by Sharon Mann

Jewish women are united by faith and fate whether they live inIsraelor in the Diaspora. Nevertheless, the geographic distance between us is great and sometimes concerns and cultural differences can be large as well. So, when Resa Davids, Chair, WRJ-Israel, suggested a twinning relationship to Kehillat Emet VeShalom, Nahariya (located eight miles from Lebanon’s border on the Mediterranean coast) and Temple Emanu-El, Tucson in February, 2011, both WRJ groups embraced the opportunity. Our desires to connect were based on the feeling that we could learn from each other, contribute to one another and enrich the lives of the members of our congregations.

From the exchange of our first introductory emails, we began to learn about each other’s groups and communities and to build a relationship. Despite many vast differences between our congregations, such as membership, size and resources (all of which are larger at Temple Emanu-El than at EmetVeShalom), we found several similarities that immediately enabled us to bond. For example, we discovered that Spanish influence and culture are felt in both congregations – in EmetVeShalomby the South American immigrants to Nahariya and in TempleEmanu-Elby its region’s nearly one million residents of Mexican descent. Additionally, both congregations have a strong emphasis on Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) and social action. Most importantly, both WRJ groups felt committed to collaborating on mutually beneficial activities.

WRJ Twinning – Kehillat Emet VeShalom, Nahariya and Temple Emanu-El, Tucson

In April 2011, Anne Friedman (second from left), recording secretary of Temple Emanu-El’s WRJ, visited Kehillat Emet VeShalom, attending Shabbat services followed by dinner in the home of EVS WRJ member Sharon Mann along with EVS members Bonnie Kutnick and Francine Treat.

Since we share a desire for a successful relationship, we exchange numerous emails, inspire each other to think about different programs and issues, and have cooperated successfully on joint projects.EmetVeShalom’s suggestion for each of our WRJ groups to establish a symbolic chair, with a special prayer for Israeli soldierGiladShalit, was warmly received by Temple Emanu-El. Last Rosh Hashanah, both WRJ groups established such chairs, presented them at their Rosh Hashanah services, and then displayed them until Israel, and Jews worldwide, rejoiced upon Gilad’s release from captivity.

Despite being thousands of miles apart, our WRJ groups also discovered a way to share the joy of Shabbat together last February. While WRJ Temple Emanu-El led its congregation’s Shabbat morning service, with women filling every role, simultaneously in Israel, WRJ Emet Veshalom led a Havdalah service marking the end of Shabbat. This joint Shabbat program was enhanced by exchanging dessert recipes, baked by members of each other’s group and served after services. Additionally, each group shared information about the other congregation in a way that was suitable for it.

As Rosh Hashanah 5773 approaches, our WRJ groups look forward to continuing to build the bridge that connects us through this vibrant form of interaction. We feel that our WRJ twinning relationship furthers our congregations’ overall goals of raising awareness ofIsrael, strengthening Jewish heritage and identity, and building strong Jewish communities.

Sharon Mann made aliyah 20 years ago and lives in Nahariya, Israel. She is an active member of Emet VeShalom and volunteers as an International Contact Liaison.