YAD’s exchange program is building living bridges between young professionals

YAD’s exchange program is building living bridges between young professionals

May 25, 2023

By: Jenna Raimist
Young Adult Division (YAD) Director

The last time you heard from me was December 2022, right after the Colorado cohort of JEWISHcolorado’s YAD/Ramat HaNegev Exchange returned from our week in Israel. Let’s fast forward six months:

It’s now the end of May, and the Israeli cohort of our exchange just left to visit Nashville and New York before returning home to their respective neighborhoods in the Negev.

The first goal of Colorado’s week was to showcase not only what it means to be an American Jew, but a Colorado one. We kept busy by hiking the Flatirons, discussing American politics and learning about JEWISHcolorado’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) in Governor Polis’ office, and experiencing a 7th inning stretch with the excitement of a Rockies win. Plus, we did what I like to call a “Rabbi hop,” where we explored the in-betweens and intersections of what it means to be American and Jewish. The most eye-opening and meaningful conversations to note were with Rabbi Emily Hyatt of Temple Emanuel and Rabbi Dave Yedid and his husband Daniel Eisenberg of BASE Denver.

The other goal, and perhaps the one I would argue is more significant, was to strengthen the living bridges we created only six months ago in Israel, and let me tell you… we certainly accomplished that. After brunch on Friday morning, we packed up and headed toward YMCA of the Rockies for our Shabbaton weekend. Immediately upon arrival it became a mad dash to prepare for Shabbat dinner; a meal that mirrored one of our most meaningful experiences from Israel week six months before. Giant salmon dishes and seemingly endless amounts of homemade challah (baked at altitude, might I add) covered the table, and glasses of wine and local craft brews were liberally passed around. As some of us cleaned and told stories in the kitchen, others of us refilled our cups, played games, and ate babka around the table. Throughout the weekend, we formed our own couples and pods as we explored, played basketball, sat on porches to wake up with coffee together, and read our books silently – but adjacently – to each other.

On Sunday night after we returned home, Dr. Julie Lieber hosted us for our “Last Supper” in her family’s beautiful home. We l’chaim-ed and reminisced about our time together. We also took some time to speak from the heart about not just what we’re each taking from this experience, but what we hope for everyone else as our time together comes to a close. Personally, it’s been a true joy to co-facilitate this exchange with our Shaliach, and now my dear friend, Itai Divinsky. As Itai leaves and this exchange continues on, I hope that the ripple effect this program has for young professionals in our communities continues to grow and create stronger ties not just to the land of Israel, but to the people within it that are more similar to us than are different. Until we meet again, and to many more years of friendship from Colorado to Ramat HaNegev!