Thursday, February 7, 2019

By: Danit Arad

My husband, Ron, and I first arrived in the United States in 2004, after Ron was accepted into a program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). We packed our suitcases and flew to Boston with our two small children (our youngest two months old), for a new adventure. We truly believed, like many other Israelis, that after a year we would make our way back to Israel. Since then, we have moved from Boston to Pennsylvania to New York and to New Jersey, where we live today, now with four children. We remain deeply connected to Israel and still believe that one day, we will return home.

I work as an internal medicine physician at a hospital in New Jersey, and Ron works at a start-up in the fashion industry. We first discovered the IAC four years ago, when our eldest daughter Ayelet, joined IAC Eitanim, a program that brings together Jewish-American and Israeli-American middle and high school students for an immersive, innovative, project-based learning experience that strengthens their Jewish identity and builds their connection to Israel. Her brother, Yair, soon followed suit and joined the program.

Then, about a year ago a friend told me about IAC Gvanim—a community leadership training program—and suggested that I join. I had been engaged with the question of our identity as an Israeli living in the United States, and I was excited to have the opportunity to dive into this as part of the program. For our final project, we organized an Israeli-style Ushpizin event during Sukkot. We came together with the other Israeli-American families living in our neighborhood, built sukkahs, and welcomed our neighbors into our homes to  experience the festivities of the holiday and the sense of community.

Today, our connection to the IAC and the Israeli-American community drives both Ron and me to give back by volunteering as mentors for IAC Eitanim. We believe that by contributing to our community, we preserve our Israeli identity. Serving as IAC Eitanim mentors is an absolute pleasure, and the teens in our community bring us a great sense of pride.

Living in the United States while longing for Israel, and grappling with the question of our identity are what pushed us to become involved in our community, especially by working with the youth through IAC Eitanim.

What does the future hold for our family? Our longing for Israel, coupled with the desire of our eldest child to join the Israel Defense Forces, raises the question of whether we will be returning. But in the meantime, we are here and continue to believe in being active in our community, through the IAC, as a means of maintaining our connection to Israel and Israeliness.

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