By Sharon Mann
Many of us who live in Nahariya, six miles from Lebanon’s border, consider our city a little gem in the north of Israel. It is small, clean, on the train line affording easy access to the center of the country and on the Mediterranean Coast. Yes we are in the periphery of Israel and slightly off the beaten track, but we feel we have a nice quality of life here. Recently some North American Reform Jews are discovering Nahariya as well, thanks to Nefesh B’Nefesh’s (NBN) GoNorth program which promotes aliyah to the north of Israel by offering incentives to olim (new immigrants) who settle here.
My congregation, Emet VeShalom Nahariya, is the only non-Orthodox synagogue in the Western Galilee affiliated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. We are happy to welcome these newcomers to our congregation and are pleased to have them share in our multi cultural and multi lingual community where they can easily feel at home.
In 2003 a large group of Spanish speaking South Americans immigrated to Nahariya and joined Emet VeShalom. Since then we have strived to ensure that members and guests who speak only Hebrew, English or Spanish understand and can partake in all of our services and programs. This means, for example, that the drasha (weekly discussion of the Torah portion) which is given in Hebrew at services is translated ahead of time and provided as a handout to Spanish and English speakers. Our announcements are made in all three languages and at all programs we ensure that everyone can participate fully in the event. So, if we plan to have a discussion at a program, such as for Tisha B’Av, we run three separate discussion groups. Luckily, our Russian speakers understand either English or Hebrew.
Although our multi lingual approach takes patience and a tremendous effort on the part of some of our members who translate all the necessary materials for each service or activity, we feel that it is part of our mandate to be an inclusive and warm community. We are gratified when newcomers and guests embrace our welcoming spirit and the effort that is made on their behalf. English speakers who don’t know Hebrew well can follow our weekly Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat service with a beautiful “English Guide to FRIDAY EVENINGS at Emet veShalom.” Member Yehudit Lahav lovingly wrote this book in memory of her son, Staff Sergeant Shaul Lahav, who fell in the line of duty, November 18, 2003, at age twenty. Yehudit’s book provides a translation and transliteration of our Hebrew prayer book’s text allowing English speakers to fully participate in services.
We also have an Adult Immigrant/Pensioner program of cultural and Jewish educational activities that provides community support. This program squarely fits within the scope of our core mission of Tikkun Olam and consists of a selection of clubs, workshops and activities that provide affordable social, educational, and cultural support of a Jewish/Israeli/Zionist flavor to older immigrants, pensioners and other adults, many of whom live on minimal fixed incomes and speak little, if any Hebrew. Our program helps new and veteran immigrants integrate into our community and Israel through activities dedicated to their language and ethnic needsbecause adjustment to life in Israel is an ongoing process for many olim.*
Gabriel Mayer, a recent immigrant from Orlando Florida stepped right into our effort of community building through outreach and engagement by volunteering to represent Emet VeShalom at a NBN event to encourage immigrants already in Israel to move up north. So, if you are thinking of moving to Israel, or even just to visit, please join us at Emet VeShalom – we look forward to welcoming you.
* Emet VeShalom is grateful to the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey which allocates a grant toward this program enabling us to fulfill this community need in Nahariya.