The photo above includes Bnai Biyat participants Lorri Owades, Leora Sidi, Sharon Gavish Machulsky, Yovav Gavish, Elana Markovitz and Ruth Kaplan.

Recently three friends of mine – Ruth Kaplan, Elana Markovitz and Lorri Owades –came over for brunch. We crowded in my tiny kitchen and enjoyed shakshuka, pitas with za’atar and Israeli salad. We chatted about life, our families, and kids – all the usual stuff. After a while, as always with them, we turned to discussing the best ways to connect the American Jewish community and Israelis, how to get the two communities to know and enjoy each other as friends, person to person.

These three marvelous and unique women have created, developed and are now running the “Bnai-Bayit” program, which my fellows from Wexner Israel Fellows Class 29 and I participated in during our time at the Harvard Kennedy School. We were all matched to hosting families who opened their homes and hearts to us, invited us for Shabbat dinners, holidays and helped us when we needed. We also met in group meetings discussing general topics that concern us all, and learned from each other… and about each other. They became our friends for life. For Ruth, Elana and Lorri, this is just the beginning. They relentlessly continue seeking more ways to forge lasting friendships between the two communities.

In the well-known metaphor of the bridge between the two communities, these incredible ladies are the workers, who wake up every single day and go out building and strengthening it.

I invite you to read their article about the “Bnai Bayit” program here. Re-posted with permission thanks to 

Editor’s Note: The Bnai Bayit project (“Bet Bet” for short,) was formally established in 2016 in New York City out of the inaugural Wexner Summit Initiative – Stronger Together – (Re)Imagining the North American Israel Relationship. Bet Bet plans to expand to additional communities across the United States and Canada. More info about the program can be found here.

Get To Know The Author

Wexner Israel Fellow Goni Laufer Duchin (Class 29) serves as Head of Security Department in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, in charge of all security aspects of the organization. In the past 16 years, she has held various management positions in different departments, including strategic project management and training management. Goni holds an LLB, an LLM magna cum laude and a BA in Economics from Tel Aviv University. She actively volunteers in community initiatives, focusing on improving the lives of underprivileged children.