I have spent nearly four weeks in Israel.  Thankfully it has been a quiet summer.  A year ago, we were in the midst of a war, and every day was tense.  The effects of the war still linger on, however, in the memorial ceremonies that mark the first yahrzeit of the soldiers who fell defending the State.  Friends, family, and complete strangers showed up to express their gratitude, solidarity, and words of comfort.

Shortly after we arrived a few weeks ago, we were permitted to visit Avi, our son, on his base.  His commanding officer could not be more accommodating.  As we entered the gate to the base, it felt like visitor’s day except that we were the only visitors.  One by one his friends came out and greeted us warmly.  They were happy to see that we brought with us a few kilos of “regulach” and gummy worms from Machaneh Yehudah.

They invited us into their living quarters, a makeshift caravan that was poorly lit and appropriately messy and looked strikingly similar to a camp bunk.  The boys showed us a video of one of their unit’s final training missions last year where they proved their stamina and strength.  Even after watching, I found it hard to imagine these kids are fighters.  They are way too kind, polite, and playful.  Even the flies buzzed around their beds without fearing harm.  On our way out, we met Avi’s commanding officer, who, continuing the metaphor, was the “senior counselor.”  He was an articulate and personable young man who had only the nicest things to say.

Shortly after our visit to his base, Avi showed us a letter that one of his commanding officers wrote to each of the families in the unit last summer after the war.  It was addressed to us but we only saw it now.  “To the Buckman family: In the recent weeks of Operation Protective Edge, you were full partners in the war effort.  The worry, understanding, and confidence that you exuded strengthened the fighters.  I pledge that we did and will continue to do everything in our power to return the country to a state of security, all of which is due to the courageous and strenuous work of the members of your family.  We, the IDF, stand with you today and are proud of the support that you provide from home.”

The IDF may be one of the strongest armies in the world.  But its greatest strength lies in its humanity and kindness. The army continually reminds me that we are one family with a shared future and fate.


American High School Age Olah

An American high school age “olah” who is volunteering to raise money to send packages to IDF soldiers.


One of our overarching goals at TanenbaumCHAT is to help studentsdevelop a deep relationship with Israel and Israelis. We have an exciting opportunity to bring a new type of Shalich (literally “emissary” or “messenger”; plural shlichim) to TanenbaumCHAT who will help advance that goal.

I am pleased to announce that we have recruited two married shlichim, Shlomi and Ya’ara Edelshtein, who will join our school community for the next two years. Their focus will be informal and experiential education as opposed to classroom teaching.

Shlomi and Ya’ara are about 4 years post-army.  Shlomi served as a commander in the Haruv Battalion and earned the rank of Company Sergeant Major.  On Israel’s Independence Day in 2010 he receive the “President’s Citation Award” for his excellence in service.  Ya’ara served as a medic in the Navy Seals unit and worked as a high ranking medic in IDF Central Command.  Both are current students at Hebrew University.  Shlomi is studying political science and education, and Ya’ara is studying political science and sociology.

Ya’ara has worked with at-risk youth in Jerusalem, served as a counselor at Camp Ramah in New England for three summers, worked as a counselor in the B’nei Akiva Youth Movement in Israel, and participated on the Birthright Partnership Program.  Shlomi has worked for Ramah Seminars in Israel as a Division Head and for Camp Ramah in New England as a summer counselor.  He is also a certified Guide in the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem museum.  Like Ya’ara, he, too, was active in a leadership role in the B’nei Akiva Youth Movement in Israel.  Their references describe them as creative, passionate, hard-working, risk takers, not afraid of failure.

As I mentioned, Ya’ara and Shlomi are not formal teachers.  Rather, they are experiential educators who will help infuse the school with additional Israeli ruach (spirit), explore ways to connect our students to their peers in Israel, enhance the shabbaton experience, increase awareness at school of Israeli current events, and assist with the hand-off from TanenbaumCHAT to university life.

They will report to Rabbi Mandel at TCW and Judith Shapero at TCK, work with Kyle Borenstein and Josh Sable at TCW and Keren Romm and Jamie Cohen at TCK, and collaborate with our current Shlichim and other staff members.

The continuation of our Shlichim program has been made possible through the generosity of the Jewish Agency in Israel, the UJA Federation here in Toronto, and donor parents who are committed to seeing the Shlichim program continue even amidst budget cuts.

The presence of Shlichim has been a signature program of TanenbaumCHAT that has made a significant impact on our students.  (For more about the change in the role of Shlichim, see my blog post on Edline dated January 29, 2015.)

Please join us in welcoming Shlomi and Ya’ara when they arrive September 1, 2015.