Heard ‘Round WexWorld: Mission Up!
True to its name, a mission is extremely purpose-driven, and superbly intense. It jam-packs past, present, future, fear, uncertainty and hope, and you come home reeling and exhausted from a sensory and emotional overload. None of this is negative — it is usually a self-and-community-transforming-event that you slowly unpack and savor for some time thereafter.
My husband Robert and I very recently had the privilege to lead approximately 50 fellow Miamians to Berlin and then Israel. Berlin: incomprehensible and extraordinary madness and sadness, combined with a wholehearted commitment and effort to accept responsibility and begin atonement for an atrocious past. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial, Track 17, the Berlin Wall, the Neue Synagogue on Oranierburgstrasse, the Holocaust Memorial of tombstones in the city center, the Daniel Liebeskind-designed Jewish Museum, Wannsee Conference museum, and on and on — throughout our time in Germany, this thought echoed in my head: “as with German Jews, so too with my family: Iranian Jews. An indigenous, ethnic, Jewish minority was attached to a land. We had no protection and no guarantees, and we still don’t, on a global scale, except for Eretz Israel and the United States.” Robert and I have thrown ourselves fully to further Jewish identity, education and continuity for these reasons.
Thankfully, we had an unforgettable visit to Israel as well, including attendance at the opening session of the Knesset, a first for all of us. This is a crucial time to travel to and support Israel after a grueling summer of war and continued fighting and tension. It was wonderful to travel with fellow Wexner Heritage alumni Bob Berrin (Miami), Amy Dean (Miami), Mytyl Samancas (Miami 11), and Ellen Rose (Miami). Please go if you can, and take along as many friends and family as you can gather together. Mission up! — and don’t say I didn’t warn you. You will be so glad that you did.
Moj Kaghan Danial, a Wexner Heritage alumna (Miami 11), currently serves as co-chair of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Agency Support Committee. She is Treasurer of the Public Health Trust of Jackson Health Systems, and vice chair of the Personnel Board of the City of Miami Beach. Moj can be reached at email@example.com.
Since I was privileged to have participated in the Wexner Poland trip several years ago, I did not anticipate the completely different experience Berlin turned out to be. However, with its haunting Topography of Terror Museum, its Parliament building whose former members voted for Nazi Germany, its creative and unsettling Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, and its continuing-often-apologetic-memory of the horrors of WW II created on its soil, this Mission has found its place on my short list of thought-provoking and potentially life-changing Jewish experiences I have had. And it is now on the short list of “musts” I recommend for all Jewish leaders.
Ellen Rose, a Wexner Heritage alumna (Miami), also serves as a Delegate on the Wexner Heritage Alumni Delegates Council. She has long been involved at The Greater Miami Jewish Federation, chairing many committees and currently is chair of Human Resources. By day, she works as attorney. Ellen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a recent Wexner graduate, this trip was very special because while in Berlin, Wexner lessons on the Modern Era came alive. Names and terms like Moses Mendelssohn, David Friedlander, Abraham Geiger, Zacharia Frankel, Haskalah, Emancipation, Reform Judaism, etc… acquired a 3rd dimension. To visit a place where whole movements started, where ideas developed, where the leaders lived and died, and to see all that with the knowledge and background given by our teacher and scholar David Starr, brought a whole different perspective to the trip.This trip proved that the Wexner learning didn’t stop a year and a half ago in a classroom, but it continues and renews itself through trips, missions, projects and shared experiences. Looking forward to many other opportunities like this!
Mytyl Simancas-Bister, a Wexner Heritage alumna (Miami 11), serves as Chair of the GMJF Miami Beach Committee, Campaign Vice President Miami Beach Women’s Philanthropy of GMJF, Co-Chair Adult Programming Committee of the MBJCC, and a Member of the Diller Teen Fellows Committee, and the CAJE Teen Education and Involvement Committee. Mytyl can be reached at email@example.com.