Associated Family Mission Provides Meaningful, Bonding Experience

In December, The Associated’s Family Mission returned from a 10-day trip to Israel that brought together generations of families for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The group, made up of Baltimore community members of all ages, explored both the historical and religious significance of our Jewish homeland. During their time together, they walked through the ancient tunnels in Jerusalem, floated in the Dead Sea, visited with our brothers and sisters in Ashkelon, our partner city, and celebrated several B’nai Mitzvahs at the top of Masada. They bonded together as a community, with people they knew before and people they had never met…returning home as one big family.

Here’s what some of the participants had to say:

Micah Damareck

What was your best moment of the trip and why?
We can only pick one? Seriously?! If we had to narrow it down, of course we’d have to pick climbing Masada and ultimately having Alex get Bar Mitzvah’d at the top. That was an incredibly moving moment for all of us. 

What was the most moving experience for you and why?
In addition to Alex’s Bar Mitzvah, I think touring Yad Vashem and reflecting afterward was quite powerful. A very, very close second would be walking to and spending time at The Western Wall.

Did the trip connect your further to Israel and the Baltimore Jewish community? 
In so many ways! It was wonderful to have our kids ask if we can spend more time at home lighting the Shabbat candles, and it was so powerful to have dinner in the home of such a lovely family in our partner city of Ashkelon. We plan on having Shabbat dinner at the homes of people from our trip. While we knew them before the trip, being together in Israel brought our families so much closer together.


Alex Damareck

What was your best moment of the trip and why? 
I thought the shuk was fun!  Sandboarding in the desert, rappelling in Mitzpe Ramon and the Dead Sea were also amazing.

What was the most moving experience for you and why? 
Yad Vashem because I learned so much about my people’s history.

What was it like having your Bar Mitzvah in Israel?
It was special having it in my homeland and having it on top of Masada, with all of its history, made it even more special.


Robert Keehn

What was your best moment of the trip and why? 
Getting OFF the camel who wanted to kiss me. I should have obeyed the age limit of 67. Seriously, I’m a learner and standing at the Gaza border and listening to Avi Shalev and later at Yad Vashem being educated by Dr. Rachel Korazim was inspiring… learning about the past, present, and anticipating the future. 

What was the most moving experience for you and why? 
In November, at our pre-conference with the group, I asked how many travelers had never been to Israel. About one -third. I commented that going to Israel, our homeland, is a life-changing event. The emotion generated when the Rubenstein “girls” spoke at the Valley of the Communities, a place I had never visited, was overwhelming, not a dry eye in the house especially when we all sang Hatikvah.

What was something that surprised you and why?
The outpouring of comments towards the end of the trip and afterwards. ‘When can we return?’ ‘Can I read your book on Menachem Begin?’ ‘I’m thinking about learning Hebrew.’ Only time will tell the impact generated by our family mission.


Randy Getz

What was your best moment of the trip and why?
The best moment on the trip was a tie between:

Celebrating our son’s Bar Mitzvah on Masada, not only with our extended family, but also with other B’nai Mitzvot from Baltimore and their families.

Seeing the next generation connect to their religious heritage and to Israel and knowing that grandparents and parents went to great lengths to make this experience happen, was incredibly inspiring.  

Re-dedicating and beautifying the Lyn Stacie Getz Playground in Ashkelon with the group and appreciating how meaningful that was to everyone involved. This experience linked us all together as a group, connected us to the people and community of Ashkelon, and united us with those who came before us on prior mission(s) and helped build the playground.

Participating in a “twinning program” for our Bar Mitzvah-aged son at Yad Vashem. Our son was paired with a 12-year-old boy with the same first name, from the same part of the ‘old country’ where some of our ancestors came from. Sadly, this little boy and his parents perished in the Holocaust. Our son was asked to remember this little boy at special moments throughout our son’s life, such as his upcoming Bar Mitzvah at home, maybe his graduation, wedding, and beyond. We have since contacted the surviving sister of this unfortunate youngster, and my son plans to correspond with her. To have made this connection is incredibly powerful and gives added meaning to everything.

Family Mission Professional Photos by Jordan Polevoy

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