MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Fall 2008
Welcoming Our "2nd Generation" Masorti Shlicha
Twenty years ago, as a reward for electing its first delegates to a World Zionist Congress and joining the governing coalition headed by the World Labor Zionist Movement, MERCAZ USA secured, on behalf of the Conservative Movement in North America, the services from the Jewish Agency of an Aliyah Shaliach.
Since that time, a number of different shlichim have arrived for the 2-3 year position. Some, particularly at the beginning, were Labor Party affiliated "kibbutznikim" who were introduced to Conservative Judaism for the first time upon their arrival to North America. Others, more recently, came to be involved with Conservative/Masorti Judaism in Israel on their own as adults prior to their shlichut.
Now, for the first time, as MERCAZ bids farewell to Itamar Kremer, who has returned to Israel at the completion of his two-year shlichut, it welcomes Naomi Freedman, the first "born and bred" Conservative/Masorti Jew to serve as Aliyah Shlicha to the Conservative Movement.
Born in West Orange, New Jersey, in 1976, Naomi made aliyah with her family at the age of 4, settling with her parents in Jerusalem. After serving in the IDF and attaining the rank of lieutenant in the Nahal Brigade, Naomi received her B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology at Hebrew University. Thereafter, she earned certification as an Israeli tour guide and folk dance instructor.
So far, her biography is not different from other shlichim that MERCAZ has hosted. But the big change between Naomi and her predecessors is that she is the first Jewish Agency aliyah shlicha who grew up with Conservative/Masorti Judaism.
The daughter of Dr. Joe Freedman, Director of Ramah Programs in Israel, Naomi was active as a teenager in NOAM, the Masorti Movement's youth organization, and spent nine years as a camper and staff member of the Ramah-NOAM summer camp. Her other Masorti experiences include work with the NOAM summer camps in England and Spain and the Ramah-Yahad camp in Ukraine, a stint as a coordinator of NOAM chapters in the Jerusalem-area and employment as a facilitator for Jewish identity and holiday seminars for the TALI Schools. Click here for Naomi's full biography.
"For me" commented Naomi in preparation for arriving to begin her shlichut, "coming to work with the Aliyah Department and the Conservative Movement is a kind of closing of a circle. I hope to be open to discussions about reaffirming Conservative Judaism and its relationship to Israel."
Over the past year, as the Jewish Agency completes the shift from "aliyah from necessity" to "aliyah from choice", the Conservative Movement has received a major increase in funding for Israel and aliyah-oriented publicity and programming. Recognizing the largest new pool for American olim lies within the Conservative Movement, the Aliyah Department is now investing to strengthen the connection between regional United Synagogue directors and regional aliyah shlichim. It is also upgrading the movement's aliyah website www.linktoisrael.org.
As Naomi settles into her new position, Itamar Kremer is getting readjusted to life in the Jewish State. Although he passed the Israeli bar exam during his stay in the United States, he has not yet decided whether to pursue full-time work in a Tel Aviv law office or to continue in non-profit community service. In any event, remarking "once a shaliach, always a shaliach", Itamar would welcome contact from MERCAZ supporters at email@example.com. We wish him "behatslacha" on his future endeavors.
For more information about Naomi or the programs with which she is involved, please contact her at the new MERCAZ offices at 820 Second Avenue, 212-533-2061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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