Federation’s Israel Solidarity Mission


By Jessica Goldfarb, JFGC Communications Specialist

In January, the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte (JFGC) hosted a Solidarity Mission to Israel, uniting members of our community in an effort to bear witness to and share the stories of those affected by the October 7 attacks. The trip offered a unique blend of personal encounters and expert briefings, deepening participants’ understanding of Israel’s current situation.

The mission’s itinerary was thoughtfully planned to include visits to areas directly impacted by the conflict, such as kibbutzim and towns attacked by Hamas. These visits provided participants with a firsthand look at the toll of the attacks and war and, remarkably, the unexpected hope and resilience that is flourishing, symbolized by the blooming red calaniot in the south.

The backdrop of this mission was the profound sense of loss and solidarity felt within our community. From grief and anger emerged a shared determination to provide assistance to our struggling family in Israel. The Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel Emergency Campaign, which has raised more than $700 million in donations, has been pivotal in offering aid and is the largest single source of funding for Israel’s needs. The Charlotte community’s significant contribution of more than $2.6 million underscores our collective commitment to supporting Israel in her time of need. Seeing the impact that the Israel Emergency Campaign has had, the group left Israel with an understanding that the support we provide does matter.

The eight Charlotte Jewish community members on the trip spoke with individuals who had received aid and were deeply touched by their immense gratitude. “Every single person we met thanked us,” said Lisa Levinson, who was one of the eight individuals on the trip. Levinson added that several Israelis actually expressed concern for our Jewish community in the United States as we deal with increased acts of antisemitism here at home.
A key focus of the mission was the chance to meet and speak with those closely affected, establishing a personal connection to the human stories behind the conflict. Rabbi Lexi Erdheim of Temple Beth El notes that one of the moments that resonated with her the most was hearing from Nova music festival massacre survivor, Noa Beer, who ended her inspiring story with a powerful statement: “We will dance again.”

Rabbi Rachel Smookler remarks that it was the attention to detail that allowed her to genuinely immerse herself in Israel and its culture. “We wouldn’t have gotten the same experience if we went on our own,” she said, referring to the many meetings with survivors and families of hostages, like the family of Bar Kuperstein, who was kidnapped from the Nova music festival.

The mission illuminated the widespread impact of the conflict on Israeli society, from economic strains to the challenges faced by families and the sound of gunfire in the distance. Everyone in Israel has been affected by what has happened.

Yet, amidst these trials, the spirit of the Israeli people shines brightly. Eric Laxer summarized what was felt by every member of the trip, “The strength of this country is in the people.” He continued, “Israelis are hurting, but they are still living their lives.” He described businesses in Tel Aviv that have stayed open and people playing the popular paddle game Kadima on the beach. These signs of resilience gave those on the trip a profound sense of hope and relief.
The resilience observed by Eric in the streets and beaches of Tel Aviv is echoed in the experiences of the youngest members of Israeli society. Emily Zimmern recalls visiting the after-school program in Jerusalem founded for children displaced from their homes in the south. With the shortage of teachers, children were in school for reduced hours. This new afterschool program offered them a chance to play soccer, perform in theater, or interact with animals. “It was wonderful to see these kids who were cooped up in hotel rooms have a chance to get out and just be kids.”
Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte CEO, Sue Worrel, CEO, summed up the experience as “profoundly transformative on a number of levels. Words don’t describe the gravity of it all.”

This Solidarity Mission went beyond a travel opportunity, evolving into a powerful call to action. It was a reminder for those on the trip and for us at home of the strength found in unity and the impact of our support.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte plans another trip March 25-28. For more information, call (704) 944-6757 or email [email protected]

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