Shlomit Weber is the Yachad Jewish Identity Program’s Jewish Cultural Facilitator in the city of Yokneam. She is being recognized at the Virtual Gala for mobilizing thousands of volunteers to help those in need – and to connect to Jewish life and values in the process.
In honoring Shlomit, we are also honoring OTS’s other Yachad facilitators in the field, as well as the veritable army of outreach professionals and volunteers who have stepped up to the plate in order to respond to the growing needs caused by the COVID-19 social crisis.
“The pandemic has created tremendous needs. People are isolated and lonely. Some, particularly the elderly, are unable or afraid to go out and do their shopping. Others have struggled to balance work and family when everyone is at home for weeks and months at a time. It can be incredibly difficult to build Jewish identity through community programs with so many restrictions that make it difficult to meet in person.
As an integral member of the matnas (community center) team, I have tried to use these challenges as an opportunity to build community in new ways. We have built a network of hundreds of volunteers who come out to help. One of my favorite projects connects families to Jewish holidays through holiday-specific volunteer projects. What’s really beautiful is that many participants have built a real connection with the elderly resident in between, calling to speak with them and check in on them regularly. The projects give parents an opportunity to teach their children about the holidays and about the value of giving to others, while doing something important for people in the community.”
Ohr Torah Stone’s Yachad Program for Jewish Identity works through local matnasim (community centers) to provide dynamic Jewish programming enabling secular Israelis to learn about their heritage and celebrate Jewish life with their children.
Today, 33 Yachad facilitators are providing crucial Jewish engagement programs in nearly 80 communities throughout Israel, from the southernmost city of Eilat all the way to the country’s northern border with Lebanon, reaching thousands of Jews across the country. Since the start of the pandemic, they have been developing creative, innovative means of strengthening Jewish identity and Jewish community through a whole new range of creative online and outdoor programming that educates, inspires, and brings people of all ages together.