Eiron, budgeted by the Reform movement in
cooperation with the Regional Council."
"Naturally," Michal points out, "when visitors from the Federation come to
Israel, we meet them and connect them with families involved in Jewish re-
newal activity who host them. We work in cooperation with Bernice Malka
and coordinate all of our activity with her and with Levana Caro." "One of
the wonderful things about the work we do in the region," says Michal en-
thusiastically, "is that so many things are being done for the first time. It's
the first time a secular kibbutz holds a prayer evening in the run-up to Yom
Kippur; the first time a bat mitzvah ceremony is held; and more. This is truly
Jewish renewal at its finest.""Our activity is conducted in the local
communities at no charge," says Michal, calling on additional
communities to contact her in the interest of holding Judaism related activity, "and is made possible thanks to resources extended by the
Partnership."

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