After the GA … “Koev Li B’Lev”

Koav Li B’lev – “It hurts in my heart what happened in the synagogue” said Tigst, the manager of the organics section at Jerusalem’s Supersol on Agron Street, located across the street from the Jerusalem Center for Conservative Judaism, and also around the corner from Hechel Shlomo the Main Orthodox Synagogue of Jerusalem on King George Street.

Tigst, born in Ethiopia, was referring to the personal pain she felt as a fellow Jew, as many in Israel wept for the death of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh. On the news stations, and discussions in cafes and around dinner tables, the tragedy at Beit Knesset Etz Chaim has demonstrated the family bond between Israel and America.

I met Tigst as I stopped by Supersol Agron on the way to say my “goodbye” to Israel at the Kotel, before returning to the US from a two week mission to the GA in Tel Aviv, and the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot. It was a packed schedule as the American Friends of Kaplan Medical Center (AFKMC) was the Exclusive Sponsor of the JFNA/GA 4-day Mission for Jewish leaders from the US and Canada

One of my purposes on this trip to Israel was to further a new American tradition of engaging young adults after Birthright, connecting them with Israel, to help build a Heart Hospital in Rehovot.

The new tradition is a two-part invitation for young professionals to help build the Cardiac Center in Israel as “foot soldiers” for a national shoe collection – “Heart & Sole” campaign. Shoe collection stations are being set up on 1000 synagogues, churches, and college campuses around the country with 15 national Jewish and Israeli organizations co-sponsoring. The “Heart & Sole” collections stations will also be a place to regularly send updates on the latest hi-tech medical innovations coming from Israel, and the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, where the new Heart Hospital is near completion. Currently the hi-tech equipment and 30 of Israel’s top cardiologists, work a few meters away in crumbling facilities from 1953.

The two-part invitation for YP’s, young professionals, included a “10 minute Rosh Hashana Meet-Up,” in which multiple synagogues participated on September 10, 2018. This first-time event promises to be an annual targeted gathering that will be replicated throughout the country next Rosh Hashana.

Set for the other time of the year when Jewish identity is most prominent, the second part is scheduled for the Sunday before Pesach, on April 14, 2019. Multiple supermarkets in at least 20 cities across the US will host a “Matza Aisle Meet-Up” for YP’s to meet, collect shoes, and help build the Heart Hospital in Israel. Tigst at Supersol Agron was invited to make it “Next Year in Jerusalem” as well.

In talking with Tigst, as an example of what a “small world” it is, she also told me that her sister is in training to be a nurse at the Kaplan Medical Center.

While at the Kotel saying goodbyes to Israel, I placed notes in the wall with blessing for friends. I included a prayer for the family and friends of the recently passed Bill Behrer, Executive Director, American Israel Friendship League. Also a note was placed for the community of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh police who defend and protect, and the Jewish fallen, for which Tigst is pained in her heart.

The tragedy in Pittsburgh, coming on the heels of the GA, has many implications. This includes taking the sorrow of loss, and the need to share that loss, as a means to connect and build our Jewish community, and connection to Israel.

Pictured: Tigst, Supersol Agron, veggie manager. Sister is nurse trainee at Kaplan

About the Author
Lou Balcher served from 2004 - 2013 as Director of Academic Affairs to Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region. He also served as Education Director for Congregation Tifereth Israel in Bensalem, PA, and as administrator and teacher for Gratz College's Jewish Community High School. He is a former Membership Director for the Philadelphia and Cincinnati regions of B'nai B'rith International. For three decades, he has coordinated post-college young leadership programs for Young Jewish Leadership Concepts. Additionally, he consults as National Director of the American Friends of the Kaplan Medical Center, Rehovot, Israel which serves more than one million Israeli citizens.