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New Israel emissary brings national service background to Milwaukee
August 29th, 2003
Wisconsin will be very good for the Milwaukee Jewish communitys new shaliach (emissary from Israel), Alon Galron, in one distinctive way. As he said during an interview in his office Monday, he worked in a kibbutz dairy for a number of years, and liked it very much. I still miss it.
But Galron, 44, brings to Wisconsin more than just an affinity for a region that has a famous dairy industry. He also has had a long background in education, social service and the ideals of Zionism. Indeed, these are practically in his DNA.
His parents are olim who moved to Israel from South Africa when Alon was a toddler. He described his parents, who are in their 80s and still active, as dedicated Zionists who continually had visitors and helped new immigrants.
Moreover, they were both teachers of English, his mother as a profession, his father as an adjunct to his convenience store business. Growing up with two parents who are teachers, I tried to avoid education, Galron joked. But it was probably part of me all along and I couldnt escape it.
In fact, Galron comes to Milwaukee from being the number two official in a national education project. Called Perach (literally, flower), this organization gives college students 50 percent of their tuition in exchange for service as a mentor to children and teens from disadvantaged communities.
Galron became involved in this project which he said resembles the Big Brother-Big Sister program in the U.S. as an undergraduate at Tel Aviv University, which his kibbutz sent him to when he was 30. He said he had been involved in social service activities previously, and this one appealed to him because the participating college students get much more in return than tuition . They learn about giving, caring and loving.
This involvement weighed heavily in the decision to hire Galron for Milwaukee, said Marty Katz, chair of the shlichut committee of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Perach and Galrons role in it were very impressive from the get go, Katz said in a telephone interview.
Part of the community
But this wasnt the only reason. Katz said he had visited Galrons home in Modiin with MJF executive vice president Richard H. Meyer and Leslie Raz, wife of a previous Milwaukee shaliach, David Raz.
From the art on the wall to his style as a father, the way he and his wife interacted with their [two] children and with each other, I could see easily that these were the kind of people we wanted to have representing Israel, said Katz. They are very loving, caring, nurturing. Moreover, Galron didnt provide quick answers to the interviewers questions, but thoughtful, kind and sincere answers.
This thoughtfulness already has appeared in his approach to his job. Galron officially began work Monday, and while he has some ideas of what he would like to achieve here, he first wants to learn, to know about the community and the needs of the community . I do not want to come with fixed ideas.
In general I think it is important to maintain a living bridge between Israel and American Jewry, Galron said. I want to bring the flavors of contemporary Israel to Milwaukee, without leaving behind the parts of Israel that have been there for 55 years.
And I want to do it as part of the community, not as an outsider, he emphasized.
Galron, the youngest of four, grew up in Ramat HaSharon, a town outside Tel Aviv. He joined Kibbutz Machanaim in the upper Galilee when he was 17 and lived there off and on for a total of about 18 years. He was a paratrooper in the Israeli army and did some reserve service in Lebanon during the war there.
At Tel Aviv University, he majored in political science for personal knowledge and earned teaching certification. He taught in a regional high school and rose through the ranks of Perach until reaching the position of deputy general manager.
All through his various jobs and endeavors, the idea of being a shaliach to a diaspora community had always been in the back of my mind as a logical outgrowth of his and his familys commitment to Zionism, education and social service. Moreover, he thought it would be good for his family to have the experience of living away from home in a different society, to learn of different ways of life.
He applied to the Jewish Agency for Israel and received a call from it this past winter. He had to go through a long process of interviews, tests and workshops before being chosen for Milwaukee.
Moreover, he and his family had to meet one new challenge before arriving here. The U.S. State Department has instituted new visa rules for anybody coming to this country from the Middle East that require an interview at a U.S. embassy. The Galrons had to wait some weeks before they could have the interview at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv; but once that was scheduled everything worked perfectly, he said.
His wife, Einat, was raised on Kibbutz Tzuba near Jerusalem. She has worked in television production and most recently was marketing and events director at a new shopping mall.
Their two children Tom, 5, and Yael, 2 will attend area Jewish schools.