Photos By Lior Daskal
Dozens of colleagues and friends came to celebrate the leadership and vision of Raya Strauss Bendror, Partnership2Gether’s outgoing Israel Chairperson and former Co-Chair of the Nahariya-Northern New Jersey Partnership, at a reception held within the framework of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors Meetings.
Following is Raya’s address at the reception.
Raya Strauss Bendror Address
Before I begin, I would like to send my blessings to all the Federations which are experiencing difficult times due to Hurricane Sandy. I hope everyone is safe and sound.
Thank you so much for everything – the warm words, and your love. I’m very excited and it touches me deeply.
Eight years ago, Damon Rose ז”ל, who was then the Partnership Director of the Nahariya – North New Jersey Partnership offered me to be his Partnership Co-Chair. I must say, I didn’t understand what Damon wanted or even meant. What does the Diaspora have to do with me?
I had the privilege to be born in Israel – a proud Sabra. I never thought too much about the Diaspora Jewry. As a result, it took some time for me to understand Damon. My awakening was slow, but then I was infected by the virus of the love for my people.
Two years later Leah Golan, then Director of the Jewish Agency’s Israel Department, approached me and asked me to be the international co-chair for Partnership 2000. I hesitated for six months, until Gidi Grinstein from the Reut institute explained that it’s important for our “Israel 15″ vision and for the future of the state of Israel. That is actually the reason why I accepted this important role and started to create the joint vision of the Partnership between Israel and world Jewry.
Then I joined the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors. I started traveling to different Jewish Federations and communities and it became the passion of my life. It changed my life forever. I am a different person because of you. Today I have an unconditional love for all of you.
This is how Damon changed my life. Sadly, two months ago, after a year long battle, he was taken from us.
By being connected to all of you I saw that you were always there for us in the massive challenge of building the State of Israel. You helped us in everything: aliya, absorption, building, education, healthcare, culture and during times of war and crises. You supported us in every way – whether from overseas or by coming to Israel often times several times a year. I now know how difficult traveling here is. I really don’t take anything for granted and my heart is pouring out love to you. This is why today I feel that we are one big family.
We need one another so much – this I understand in the depth of my soul. We need to remember that our core comes from 12 tribes – the children of Yaakov. They were always different. We need to accept it and not get lost in fights and hate. Like all families, everyone matters. There are times when one member does more than the other, and other times when the other does more.
כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה
I believe we are in a turning point where we are drifting apart from each other. We Israelis do not understand enough the importance of the Jews in the Diaspora. I didn’t understand until I became aware. Likewise, so many members of the younger generation in overseas Jewish communities are not connected enough to Jewish tradition and Israel.
This reminds me of Yochanan Ben Zakay. He could foresee the moment our temple would be destroyed and the people would not have a way to serve God. He made a bold decision to leave Jerusalem in a coffin, and go to Yavne to build the Sanhedrin. He actually invented a new way of serving God without the temple. It was no less than a revolution. This is a quantum leap. Without his courage and innovation we would not have survived for 2000 years.
Today I believe we stand at a similar point.
You, the leadership of the Jewish people, cannot continue with the same tradition of the last 85 years.
This is the time for big decisions – for a strong, daring and wise leadership – like Yochanan Ben Zakay. There is a need to make breakthrough decisions which are different from the paradigm of the past.
Some or perhaps many will opposed, be angered and offended, but if this is accomplished, the Jewish Agency will again be the main platform for the Jewish people.
I promise I will be here – helping where I can. I share your vision.
My connection to “Am Israel” is in my DNA – now and forever.
I am praying for change.
I love you all.
עם ישראל חי
Raya Strauss Bendror