Time is a peculiar thing. The last two years seemed to pass so quickly it felt like it went by in a minute, yet so many life-changing moments happened since we got to Milwaukee.
The decision to go on shlichutwas probably the biggest decision we had to make as a family. We hardly knew anything about Milwaukee (except that it was the hometown of Golda and the Bucks). We actually had to go on Google Earth to learn about our new home away from home.
After spending two years among you I can definitely say it was the perfect match between my family and this warm, kind and friendly community.
Since the moment we got off the plane we felt the importance and affection that this community feels towards their shlichim.
About Keren Weisshaus
Keren Weisshaus came to Wisconsin in August of 2017 with her husband and two children, brought here by Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Jewish Agency for Israel. She and her family served as cultural ambassadors from Israel to Milwaukee, with Weisshaus in particular serving as the official Jewish community shlichah (emissary).
It was both empowering and humbling to be a link in this admirable chain of shlichut in Milwaukee that has been going on for almost 52 years. It felt like our open arms were answered with an equally warm embrace and that for everything we had to give we received double. Especially for our kids, Stav and Erez, who got all the support and help they needed to flourish in a new country and a new language.
When I first arrived here, I was eager to start making a difference but now I can say that it is more than me leaving my mark, Milwaukee left its mark on us.
We had so many “firsts” here – first aliyah to the bima as a female emissary, first front page on a newspaper, first encounter with bears. I’ve learned the power of a strong and committed community, both in times of tragedy like after the Pittsburgh shooting or in times of joy when we celebrated Yom HaAtzmaut together. I’ve learned about acceptance and flexibility; I’ve learned that if we know what is truly important to us, we can respect what is important to others. I’ve learned that I’m not alone in my concerns when the tensions rose up in Israel.
But most of all, I learned to ask questions and open my mind to different points of view. Dialog isn’t always easy, but it’s the best way I know to understand the diverse realities we all live in and how they shape our opinions and identities; we do not all have to agree but being able to hear each other is priceless.
It’s nice to look back and recall all the highlights we had this past two years, the special programs, the special celebrations, the special speakers we’ve brought from Israel. It’s really hard to say after only two years what will bear fruits and have a continued impact, but I’m hoping that some of the seeds we planted will grow to become a Milwaukee tradition that will continue in the future. If I look back to one moment that truly convey the spirit of Milwaukee’s community it is the ceremony of Yom HaZikaron last year. I was sure that very few people would come out in such a snowstorm to commemorate the Israeli Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, but when I looked behind to see hundreds of you there with me, it brought tears to my eyes.
Many times I was asked about the complicated relationship between American Jewry and Israel. I believe that as long as we remember that above everything we are one people, one mishpachah, we can bridge our differences and overcome all challenges. As long as we remember that despite all arguments, we don’t have the privilege to turn our backs on each other. Maybe now more than ever we need to work on this relationship in order to keep future generations equally connected to each other. The voice of the world Jewry matters, you can make a difference and Israel is as much yours as it is mine. It is my children’s homeland as much as it is your children’s and we need to work together to keep it this way.
I want to take this opportunity to thank from the bottom of my heart all the wonderful lay leaders and coworkers who supported me and helped us realize our ambitious goals. I’m grateful I got to be on your team and was inspired by your generosity and leadership. This great group has been a steady source of support for me and has done so many great things for the community. Together over the last two years we have done so many meaningful programs to increase engagement programs for the community. I feel truly blessed to call Milwaukee our second home. I know I’m leaving Milwaukee in the very capable hands of Uriah Roth, your next shaliach, and I’m sure he will receive the same warm welcome as I did. Please stay in touch and come visit if you’re in the neighborhood.
Keren, Oori, Stav and Erez