Jewish Federation of St. Louis Interfaith Couples Mission to Israel
Experience Israel together with your interfaith partner on this unique mission!
The trip takes place September 3 – 12, 2017.
Applications are now closed. For more information, contact Karen Rader at KRader@JFedSTL.org or 314-442-3756.
Jewish community members and their spouses/partners who identify as an interfaith couple are invited to travel to Israel as part of a special cohort. Create community with your fellow participants as you learn from each other and navigate what it means to be an interfaith couple in St. Louis.
This trip is designed to engage couples with Israel and understand the importance of the land, culture, people and economy from the perspective of each other’s faith.
Supported by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and the generosity of Stuart and Susie Zimmerman, this highly subsidized trip is open to eight couples between the ages of 27 and 45.
The land cost is fully subsidized. There is an optional group flight available for $995.00 per person.
After a ten hour flight from Newark, we landed in Tel Aviv around 10:00 am. We immediately began our tour of Israel in Jaffa, where we all enjoyed meandering narrow alleys and views of the beaches of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea. Both lunch and dinner were full of traditional Israeli cuisine – hummus and pita, kabobs, falafel and more. And more. And more. We savored every bite. It’s safe to speak for the whole group in that it was an amazing first day of our journey here in Israel.
-Erin & Marshall
We had a packed and diverse day. We started with a presentation from Road to Recovery, a volunteer organization that provides transportation to Palestinians from the check point to hospitals in Israel; normally an expensive taxi ride. I had always heard that there was only tension between Palestinians and Israelis. It is refreshing to hear that is not the case and how strangers are building bridges faster and better than those in charge.
Then we learned about Start-Up companies and Israel’s commitment, support and abundance of them. We walked famous streets: Herzl and Rothschild. We ate and shopped at the market.
Then off we went for a Segway adventure in Jaffa. Yes, it is as hard as it looks, but some make it look so simple. No one died, no one fell, but some of us had a longer learning curve than others. We toured Jaffa by Segway with much laughter.
Roughly around 4:00 pm, we experienced Independence Hall with videos and reflections to commemorate the day Israel become a state, March 14, 1948, 4:00 pm on a Friday before Shabbat.
Finally, our day ended at Na Laga’at or BlackOut, an organization that helps those with blindness or visual impairments, where we dined in complete darkness to experience a snapshot of time being blind or visually impaired. What an intense experience! It taught us different ways to navigate the world; quite a bit of touching to find our way to the table, our silverware on the table, glasses and water jugs on the table and most hilariously, getting food from the plate to our mouths. We found simple actions and communication much more difficult. I am grateful for my sight and have a new appreciation for how brave those without navigate the world.
-Lila Tov, Rachel & Paul
We were reminded today of our shared experience of the human condition, a reality that reaches across cultural boundaries and international borders. The day highlighted several examples of work being done here in the Israeli community that is supported by the Jewish Federation in St. Louis. We spent a significant portion of the morning at Leket, an organization that brings together ideas around the preservation of food waste and the ancient tradition of tithing. Leket works with farmers in Israel, as well as other food organizations, to transfer food that would otherwise be wasted to needy families. We had the privilege of supporting Leket’s efforts by spending about an hour sorting potatoes and onions- removing spoiled vegetables from large vats and filling nine pound bags for distribution to individual families in need. We were joined in the experience by Israelis from one of the largest insurance companies, creating opportunities for shared work, laughter and disagreements about popular culture.
Later in the day, we arrived at the Ethiopian Empowerment Center, a second program supported by the Federation. Over a shared coffee, made from beans roasted by an Ethiopian from the local community, we discussed the importance of tradition, opportunity and integration for Ethiopian Jews in Israel. While many of the Ethiopian Jews in the community around the center are experiencing positive movement toward integration (at higher levels than the national average), the support provided by the federation remains a vital means for ensuring the work and positive outcomes continue. The community has been particularly successful in encouraging the educational aspirations of young people. Many more young Ethiopians are either attending or planning to attend university- a key process facilitating economic and social integration in what is often an intergenerational process.
While our day included a number of other important and enjoyable events, including a cheese and olive tasting in the morning and a difficult discussion of interfaith marriage under rabbinical law in Israel after dinner, we have chosen to focus on these first two events because of their commonalities with experiences we share in the United States. The focus on food waste, for example, originated with a study in the United States that suggests we waste nearly a third of the food produced nationally. These shared problems, however, also offer an opportunity for transnational dialogue and shared efforts to find solutions. Likewise, the challenges of social and economic integration are experiences that immigrants around the globe regularly face. As Ethiopian immigrants continue to work to integrate into Israel thirty years after the first families arrived, Syrian refugees in St. Louis are just beginning their own struggle in our home community. Community leaders, immigration specialists, and most importantly every day citizens in each country will play vital roles in the future success of each community. Today, we encountered struggles that are shared and shouldered by members of the both the Israeli and St. Louis communities through the work of the Jewish Federation. But we also found opportunities for conversation, action across borders, and real hope for the future.
-Deborah & Joel
Day 4 in Israel was yet another incredibly busy day spent galavantIng all over the northern parts of the country, a day filled with amazingly rich sights, sounds and smells.
Sights. The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth with its three churches built atop one another, 60 years atop 900 years atop 2000+ years. Beautiful depictions of Mary represented by the unique artistic visions from numerous countries from around the world. Also, the art and architecture of the old city of Tzfat with its winding stone streets and dense housing including the studio of local artist and former Michiganite, Avraham Lowenthal with his deep artistic conceptual interpretations of the Kabbalah.
Sounds. The frenetic story telling from our Irish tour guide as she regaled us with stories from ancient religious life at the archaeological excavation site of a first century synagogue in Magdala, one of just a few of its kind that have been uncovered. And the sound of the waves as we cruised the Sea of Galilee punctuated by selections of Christian gospel and Jewish techno music.
Lastly, smells. 19 sweaty souls on a bus…just kidding. Rather, the smells of Yemenite Dynamite, the lunch of choice in Tzfat and the delicious dinner of fish and chips served just feet from the docks of the Sea of Galilee.
Until tomorrow, when another St. Louis couple rambles on about our adventures of the day. Lilah tov.
-Sharon & Zach
Today, we departed Kibbutz Daliya and headed to the heart of the holy Land. It’s amazing to visit a place you’ve heard about your entire life, a place with such strong significance to so many people.
The drive to Jerusalem is a good examples to the complexities of Israel. Our highway threads the needle between Israel and the Palestinian territories, with the wall/fence visible for much of the route. It was easy to know we’d arrived in Jerusalem as the golden dome of the rock stuck out from the skyline.
Touching the Western Wall was surreal, as was seeing Jews of all colors davening, laying tefillin and inserting prayers into crevices in the wall. A lot of places in this world may be over-hyped but the wall is not one of them.
One of the most interesting aspects of Jerusalem is that a sirens sounds 40 minutes before shabbat and it’s audible throughout the city. Rabbi Rosenberg took this opportunity to gather us together and have us share a “sheheceyanu” moment, something that was a first for us on this trip. This was a special moment and you could really see how the group had come together.
Can’t wait for Masada and the Dead Sea tomorrow!
-Irene and Danny
Today, we braved the desert heat and headed towards the Masada. No desert retreat would be complete without a ride by camel back, which we experienced along the way. The beauty of the dead sea shores could be viewed throughout the rest of the drive.
Once we arrived at the Masada, cable cars extended our view towards the top of the mountainous terrain. We then learned about the majestic retreat and the battles fought to defend the territory.
Our journey continued and a float on the salty waters of the dead sea was next. The lavish coating of mud felt so nourishing and the sensation of floating on water certainly exceeded our expectations.
Cooling off with a havdalah service followed by a fantastic dinner at Menza, along Ben Yehuda, was a great ending to an amazing day.
-Jillian & Mike
This image pretty much sums up one incredible, mind-blowing, life-changing experience with these beautiful people in Israel! This is Scott and my favorite group shot, (high sun and backlit). We are sitting on a monument just outside the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It is the Hebrew word for “LOVE”. I am culling over 3000 images, but wanted to personally thank Stuart J Zimmerman and Susie Zimmerman, Jewish Federation of St. Louis, Karen Rhodes Rader, Brigitte Rosenberg and Gadi Ben-Dov for their exhaustive efforts on this Interfaith Mission Trip to Israel. Gadi Ben-Dov, thank you for sharing such a love for your country! You are amazing. This was an experience with magnitude proportions and one that Scott and I will never forget.
-Scott & Sara
Today was a poignant close to our trip, as we visited The Shoah Memorial at Yad Vashem and the graves of fallen soldiers and political leaders at Mount Herzl Memorial. The day was lightened somewhat by a visit to the a market, and to the Israel Museum and the Shrine of the Book to summarize our trip over the large scale model of first century Jerusalem and to view the Dead Sea Scrolls. We wrapped up the day by planting native oak trees at Neot Kedumim to help reestablish the forests spoken of in biblical times to restore the landscape and protect the soil from erosion.
-Genny & Asher
Requirements for Participation
- You are between the ages of 27 and 45 years as of January 1, 2017.
- You are married or in a committed relationship.
- One partner in the relationship is Jewish and the other is of a different faith.
- You currently reside in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
- You are willing and able to share your Israel experience with others in the community upon your return.
- You are willing and able to coordinate one program for the group within a year of returning from Israel. This can be a social get-together, volunteer opportunity or an educational program.
Mission Pricing and Details
- Land cost based on double room hotel occupancy – FULLY SUBSIDIZED.
- Optional partially subsidized group flight at $995.00 per person.
Click here to view the trip itinerary.
- Arrival and departure group transfer to/from Ben Gurion International Airport.
- Hotel accommodations for a total of seven nights.
- Full breakfast at hotels daily, plus meals as noted on the itinerary.
- All activity costs and entrance/program fees as per itinerary.
- Licensed Israeli guide.
- Gratuities for the guide and driver.
Services Not Included:
- Airfare (OPTIONAL subsidized group flight – see details below).
- Meals not specified on the itinerary.
- Hotel incidentals.
- Insurance of any kind: travel, medical & baggage.
Timeline of Important Dates:
May 26, 2017 Application due.
May 31, 2017 Notifications will be sent to all applicants.
June 7, 2017 Participants confirm their participation on the mission and let us know if they will be traveling on the optional group flight.
Optional Group Flight:
Seats are being held on the following United Airlines flight at $995.00 per person.
UA4063 STL-EWR 8:30 am – 11:45 am
UA84 EWR-TLV 4:45 pm – 9:30 am (9/4)
UA91 TLV-EWR 11:10 pm – 4:20 am (9/12)
UA4319 EWR-STL 7:30 am – 8:54 am
If you prefer to use your frequent flyer miles, fly with another airline or modify the flight itinerary, you are welcome to book on your own, or contact Murray Travel at 314-426-6111.
For questions or more information, contact Karen Rader, 314-442-3756 or KRader@JFedSTL.org.
Karen Rader, Director, Israel Center
Stephen Cohen, Vice President, Planning & Allocations
Jewish Federation of St. Louis
Harvey N. Wallace, Board Chair
Andrew Rehfeld, President & CEO