When Israel is threatened, Milwaukee has responded | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

When Israel is threatened, Milwaukee has responded

Last month, Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s “Solidarity Mission to Israel” brought 14 witnesses to Israel at a time of crisis. This was not the first time. 

In fact, it was one more step in a history of mission trips in support of Israel During Israel’s crises, Milwaukee has stepped up time and again. Here are just a handful of examples of past missions at moments of peril, from the 1960s and 70s. 

A 1969 mission trip took 25 men from Milwaukee to Israel, the largest contingent in history up to that moment, according to our reporting at the time. The December 1969 trip, a little more than two years after the Six-Day War, arrived in the middle of the Egyptian War of Attrition. This meant shelling from Egypt, which coincided with terrorist attacks from Jordan. Missiles were fired into Israeli cities and villages. 

The men visited the Bet Shean Valley border kibbutzim, shelters, and the Sinai area, which was the site of sporadic clashes at the time. 

Women went at the time, too. The first national Women’s Division Mission to Israel, from Milwaukee, was also in 1969. Five women leaders from the Milwaukee Jewish Welfare Fund, the predecessor to Milwaukee Jewish Federation, traveled to Israel in its moment of need.  

We reported in our Jan. 17, 1969 edition, following the writing conventions of the time: “Winging their way to Israel will be Mrs. Raymond C. Waisman, president of the Women’s Division of the Welfare Fund, who is a past chairman of the women’s campaigns in Milwaukee, and Mrs. Sidney Lieberman, a vice president, education; Mrs. Ralph Eder, chairman, Highlighter’s Division;  Mrs. Lorimer Hankin, vice chairman, Stylesetter’s Division, and Mrs.  Esther J. Sarfatty, director, Women’s Division here.” 

Four Milwaukee rabbis also joined a national “study mission” at that fraught time, in February of 1969, according to Chronicle archives. Rabbis Dudley Weinberg of Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, Jay Brickman of Congregation Sinai, David Shapiro of Anshe Sfard and Joseph Gorfinkel of Congregation Beth Israel were named as the rabbis making the trip.  

“We Rabbis, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, are going to Israel together to demonstrate the solidarity of American Jewry in its concern for the welfare and the security of our brothers and sisters in Israel and to learn at first hand the nature and dimensions of the burdens which Israel is required to bear,” Weinberg told the Feb. 7, 1969, Chronicle. 

In 1974, the year after the Yom Kippur War that served as a particularly fraught moment for Israel, Milwaukee Jewish Federation organized their portion of a national “Prime Minister’s Mission” to Israel.  

“On this mission, our group will visit the battle sites on the Sinai and Golan for briefings by officers of the Israel Defense Forces,” Joseph Lurie told the Chronicle at the time. He was associate chairman of the 1974 Federation Campaign. 

“We will meet with newly arrived immigrants and share their joy,” he said. “Top level Israeli government and military leaders will meet with us for briefings on the dimensions of the problems faced by Israel in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War.”