Finding My Tribe

By Wendy Polins

What makes a CJP mission to Israel so special? Wendy Polins traveled on the Women’s Philanthropy mission last month and returned with these insights: “This was not only about a mission to Israel, but it was about us connecting with each other from the Boston community.”  ​

When I got home from CJP’s Women’s Philanthropy Mission last month, the first thing everyone asked me was: "What did you do in Israel?"

The short answer is: We did a lot!

We painted tiles at a daycare center, danced Ethiopian style, learned about amazing young leaders and ‘She.E.O’s.’  We rode cable cars, walked next to the Lebanese border, ate and shopped. Now some of these things can be done by anyone who travels to Israel. But many of our experiences were available only because we were part of a CJP mission—like when we learned about the miraculous Iron Dome missile defense system from one of its masterminds. And did I mention that all of these activities happened in just one day of our mission?

My slightly longer answer to the “what did you do” question? Here goes: I found myself. I found my heritage. I found that I have a tribe—both here in Boston and in Israel. And I found that I can make a difference for others.

I feel so lucky—so blessed—that despite the long and twisted road it has taken me to land in Boston, that I have—in fact—landed. And I’m so glad that I, along with the other members of my new tribe, opened that letter from CJP inviting me on this mission.

To be honest, at first I thought, “That’s nice, but I can’t. It’s not the right time, place, etc.” I put the letter in the trash. Then, something made me pull it back out. There was one sentence that caught my eye and made me reconsider: it said that this trip was not only about a mission to Israel, but it was about connecting with women from the Boston community. I realized that even if I had been offered the exact same magnificent itinerary, but with women leaders from other cities . . . I wouldn’t have gone. What appealed to me was that it was really about all of us.  

So let me take a moment here to introduce you to ‘us’—the Women’s Philanthropy members who took an extraordinary journey to Israel.

We are:
Social workers
Wellness experts
Board members
Strategic account managers
Financial wizards
Investment experts
Marketing creatives
Vice Presidents
Software experts
And of course, we are philanthropists.

And so much more. We are sisters, daughters and friends. We are lovers of spouses, of Israel and of life. We are mothers of children who we’ve sent on their way…who we’ve released into the world with joy and with pride. We are fierce. We are loyal. We are Lions of Judah. And we will stand by what we believe in and what is right. We stand with Israel.

At the end of our week in Israel some of us looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize ourselves. Some simply saw themselves more clearly—they saw what had been there all along.

But, I know one thing for myself: When I see that Jewish star on the tail of the EL AL airplane… I see a promise and a prayer. I see the daring people from a past generation who smuggled aircraft under the noses of the British to establish the Israeli air force and IDF. I see the waves of people those planes have carried: from Operation Moses and the miraculous rescue of Ethiopian Jews from the Sudan; to Operation Flying Carpet and the 1.5 million immigrants from the FSU, Ukraine, and now, people from Paris and Brussels and all over Europe. I see the many people from Canada and the U.S. and every corner of the globe where our people have felt threatened. We’ve been rescued. Saved. Delivered to Israel. We’ve been brought home. We are one.

And yet, still we wonder: How many more generations of our people will have to ‘hide in the light and run in the dark?’ I found an answer to that question many years ago, when I was living in Israel as a child. In 1974, I had the profound privilege of meeting Golda Meir. She had asked to meet my mother (a separate story, for another time) and I went along, wearing my favorite dress and party shoes. I was 11 years old and happy to be out of school. Golda knew we were living in Israel and when she asked me what it was like, I answered honestly, “It’s hard.” I meant it.

She responded: “Remember something. You must grow to be the kind of ‘you’ that you will be happy to live with all your life. Living in Israel, like many challenges, can turn out to be a defining moment. They will make you stronger. You can and you will make a difference.”

Now, so many years later, I see that she was right. And once again, Israel offered me a defining moment. What did we do in Israel? We spent 10 days togetherlooking and listening. Trying to find our center. Trying to find what matters. Trying to make a difference.

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