Congregation B'nai Israel

2710 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604 | (203) 336-1858 | |

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Farewell and Welcome!

by Ira Wise, August 2017/Av-Elul 5777

As this is being written at the end of June, we have just finished saying goodbye and thank you to Meshy Gabay and Guy Shamai who spent a wonderful year in our community as Young Israeli Emissaries. They came into our community, our homes and our hearts and breathed the air of Israel into our lives. We are blessed to have made them part of our families. And they always will be. When you go to Israel, look them up and take them out for a meal! I meet with many of our former emissaries each time I return!

While we have been saying goodbye, many of us have begun to get to know Ofek Moscovich and Yuval Hazan who will be arriving in early September. (Just as Meshy and Guy were joined by Noa Feldman and Rotem Rotner who both focused on the Western part of our community, Bar Dgani and Itamar Erez will be coming with Yuval and Ofek,) I leave for Eastern Europe and Israel, escorting our NFTY/Crane Lake and Eisner Camp teens this coming Sunday. And one of the many highlights will be that I will be the first in our community to meet Ofek, Yuval, Noa and Itamar – taking them to dinner in Jerusalem!

You will get to meet them as well. We will share their biographies and a video online later this month, and they will be embedded throughout our congregation and the larger community. Please don’t wait for them to come up to you. Letting these recent high school graduates into your life is a gift you will give yourself and your entire family. Please contact me about inviting them for dinner. Or better yet, think about inviting one of them to live with you. Seriously.

Three years ago, Audrey, Harper and I said we would be happy to be a host family. We welcomed Lidor Osmo into our home that fall and we have never regretted it. Like all of our other emissaries, Lidor deferred his military service for a year to do Shanat Sherut – a year of service to the Jewish People and Israel. For us, it meant we had a third son. And it still does. His mother and brother joined us for Seder that year and our connection to Lidor extended to include his family. Last summer, I stayed with Lidor’s family at their home in Nesher (a suburb of Haifa) for Shabbat. We hiked in the forest, celebrated Shabbat with the extended family and hung out at his father Rafi’s new restaurant.

It doesn’t take much to be a host family. You need to have some kids still living at home. You need to be warm and welcoming and open to new things. You need an extra bedroom. And you need to make sure the family does stuff together and that your emissary feels like a part of the family, not like a house guest. (OK, no chores beyond keeping their room tidy and cleaning up after themselves, but they do that naturally!) And of course they will eat like a normal 18 year-old (either like a bird or an army regiment – there is no normal). The community provides them with a car and money for gas, a cell phone and an office. They typically bring their own laptop. Just love them, listen, talk and let them into your life. And you don’t have to put this new son or daughter through college. Israel takes care of that!

Ready to talk more about it – without making a commitment yet? Contact Judy Blumenthal, one of the two coordinators of the Young Israeli Emissary program. She is there to make sure that everything runs smoothly for them, the community and for the host families. And she and Michael were host parents themselves, so she speaks from personal knowledge. You can reach her at And Audrey and I would be delighted to speak with you as well!