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The magic chair
By Gaylee Schif
Dec 13, 2018 By Jewish National Fund Category: Education,
Joining the JNF family feeling engaged, affirmed and optimistic
Now, here I am, sitting on the other side of JNF National Conference 2018, and I feel engaged, affirmed, optimistic, motivated, moved, and so much more. But let me back up.
I grew up proudly Jewish and strongly affiliated with Israel. My mom was born there, and my maternal grandmother was too. My maternal grandfather fled Germany as a young child with his parents in the early 1930s to then-Palestine. My family members were the early Zionist pioneers, settling the land and fighting in the wars that made it a state. It is literally true that without Israel, I would not be here.
But as I got older, my connection to the Jewish community and Israel faded. I moved away from my hometown and my parents and synagogue and Jewish friends to attend a Jesuit university on the other side of the country. I graduated college, began my career, got married (to a nice Jewish guy), and started a family. My grandparents passed away (as grandparents do). And while my husband and I celebrate Jewish holidays and Jewish life-cycle traditions together, I nevertheless found myself missing something -- that deeper connection to Israel that I once took for granted as an ever-present part of my life.
|JNF National Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, this past October.|
From the moment I walked in on the first morning, I felt like I was part of a big JNF family. I was inspired by the people around me, all dedicated to supporting and strengthening Israel, our shared homeland. Russell Robinson gave me a hug and told me he was happy to see me. (Me? Was he sure?)
|Bari Weiss speaking at JNFNC18.|
And then on the morning of the second day, Pittsburgh happened. Of course, that tragic event reinforced why we must as a community support Israel. But it was life-affirming in a way I never would have expected.
I will never forget the sound of the Havdalah blessings ringing out loud and clear that Saturday night, as we proudly and without fear celebrated the end of Shabbat together. I will never forget hearing Bari Weiss of The New York Times, who grew up in that very Pittsburgh Jewish community where tragedy struck, passionately speak about combating hate and anti-Semitism. And I will never forget the feeling of 1,200 Jews from across the United States and Israel dancing together to the Israeli music I remember from my childhood.
Before National Conference I was happy to financially support JNF. But the experience of being at National Conference sealed the deal on what I know in my heart will be a lifetime of engagement with and support of JNF that goes far beyond writing a check.