Rachel Hoffer, chair of Federation’s NowGen board, recently returned from the National Young Leadership Cabinet mission hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America. During the week-long study mission, she and more than 73 other young lay leaders commemorated victims of the Holocaust by visiting memorials, including Track 17 in Berlin. They also witnessed Federation’s work by visiting JAFI and JDC programs in Israel.
Hoffer was inspired by being among a group of young Jewish leaders from throughout North America, “It was amazing to be with so many people who share the same passion you have for their communities and for the Jewish community as a whole around the world.”
For her, there were so many touching moments. “One evening, we were at an event where elementary school kids were singing songs in Hebrew—in Berlin. It just hits you when you think what happened there just a few generations ago.”
The school was in the Bavarian Quarter and strives to connect its students with the Holocaust. Though it is not a Jewish school, it sits on the site of an old synagogue in a neighborhood where more than 6,000 Jewish residents were deported to concentration camps. Each child takes one name and researches the history. Some children are touched to learn that they now live in homes that Jews were forced to flee.
From Berlin, the mission group flew to Israel. There, they visited several JAFI and JDC programs, including one that helps at-risk youth develop a sense of purpose by stocking and delivering food boxes for the community’s poor. The young leaders also visited an Israeli army intelligence base, where they met a group of 18-year-old soldiers and hosted a party for them. Meeting the young men and women was one of the most touching experiences for Hoffer, “It was amazing to connect with these young 18-year-olds who are protecting [Israel]…to see how proud, yet, young they are.”
Hoffer was glad to have had the mission experience as a member of the National Young Jewish Leadership Cabinet.
“Seeing how our Federation dollars are doing good overseas helps us become ambassadors to what we see and share it with people who are not able to see these important programs for themselves,” she said. “This mission gave us inspiration and actionable plans to bring back to our communities.”