By Amian Frost Kelemer
Associate Executive Vice President
Macks Center for Jewish Education
Israel has been the historical and spiritual home of the Jewish people since the beginning of time. But let’s face it; it is over 5,800 miles away. That’s pretty far. How do we connect with Israel and help our children find meaning in it when we live in Baltimore?
My family travels to Israel sometimes multiple times a year. We prioritize this as an expense over some other purchases we could make. As a family, we have decided to make our commitment to Israel visible to our children in a very real way. While travel is a premier way to build a connection, it is not feasible for many. There are many other ways we connect.
We display a mizrach on our wall; it is an artistic sign identifying the East which is the direction of Jerusalem. Making a mizrach (challahcrumbs.com/tishabav_crafts.php) is a great family activity that can serve as a spiritual reminder of Israel and an opportunity for a conversation about the Jewish state. We display Israeli art which often has very distinctive themes. One of those is the seven special fruits of Israel (myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Weekly_Torah_Portion/ekev_cn.shtml). We incorporate Israeli music on our play lists; including Israeli children’s songs (such as Dig Dig dug), Israeli rap artists (such as subliminal), Israeli world music (such as Idan Raichel) and classic folk songs. Basically, we are proud Americans who have surrounded ourselves and our children with a bit of Israeli culture. It is a way we can reflect on our values, articulate them and share them with our children.
Notice I did not write about the challenge of combatting media perceptions or complex political realities. It is a constant topic in our house, and we follow events carefully. Although our children are aware of these issues, we focus on love of the land. We hope that our message comes through, and that they will be prepared when they are older to WANT to make their own meaningful relationships with Israel.
Baltimore is lucky, because we have Israeli partners in our sister city of Ashkelon (baltimoreashkelon.org) who are just as eager to connect as we are. Skype also is a great tool for connecting.
Finally, come visit the resource center at CJE (cjebaltimore.org) to get some great books and DVDs that may help you connect your family with Israel! Shalom and Hatzlacha in building your family’s connections- post here to expand the information above and share ways you connect your family to Israel!