Sunday, November 9th, 2008...2:17 pm

A mission to Israel @ 60 — Part 1

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IDF "lone soldiers" and Minnesotans serving in the Israeli army, along with Minnesotans studying in Israel, joined the Israel @ 60 Mission for dinner on Monday at the Mt. Zion Hotel IDF “lone soldiers,” including several Minnesotans, joined other Minnesotans studying in various Israel programs for dinner with the Federation’s Israel @ 60 Mission on Monday at the Mt. Zion Hotel.


The Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s Israel @ 60 Mission invited “lone soldiers” — Americans who have made aliya and are serving in the Israel Defense Forces — and Minnesota students in Israel for dinner on Monday night at the Mt. Zion Hotel.

I chatted with tablemates Ethan Buckner (son of Adath Jeshurun’s Cantor Scott and Marcy Buckner) and Emily Weiner, of Minnetonka, who are both enrolled in the Kivunim program.

Emily Weiner and Ethan Buckner

Emily Weiner and Ethan Buckner

 This year-long program involves Hebrew and Arabic language study and a focus on Middle East conflicts. Ethan and Emily also mentioned that they will be traveling to Greece and Bulgaria soon and will be looking at Jewish history and culture in those countries; during the year they will also travel to India, Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic. (I should ditch this job and go back to school.) 

Another student at our table, Kira Moskowitz, of Minnetonka, is in the year-long Otzma program. She is in an ulpan (Hebrew language course) in Be’ersheva, and also volunteers in a neighborhood after-school program for children.

Kira Moskowitz

Kira Moskowitz

Among the young IDF soldiers at the dinner was Joe Novak, who has been in Israel for nearly two years; he had an M4 rifle slung over his shoulder. Joe was raised in St. Louis Park by Rich Novak and the late Jeanine Novak.

Joe Novak and David Glotter

David Glotter was at the dinner in casual civilian dress, after completing two-and-a-half years of IDF service a week ago. The St. Louis Park native is the son of Mark and Debbie Glotter.


Rami Schwartz

Rami Schwartz

And Rami Schwartz, another St. Louis Park guy, was in IDF uniform and enjoying the lavish buffet and friendly atmosphere. Rami is the son of Debbie and Bob Kusnitz and Frankie and Paul Schwartz. 

Also, on hand for dinner were Rabbi Robert Kahn, his wife Cami and children, formerly of Beth El Synagogue, who recently made aliya; Rabbi Jerome and Hadassah Herzog, formerly of Kenesseth Israel Synagogue; and Rabbi Arnold and Rae Goodman, formerly of Adath Jeshurun Congregation.

Hana Gruenberg, Federation Mission staff, with Rae an Rabbi Arnold Goodman.

Hana Gruenberg, Federation Mission staff, with Rae and Rabbi Arnold Goodman.

Hadassah and Rabbi Chaim Herzog

Hadassah and Rabbi Jerome Herzog

Prior to dinner, Nachman Shai, United Jewish Communities (UJC) Israel senior vice president and director general of external affairs, spoke about the situation in Israel, and his decision to run for the Knesset as a member of the Kadima Party, which is led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Shai reminisced about his fellowship in the late 1970s with the World Press Institute, which was based at St. Paul’s Macalester College. Shai mentioned the resumption of Hamas’ Kassam rocket attacks on southern Negev communities; Sderot and Ashkelon were recently targeted by the Hamas terrorists in Gaza. The residents of Sderot are mainly poor recent immigrants, and have been suffering under the rain of rockets.

Hamas has employed a “smart tactic,” according to Shai, in repeatedly launching rockets at Sderot. “Let’s break Sderot and make it a symbol of Hamas success in hitting Israel,” said Shai, summing up the strategy of the Islamist group that has taken control of the Gaza Strip.

Regarding President-elect Barack Obama’s position of engaging in talks with the Iranian regime, Shai said that it is not necessarily a bad idea. “Let’s give it a try as well, before we try other means” to stop the mullahs’ bid to acquire nuclear weapons.

On the bus ride back to the Sheraton Plaza hotel, our home away from home, I met David Ribnick, of Golden Valley, and Ari Sterenson, of Mendota Heights, who are both enrolled in the Conservative movement’s Nativ program.

— Mordecai Specktor 


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