By Robin Cohen
Why in the world do I continue to give money to CJP, a Jewish federation?
I had no experience in connecting with a Jewish federation while growing up in New Jersey. Indeed, my parents did go to the annual UJA Bridge Tournament (yes, my parents are World Champion Bridge players), but we were not highly involved in Jewish life.
Since moving to Boston in 2007, I made an effort to get more involved in the Jewish community. I participated in adult learning groups, found meaningful work in the Jewish space, and decided to support my federation in different ways. But even with an increased level of involvement, I never had a compelling answer to this question: Why do I continue to give?
But then, while trekking through Greece and Israel on CJP’s Young Adults Mission in partnership with JFNA’s NYL Summer Mission, I discovered answers.
My life has been transformed from this mission and I am not talking about my newfound golden freckled skin-tone. Over 12 days, I cemented friendships with 20 young adults from Boston and nearly 80 other young adult professionals from across the United States. In Greece, I learned how the Jewish Museum of Greece is preserving the material culture of Greek Jews. I experienced a meaningful Shabbat service in the historic Etz Hayyim Synagogue. I had a moving conversation with an elderly Greek Jew named Sarah (pictured above) who, without children of her own to help care for her, is supported by her retirement community. In Israel, I witnessed firsthand how Haifa’s Parents at the Center is supported by the Boston-Haifa Connection. I picked onions from the soil with Lecket Israel to provide food for the needy. I met Cobi, a Massachusetts-native who moved to Israel to join the IDF as a lone soldier. And lastly, I celebrated Shabbat at the Western Wall, held hands with friends, and sang the same songs we do at home.
These experiences reaffirm why I give. I witnessed it all with my own eyes. For the first time, I understand how important a Jewish community is. I am proud to support my federation and Jewish community, despite not having a place in it growing up. I found intentionality and meaning. I strengthened my Jewish identity. I embraced laughter and tears. I cherish these memories and take them with me wherever I go.