OU President Mitchel Aeder and OU EVP and COO Rabbi Dr. Josh Joseph were in Israel last week to visit our OU team there. They were joined by Executive Committee member Henry Orlinsky and OU Israel board chairman Stuie Hershkowitz as well as several supporters who joined for portions of the trip. Here are some of their initial impressions:
We just returned from a short but overwhelmingly powerful visit to Israel. There is much to tell. OU Israel Executive Director Rabbi Avi Berman met with us and we shared thoughts about leadership during a crisis on the OU Israel podcast, which you can access here.
We visited army bases and hospitals, but the bulk of our time was spent with OU staff, in particular in Sderot, where the OU has operated a youth center called Makom Balev for many years. We spent time with our extraordinary OU staff there, all of whom were evacuated from the south and are currently living in hotels. Their stories are harrowing and painful, yet they are finding ways to engage with the youth of Sderot even during this time of displacement. Listen to their stories:
Hear Keren (Kalish), a counselor at OU Israel’s Makom Balev Youth Center in Sderot, and her husband, Ohr describe the harrowing moments on Simchat Torah when the bullets flew and the rockets fell and their Sderot apartment doorknob turned…
Hear Nir Sharaffy, director of OU Israel’s Makom Balev Youth Center in Sderot, and his family discuss the difficulty of being displaced and their fear of returning home.
The impact on those in the army, those who have lost loved ones, those who are still waiting for word… is immeasurable. What we felt being there in person was the impact of October 7 and its aftermath on every single civilian, every individual, young or old. This story has not yet been fully told.
As much as we tried to give a little measure of chizuk, the resilience and strength of our people is remarkable – they gave us so more than we could give them. Eino domeh shmiah lereiyah. There are endless opportunities now to volunteer and help. If you can, go.