Wisconsin-Israel exchanges are canceled due to coronavirus

 

At least four exchanges among Israelis and Wisconsinites have been canceled or postponed, according to the Israel Center of Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

The changes are due to worldwide concerns over the coronavirus. Milwaukee Jewish Federation had already been considering or making changes in plans, when the Jewish Agency for Israel announced in early March that all planned delegations and missions scheduled for the near future, either leaving or arriving in Israel, are canceled. Some Federation Israel programming is in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel. 

The four local canceled and postponed activities are a delegation of Nicolet High School students who were to be in Israel March 17-29, 2020; a local woman’s catchball delegation to Israel that had been set for March 19-28; planning meetings in Israel on future exchanges that four Wisconsinites were set to attend from April 19-22; and a visit of young Israeli leaders to Wisconsin that had been set for April 26-May 3.

The Nicolet Teen Delegation comprised of 15 students, with four chaperones and staff. Nicolet High School students were to visit Lehavim, Israel, after students from the Israeli Eschel HaNasi agricultural school stayed with local host families last year. The trip has been canceled. Israel Center organizers hope to restart back-and-forth visits next year.

After a woman’s catchball delegation from Israel visited the Milwaukee area last year, women continued to play a pickup game weekly at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay. Seven local players were to attend an international catchball tournament in Eilat, Israel, but the Israel Catchball Association canceled international participation on March 5, 2020. This, after the Israeli Ministry of Health forbade international conferences and events with more than 100 participants from abroad.

“We had people sign up and they were very excited,” said Federation’s P2G coordinator, Susie Rosengarten. “It’s a game that really caught on here. This is canceled and we are hoping to go next year.”

P2G is a “Partnership2Gether” program that seeks to link Israel and Wisconsin, through the cooperation of Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Milwaukee and St. Paul, Minnesota have a partnership relationship with a region of Israel, the Sovev Kinneret region, which is the area around the Sea of Galilee. The Israel Center of Milwaukee Jewish Federation works on exchanges all year, and Israeli and U.S.-based staff meet annually for planning. This year’s annual planning meeting, which was to take place in Israel, has been canceled.

“We are looking at conducting that over Zoom,” Rosengarten said, referring to the video conferencing software that’s become ubiquitous in the professional world.

The attendees from Wisconsin would have been Israel & Overseas Committee Chair Pnina Goldfarb, P2G advisory board member Denise Wadzinski, Rosengarten, and Rabbi Hannah Wallick, Vice President, outreach, Israel, and overseas for Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

Milwaukee Jewish Federation operates a young leadership program, called The George Weinstein Fellowship. The program has emerging young leaders from the Milwaukee area visit Israel. The program has Israelis in the Sovev Kinneret partnership region meet with the Milwaukee visitors. Those young Israeli leaders, part of the Ya’ad Shay Shoshany program there, were to come and stay in local homes. But the trip has been canceled.