Farewell Chen: Part 1

My Dear Friends,

When I took on the plane from Israel to South Bend I didn't know what to expect, but I did know one thing- I knew I'm keeping my heart and mind open to whatever this experience might bring.

After a lot of thinking and consultation with different people, I decided to finish my Shlichut earlier and return to Israel by the end of April, after the Yom Ha'Atzmaut event. It was a very hard decision for me to make, but I believe it will be the right one for me.

The past year and a half has been a roller coaster to me, as it's been to all of us everywhere on the globe. But when I look back, I can definitely say it's been an amazing and beautiful roller coaster ride!

Coming to the US for the first time and being a part of this community has been such an eye-opening experience for me. And I would love to tell you some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned during my time here in South Bend.

God blessed the USA!

The U.S is a country of immigrants from all over the world. Many times people are coming here because they had to escape from their homeland. I was fortunate to get to know some families from the Muslim community including Iraqis, Saudis, and Palestinians. They all told me the same thing: “Back in my country I was told all Jews and Israelis are evil, but after coming here and getting to know Jews and Israelis for the first time, I understand what I was told was a big lie.” The United States is blessed because it is a neutral place where people who come from countries in conflict can truly meet and make peace.

All Jewish souls once stood  together at the sermon of Mount Sinai.

I remember my first Shabbat Service here at the beginning of last year, I went to Temple Beth-El, and throughout the prayer, I could not hold back my tears, I was embarrassed people are going to see me like that, but I really couldn’t control it. I think it was the first time in my life that I truly understood the meaning of the Jewish people. Living in Israel my whole life, I mostly knew the Jewish-Israeli people. I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know a Jewish community outside of Israel. And this first service at Temple Beth-El was the first of many experiences in which I gained new insights about the Jewish people worldwide. 

Every person has a unique story

During the training that the Jewish Agency did for all the new Shlichim, we had a session about the cultural differences between Israelis and Americans (as you might experience with Israelis, there are big differences sometimes). At the end of the session, we were told: “The most important thing you can take from this session is: Don’t make any assumptions about anyone you meet.” I didn’t know how true it was until I got here. Every time I made assumptions about people here- how they grew up, how they got to this community, what is their family background, how they practice their Judaism (or whether they were even Jewish), they turned out to be wrong. Every person here has such a different story, and I think this is one of the main things that makes this community so great.

Standing behind Israel can unite us.

Part of my work as a Shlicha was Israeli advocacy. During my presentations in front of different audiences- inside and outside the Jewish community, I was asked lots of complicated questions. In my attempt to answer the questions, I have never hidden the criticism I have of the decisions of some Israeli leaders and policies that can be unjust. But one thing I know for sure: The right of Jews to self-determination, to a Jewish state in which they can defend themselves and live freely, will not change. Supporting Israel’s right to exist can unite people from both sides of the political map. And during this time of political division, I hope we can all work together on this important effort. 
When I look back at my Shlichut, I invested my time and effort in teaching people about Israel, strengthening our sense of Jewish peoplehood, and explaining Israel to members of both the Jewish and non-Jewish community.

One thing I know for sure, more than I changed people, people here changed me. And for that, I will be forever grateful!

Chen Nissan

Israeli Schlicha
574-233-1164 x1807 
Israel@TheJewishFed.org 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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