Every two years, THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore hosts a family mission to Israel. The trip is a life-changing journey, rich in history, culture, Jewish connection and fun. What tends to be the most fascinating piece is the diverse types of people who participate. Generally, families from all walks of life take part in the trip, getting to know the Israeli people, their land and our traditional connection to the Jewish state.
At the end of the month, John Meyer will be one of those family mission participants. Meyer, who will be travelling with his wife and two children, has never been to Israel.
“This is just something I have always wanted do to,” explained Meyer. “My wife and I are both born and bred Baltimoreans. We have been familiar with mission over the years. The last one THE ASSOCIATED ran was a week before my daughter’s bat mitzvah. We were not able to go, although we really wanted to. We knew there would be another mission this year. When we heard about it, we were immediately interested.”
Meyer will be travelling with his extended family, as well, his in-laws and his brother-in-law.
Meyer said he does not classify himself as specifically engaged with Israel. His family is traditional, celebrates holidays together and the like, but does not regularly engage in Jewish activities or feel passionate about Israeli politics. He said what he is most looking forward to is walking in the footsteps of Jewish history and connecting his children, now ages 13 and 15, to their Jewish roots.
“We have travelled a lot and we have taken our kids to many exciting places, but we have never done anything personally and historically meaningful,” Meyer said. “My son just had his bar mitzvah. I am hopeful the Israel experience will dovetail with his bar mitzvah and he gets a complete appreciation of our heritage.”
Meyer said he thinks we live in a time where kids tend to be proud of being Jewish, but they don’t have an intense connection to their Judaism like Jewish children in the past.
“I would hope that a trip to Israel would be a great opportunity for them to become a little more passionate about Judaism, or at least solidify their connection to the Jewish people,” he said.
Alan Edelman has a similar agenda, he said. Though he and his wife, Carol, have been to Israel a couple of times each, his children, ages 16 and 18, have never gone.
“I want to be the one to take them to Israel,” said Edelman. “I don’t want them to go on Birthright Israel or whatever before they have gone with me. I want to be with them when they see if for the first time.”
Edelman said he sees Israel as the soul of the Jewish people. He feels immensely close with the Israeli people and enjoys the idea of being around Israelis, folks who willingly and literally sacrifice their lives to live in the Jewish state.
“There are all kinds of people in Israel, people that are nice to Americans, people that don’t like Americans, religious people who think that if you are not religious, you might as well be Christian, and people like me who just want to be in Israel. What I find I love about Israelis is that all of them have made a commitment with their lives for the state of Israel. It’s such a special thing,” he said.
Edelman is hoping that daughters Laura and Claire will feel the same way. He said he has “very high expectations for this trip with regards to my girls.”
“We are not religious Jews at all. In fact, a lot of Jews might think we are not even Jewish. We’re not even traditional. There are no Friday night dinners, no celebrating the Sabbath. I’m in synagogue like twice a year. My 18-year-old decided last year that she wanted to do a Jewish program. She participated in Students Taking Action for Change and it was just wonderful for her. This year, my 16-year-old is doing the Teen Giving Initiative,” said Edelman. “They are starting to understand what it means to be Jewish and they are starting to understand the meaning of Israel and the role it plays for Jews around the world. They are interested in going now. The ASSOCIATED 2010 Family Mission is the perfect opportunity.”
Edelman continued, “This mission could be life-changing for my girls.”