Hello from Israel!

What do Israel's branch of Intel Corp. (by the way, the second-largest branch outside of the U.S.), the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and a small non-profit organization called "Sky is the Limit" have to do with one another? I learned the answer to that question yesterday.

As you may know, for the past five days Federation's Rhonda Forest, Larry Haber and I have been a part of a whirlwind JFNA leadershi

p mission, first visiting Kiev, Ukraine and now Israel. I wish I could bring each of you with us so you could see with your own eyes the power of the Federation movement movement and the life-saving and community-building work our partner agencies JDC, Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and ORT carry out in Israel and in Eastern Europe. I wish you could be with us to dance with Rita, visit Tzetziliya and meet the amazing Active Jewish Teens. Yesterday, we spent a day in one of the JAFI summer camps for teens from the Ukraine, and I will tell you more about it later. You can keep up with our travels by visiting the Federation's Facebook page

We arrived in Israel late Wednesday night and got a few hours' sleep before Thursday's activities started. Each day begins with a briefing, a seminar or a discussion dedicated to different aspects of Federation's work. Actually, each day begins with a fabulous Israeli breakfast! Join us on a mission to Israel next spring and you can be a part of this truly unique experience.

After a seminar, it's site visits or activities with some of the people who benefit from the services supported by the Federations. Last night we visited a residential school for Ethiopian students and met several inspirational young people who have told us their stories of struggle and their dreams for a better future.

But back to the question I started with: A few years ago a young woman, Moriah Ben Ami, decided to help teens from broken and disadvantaged homes, so she began seeking advice, direction and volunteers. JDC's Synergy initiative connected her with Intel's Assaf Eldan, who was looking for an opportunity to volunteer for a good cause. Assaf became an advisor, supporter and cheerleader to Moriah and her organization, which now works with 130 teens in 8 schools, getting them off the streets and engaging them in productive activities. This partnership is just one of many such life-changing connections created by the JDC with the support of Federations.

This morning we had a roundtable discussion with communities of similar size about the challenges and opportunities we have in engaging our communities, finding and inspiring new donors and developing new Federation leadership. We picked up a few good ideas to bring back home. During lunch, we were briefed by Labor MK Nachman Shai on the current political situation in Israel and the controversy surrounding the prayer at the Kotel (Western Wall) and conversion issues. We have a little free time now to get ready to welcome Shabbat at the Kotel.

I will be spending Shabbat in the best place in the world, Jerusalem, but wherever you are, I wish you a sweet and restful Shabbat.