Jewish Federation to take 500 residents of Western Pennsylvania to Israel
To say the past three years have been traumatic for members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community would be an understatement.
Between the anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life congregation in October 2018, the pandemic and unprecedented protests and unrest, Pittsburgh Jews, especially children and young adults, have been through a lot. Many of them have never been to their homeland. But for some, it’s about to change.
On Wednesday, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh announced it was taking hundreds of residents of western Pennsylvania to Israel in June 2022 on a “mega mission.” This is something the Jewish Federation had planned before the pandemic, in part to bring together members of the Jewish community after so much upheaval.
Israel has postponed the country’s planned reopening to vaccinated tourists over concerns over the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus. However, while no one can enter the country individually, mission groups have obtained permission.
“Last year we couldn’t imagine trying to take 500 people on a community mega mission,” said Jeffrey Finklestein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation. “Now Israel has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, new cases of covid-19 in our region are decreasing every week and we recognize the pent-up interest in traveling to Israel.
“After the difficult times the Pittsburgh Jewish community has experienced, I look forward to better times with our community as we heal and grow while experiencing Israel together.”
The Federation provides grants to children and young adults who wish to make the trip. The Federation’s goal of bringing together 500 missionary travelers would be the largest Jewish mission to Israel since Pittsburgh. David Sufrin, chairman of the board of the Jewish Federation, said the number of people already registered puts the mission on track to achieve this goal.
“In just under a year, I will be joining many of our community participating in the Mega Mission to visit Israel,” he said. “After long months of isolation from friends and family, I can’t wait to be with so many great people face to face to learn, reconnect and celebrate in the amazing places Israel has to offer.”
The group is expected to visit Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem as well as the Pittsburgh Partnership2Gether sister cities of Karmiel and Misgav.
Paul Guggenheimer is an editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected]