Experience a mission; change your life

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In September 2015, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime that turned into a life-changing experience.  The Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island organized a community leaders mission to Israel, and I was invited to join. My boss at the time, Tony Maione, had been on a similar trip 10 years earlier, and insisted that I go. This wasn’t a typical tourist trip. I would get to see Israel with a group of Rhode Island leaders while learning about Israel’s culture and people.

The trip in November 2015 was my first to Israel. Despite growing up in a traditional Jewish household, travel to Israel was never something that was emphasized. As I have shared in this newspaper before, while I always identified strongly as Jewish, my connection to the culture and religion had waned in my 20s. It only took one-week in Israel to forever strengthen that connection.

The mission trip was a whirlwind, mostly because we tried to complete 10 days of activities in six days. But there are images that stand out and memories that are forever fused in my brain. I remember seeing Israeli flags flying on top of buildings as we entered Tel Aviv and thinking that patriotism is not something that is uniquely American. I remember traveling in the north and visiting all of the historic churches, a reminder that this land has significance for three of the world’s major religions.

I remember looking out over the Golan Heights at the tanks abandoned during the Yom Kippur War, and I remember walking through the Old City in Jerusalem and saying a silent prayer at the Kotel. All of these sights and stops were special, but what made the mission even more meaningful was sharing it with people who became fast friends. We had the chance to learn together from a member of the Knesset, from the editor of a major newspaper, from retired military officials and from many others. We had the opportunity to reflect together on what we had experienced.  Most importantly, we created shared memories that we will all carry with us for a lifetime.

That mission was life-changing for me. I would not be in my role at the Alliance today if I had not gone on the trip. It strengthened my Jewish identity, bolstered my connection to Judaism, and deepened my understanding of Israel. More importantly, it created lifelong relationships.  Now, every time I see Mayor James Diossa of Central Falls, we talk about when we will go back together. I keep a copy of the photo album that Judge Richard Licht created for all of us on the trip in my office, occasionally flipping through it to remind me of how I got here.

A mission is a truly unique experience.  It is about more than tourism and travel, and it is more than your typical trip.  Israel’s 70th anniversary provides our community with the perfect reason to travel together:  to learn and to celebrate the culture, the heritage, and the history of Israel with others who will quickly become friends.  There are several trips to Israel from our community planned for the coming year, all catering to slightly different audiences.  The Alliance has organized a trip from Oct. 15-23. I would be honored to have you join me.  For more information, visit jewishallianceri.org/mission.

Having experienced Israel before, my biggest excitement in returning is to share it with others.  If this is your first time or your 10th, I hope that you will consider joining our trip or one of the other trips our community is running if those better suit your needs.  I know it will be worth it!

ADAM GREENMAN is President and CEO of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on the Alliance trip to Israel, go to jvhri.org/stories/see-israel-with-the-alliance,8396. For more on other trips to Israel, go to jvhri.org/stories/israel-trips,8387.