Proposed mission to Israel aims to strengthen Jewish peoplehood
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Mission to IsraelFrom Pittsburgh with Love

Proposed mission to Israel aims to strengthen Jewish peoplehood

'It’s all of our responsibility to actively demonstrate to Jews around the world that we care about them'

Rabbi Yitzi Genack, center, delivers cards to Israeli soldiers during a mission to Israel last month. (Photo courtesy of Rabbi Yitzi Genack)
Rabbi Yitzi Genack, center, delivers cards to Israeli soldiers during a mission to Israel last month. (Photo courtesy of Rabbi Yitzi Genack)

A proposed mission to Israel will send community members 6,000 miles east in the coming weeks. Designed by World Mizrachi, and led by Shaare Torah Congregation’s Rabbi Yitzi Genack and Rebbetzin Anna Yolkut, of Poale Zedeck, the three-day trip will be an opportunity to strengthen Jewish peoplehood.

“Showing that we are all in this together is important,” Yolkut said.

The mission is scheduled for Jan. 2-4, according to Genack.

Other rabbis and community members have taken short trips to Israel since the war with Hamas began on Oct. 7.

Yolkut’s husband, Rabbi Daniel Yolkut, recently traveled to the Jewish state with the Rabbinical Council of America.

From conversations with him “and people there” it became obvious that the connection between American and Israeli Jews must be fortified, Anna Yolkut said.

Genack, who also participated in a mission to Israel with the RCA, said that Pittsburghers must demonstrate their connections with the Jewish state and its residents.

“The Jewish people have to be embedded in this experience in Israel, and they have to feel it viscerally,” he said. “They can’t do it from America.”

Questions about the bond between American and Israeli Jews have received recent attention.

In its 2021 Survey of American Jewish Opinion, the American Jewish Committee reported that 46% of respondents consider Israeli Jews “extended family,” while 28% said Israeli Jews are “not part of my family.”

Even before the current war between Hamas and Israel, Pew Research Center detected strained ties and generational shifts in attitudes regarding the Jewish state.

Although 67% of Jewish Americans ages 65 and older described themselves as feeling “very/somewhat” connected to Israel, only 48% of those under age 30 gave Pew a similar answer.

When asked about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, generational divisions appeared again, as 44% of respondents ages 65 and older strongly opposed the BDS movement, but only 27% of Jewish Americans under age 30 were opposed, according to Pew’s 2021 report.

Genack and Yolkut both hope the upcoming mission will fortify the ties between American Jews and Israel.

The Pittsburghers said they are looking to take between 15 and 40 community members.

When Genack visited last month, he found the trip, which occurred alongside fellow rabbis, “profound and inspiring.”

Days of people-to-people connections made clear that “it’s all of our responsibility to actively demonstrate to Jews around the world that we care about them,” he said.

He and Yolkut want their upcoming mission to achieve similar outcomes.

“The people of Israel need it, and we need it,” Genack said.

This mission is not about touring, the rabbi noted.

“This is a demonstration that we are one people and we support each other,” he said. Yolkut and Genack both said they recognize the hardships a quick trip to Israel present.

“Each individual on the mission would arrange their own airfare and accommodations. If there is a cost for the mission, it will be reasonable,” they wrote in a joint message to congregants.

Still, a trip to Israel now is imperative, Yolkut said.

“I know that it’s not easy and I know that every individual can’t pull it off logistically or financially, but everyone should feel in one way or another that they are sacrificing for Israel and the Jewish people,” she said. “This trip isn’t the only way but it’s one way.” PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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