Some things just seem to linger. The yummy smell of chicken soup, a good caffeine buzz from a strong cup of coffee, and perhaps, the cold I acquired on my recent trip to Israel. I realize this may sound unbelievable, but I am honestly grateful to have had this cold. Since my return 28 days ago (who’s counting, right?), each time I coughed or blew my nose, I thought of all the remarkable people I met on the Partnership2Gether social worker delegation trip to Israel.
“G-d works in mysterious ways,” I thought, “This must be a ‘holy cold’ – a physical reminder of my powerful trip.”
I feel privileged to be part of this delegation. A big thank you to my wonderful agencies, The Jewish Home and Care Center and Chai Point Senior Living for your generosity; this was a trip of a lifetime. I was one of eight professionals chosen to participate. Six delegates from Milwaukee – Dana Rubin-Winkelman (me), Diana Azimov, Steve Eigen, Michelle Lafferty, Susan Esser-Greenberg and Greg Parrish – were joined by Mitchell Wittenberg, from St. Paul, Minnesota, and Michal Maybello, from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Our diverse ages and professional and personal experiences enriched our journey; we enjoyed being together and felt appreciation and warmth.
Each day was overflowing. A 7 a.m. breakfast nourishing our bodies with delicious yogurts, Israeli salad, potato filled bourekas and Israeli coffee started our day, and we ended exhausted, but happy, around 9 p.m. Each moment was chockfull of thoughtful content and laughter as we spent our days with Israeli social workers reflecting and learning. They accompanied, even, our bus rides. Once, one who openly shared her heartfelt story of love and loss mesmerized us. We all wept as she described losing her husband in war and her ability to turn pain into meaning. My favorite periods were informal times, eating together and discussing the differences in being a Jew “in the diaspora” and in Israel. This was the true essence of the “partnership experience” – strengthening the person-to-person relationships. What a gift to have such a rare opportunity.
Throughout the week, we learned about stress, loss, trauma and preparedness in Israel. The amazing, kind partnership staff in Israel, Anat Sharvit, Hadar Binya, and Mali Turgeman, worked tirelessly to create an inspiring trip, while anticipating our every need. I cannot thank them enough for their efforts!
Just before we arrived, arsonists set fires throughout the country; it was interesting to be there studying preparedness and stress, under the devastating backdrop of terrorism. Thankfully, the fires were extinguished, and by divine luck, mid-week brought heavy rains that washed away the ongoing threat of additional fires. The rain felt like a blessing. All week, our delegation met with professors, social workers, mayors, teachers, trauma experts and doctors to understand the local and a national perspective. The hardest day for me was visiting the Rehabilitation Hermon Prison where we had an opportunity to listen to a prisoner’s story and learn about the rehabilitation process. I felt raw, uncomfortable, and conflicted, as I listened, first-hand, to the horrors a Jewish prisoner committed, but felt hopeful, learning of the substantially lower recidivism rate, as compared to American prisons. Perhaps, the agency I felt most closely drawn to was NATAL. They support Israelis of all different religions and backgrounds through serious trauma recovery and rehabilitation. The work felt holy to me.
As the Friday during my trip was ending, I began to feel sad, wondering if my experience would change. The week had been incredible and I wanted that feeling to linger. However, to my surprise, my eyes widened with delight as my wonderful host drove us up the Golan Heights to spend Shabbat with them on their Kibbutz, Kfar Haruv. This home hospitality was the jewel of the trip. We enjoyed a lovely Shabbat dinner at their Kibbutz and stayed up late talking and laughing with their dear friends. We discussed American and Israeli politics, life, family and Israel. It was intellectual, fun and familiar. “Another gift!” I thought. I felt such love, admiration and connection with my host family, the Shovals. I pray that this will be a lifelong friendship, and would love to host them in Milwaukee.
The Partnership has filled me up and stuck to my insides. I pray that these feelings and thoughts continue to linger and never fade. Today, as I reach for a tissue to blow my nose, I am forever grateful for the lingering blessings of my Israeli cold and for this unexpected journey of the soul.
Dana Rubin-Winkelman is a social worker at the Jewish Home and Care Center Adult Day Center and Chai Point Senior Living. The Social Workers Delegation 2016 was a Partnership2Gether professional exchange program where the P2G Sovev Kinneret Region hosted delegates from partnership communities (Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Tulsa). This professional exchange of eight delegates (six from Milwaukee, one from Tulsa and one from St. Paul) was to create people-to-people connections between Israelis and Americans, with support from Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
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About this article
In late 2016, Dana Rubin-Winkelman of Fox Point joined a social worker’s delegation trip to Israel, where she learned about stress, loss, trauma and preparedness in Israel, while forming new personal connections with the Jewish state. The trip was facilitated locally by Milwaukee Jewish Federation.