Federation Israel Mission Shows Support During Visit to Kibbutz Kissufim

Tags: Federation, Israel, Overseas

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A group of 20 leaders from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog. Submitted photo


Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

A week prior to the five-month anniversary of the Oct. 7, 2023 surprise attack on Israel by Hamas, 20 leaders from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland embarked on a mission to the Jewish state.

Aimed at providing support and bearing witness, the Feb. 27 to March 2 trip took participants to the communities and people directly impacted in the attacks, such as the site of the Nova Music Festival, where 364 people were killed, and Kibbutz Kissufim, the Federation’s new partnership community.

The group also traveled to the Federation’s sister community of Beit Shean, visited Hostage Square, met with families of hostages, those internally displaced and with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and first lady Michal Herzog at their residence.

“The focus of this mission was to better understand the needs on the ground, learn from our partners what is happening with the war effort, bear witness to the layers of trauma our Israeli brothers and sisters have experienced, while demonstrating Cleveland’s unwavering support and commitment to our Israeli family,” Jared Miller told the Cleveland Jewish News on March 6.

As the chair of the Kibbutz Kissufim partnership, this was Miller’s second trip to Israel since Oct. 7 as he met with the Kissufim leadership in January with three other Federation leaders. This time, he was joined by 19 other Federation leaders as they built benches and heard the stories from the 25 members of the kibbutz they met with.

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland leaders building benches with the residents of Kibbutz Kissufim. Submitted photo

The community of 318 lost 17 lives on Oct. 7, one in the short days after, and one resident, Shlomo Mantzur, was taken hostage. The group met with three of Mantzur’s adult children, who shared that due to being taken captive, he missed his 60th wedding anniversary on March 1 with his wife, Mazal, and turned 86 on March 7 in Gaza.

“Bringing these hostages home now is so critical because the clock is ticking for them for whichever are still alive,” Miller, a resident of Moreland Hills who attends services at Solon Chabad, said. “So, that was a huge takeway is that we need to do whatever we can to bring the hostages home now.”

The daughter of Shlomo Manztur, one of the hostages still in Gaza, speaking to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland leaders at Manztur’s home. Submitted photo

In Hostage Square where a Shabbat table is set for the over 200 hostages that were taken on Oct. 7, Miller said it took him over a minute-and-a-half to walk from one end to the other.

Dan Zelman, Federation board chair, told the CJN on March 6, that while visiting the president’s residence, the first lady spoke about “what an outrage” the “violation of women’s rights during the (Oct. 7, 2023) attack and that have been happening with the hostages” is. The president took the time to ask the participants about Cleveland and the rise in antisemitism and protests in the United States, he said.

From other Israelis they met during the trip, Zelman was inspired by the resilency and “stories of people who exhibited unbelievable volunteerism.” Such individuals included Tali Friedman, chairwoman of the Mahaneh Yehuda market association in Jerusalem, who used her cooking school to make meals for Israel Defense Forces soldiers, and Adir Schwartz who is spearheading a large volunteer effort to address needs.

“Hearing them was inspirational and the resiliency was amazing, and so those were some things that we took away,” Zelman, a congregant of Park Synagogue in Pepper Pike, said. “But along with that, so much devastation and sorrow from the losses that people have experienced and from the family members and friends of those who are still being held hostage.”

Amir Jaffa, Federation’s general campaign chair, was in Jerusalem on Oct. 7 and recalled hearing the air sirens, but not knowing what was happening until later in the day. Returning to Jerusalem on this trip, he said the streets now “feel the same with a major exception that there’s less people from a tourism perspective, but the resilience in that country is unbelievable.”

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland leaders with residents of Kibbutz Kissufim, a community targeted by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023. Submitted photo

Jaffa, a resident of Beachwood and congregant of Congregation Zichron Chaim in University Heights, did not stay for the full trip as his family welcomed a new grandson, but stayed long enough to “shake hands, give hugs and tell people that we care.”

He encouraged others to take a trip to Israel and bear witness if they can.

“There is a very large rebuild – and I don’t just mean from the infrastructure, from the housing, from the damages – but from the people there,” Jaffa told the CJN on March 8. “The morale is high because that’s just the resilience, and that’s just the way fortunately many of our people are wired, but the needs for many years to come are going to be great.”

To donate to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Israel Emergency Fund, visit donate.jewishcleveland.org/israel.

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