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Visiting communal workers from Israel hope to bring Milwaukee’s spirit home
November 9th, 2001
The death of Amir Zohar, executive director of a community center in East Talpiot, a suburb of Jerusalem, shortly after his visit to Milwaukee last year, seemed a harsh blow to a promising personal relationship between Milwaukee and Israel. Yet, one year later, the ties between Zohar’s community and Milwaukee continue to grow.
Last May, Zohar’s brother and brother-in-law attended the community Yom HaZikaron (memorial day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence day) ceremonies, which were dedicated in his memory.
And last week, two of Zohar’s colleagues from the Alejandro and Lili Sateal Community Center (matnas in Hebrew) where he worked, visited Milwaukee to continue the work that Zohar started.
“[Amir] was an optimistic man,” said Pnina Orian, assistant director of the matnas, who visited Milwaukee with colleague Shira Borosh, a community developer. “He loved life and he wanted peace.”
Orian said she remembers clearly Zohar’s excitement on returning from Milwaukee in September of 2000, only two months before he was killed while on reserve duty near Jericho.
“His eyes were shining because he said he learned a lot. He took ideas from Milwaukee and he wanted to do them,” Orian recalled. Unfortunately, she said, he didn’t have time to share those ideas with her before resuming his army duty.
Borosh and Orian said their Milwaukee visit aimed to build on the foundation that began with Zohar’s visit. They visited the Karl Jewish Community Campus, where they observed various programs, including the Jewish Community Center preschool and parenting programs, as well as health and fitness classes.
They also visited the after school programs offered by the JCC and the Milwaukee Jewish Day School, and the JCC Senior Center on Prospect Ave. Finally, they attended a training session at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation on community resource development.
Borosh said she was impressed by the cohesiveness and closeness of Milwaukee’s Jewish community. “It’s a community of strength,” she said, adding that she hoped her community center could develop the same tight-knit feeling she witnessed here. “I think we have to develop the same environment as the Milwaukee Jewish community.”
Debbie Zemel, associate director of the JCC, believes the two communities have much to learn from each other. “It was wonderful having Pnina and Shira here, especially during the difficult times in the world and in Israel. These times and their visit help us to learn from each other how similar our two communities are and how much we share,” she said.
“We’re hoping to continue to share our ideas and resources with the East Talpiot matnas and to add a visit there for our teens during their summer trip, so that they can interact with the teens there. We see this as in addition to the valuable work we do in our Partnership 2000 region.”
Orian and Borosh also delivered a written message of thanks from Zohar’s widow, Orly, expressing her gratitude for the Milwaukee community’s support over the past year.
Kipp Friedman is JCC director of marketing and public relations.