By Jesse Paikin
“I make this covenant not with you alone, but with those who came before you, with those who are standing here with us this day before our God, and with those of you who are not with us here this day.” – Deuteronomy 29:9-14
Jewish tradition ascribes great importance to inter-generational experiences. The Torah speaks regularly of the significance of the parent/child relationships shared by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and Sarah, Rebekkah, Rachel, and Leah. Later, we’re taught that the revelation at Sinai was such an awesome experience that it was as if all generations of Jews were standing together at the foot of the mountain. And on a yearly basis, Jews gather together around the Seder table to act out our greatest multi-generational experience, the retelling of the Exodus.
This summer, NFTY in Israel is thrilled to be a part of this great tradition of multi-generational Jewish experiences. Naomi Michelson – a participant in our Adventure Lecha Lecha program – represents the third generation of her family to travel to Israel under the auspices of a North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) program.
Echoing her grandmother’s experiences fifty-three years ago, Naomi departed for Israel on her sixteenth birthday and is currently travelling with her fellow participants from URJ Camp Harlam, where she has spent the past five summers. This fall, she will be a Junior at Wyomissing Senior High School.
Naomi’s father is Rabbi Brian Michelson of Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom in Reading, PA, who participated in NFTY’s Eisendrath International Exchange High School in Israel in the fall of 1981. After graduating from EIE, Rabbi Michelson spent four months living with a family in S’derot. He was later ordained by Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 1992, and has also served as the rabbi of Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne, Australia.
Naomi’s grandmother, Roseann Michelson (nee Platt) – of Great Neck, NY – was the first member of the Michelson family to travel to Israel with NFTY. She participated on a NFTY in Israel summer program in 1958, the very first summer we sent teens to Israel. Roseann received a full scholarship for the eight-week program, which then cost $800. Foreshadowing her granddaughter’s own experiences, she celebrated her seventeenth birthday in Jerusalem while on the program. Roseann is a retired Jewish Educator and a member of the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore and Reform Congregation Oheb Shalom.
Reflecting on this landmark event, Paul J. Reichenbach, Director of Camp and Israel Programs at the Union for Reform Judaism noted that:
“since 1958, NFTY and the URJ have sent more than 30,000 young people to Israel on inspiring adventures that build Jewish identity and deep personal connections to Israel and the Jewish people. Three generations of the Michelson family demonstrate the meaningful impact of a summer or semester in Israel.”
We are delighted to celebrate with the Michelson family the first of what will hopefully be a regular milestone for our families.