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Staff Development

Staff Trip to Israel Helps Underscore FJA Mission
By Julie Ohana, Director of Recruitment
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OVER FEBRUARY BREAK, FJA sent its third staff delegation to Israel for those employees who have never been to the Holy Land. I had the privilege of accompanying five of my colleagues: Ella Dunajsky, director of college counseling; Julie Rank, registrar; Tim Burke, development associate; Pat Anderson, receptionist; and Rick Dorn, our director of athletics.
I had the privilege of planning the trip and leading the group on a week of adventure, discovery and insight into what makes Israel a cornerstone of the FJA mission.

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We spent our first few days in Israel’s cosmopolitan heart, Tel Aviv. Everyone was captivated by the breathtaking Mediterranean views and sweet sea air.
We explored the port city of Jaffa and the first Jewish neighborhood of Neve Tzedek. We visited Independence Hall and learned about modern Israel’s creation.
Midweek we traveled north, making a brief stop in the ancient town of Kaysariyah to take in both the history and sweeping views. We continued north and visited Nazareth, befriending a Druze woman who shared with the group her life experience and techniques in preparing the most delicious food.
From there we had a bumpy jeep ride into the Golan (Rick Dorn especially loved this experience). Dorn said learning how the Israeli people “…persevered through the constant bombardment of the Syrian army and how the Israelis fought for their homes and community” was particularly moving.
Next stop was at a local farm, artist workshop and kitchen. The couple that ran the farm explained their art through Torah lessons and life. Tim Burke said he found “…”the whole experience to be personal, deep and totally cool.”
The trip culminated with our arrival into Jerusalem. We took in the city from the Tayelet lookout point, paid our respects at Yad V’shem and experienced the chaos of the Shuk before Shabbat.
We toured every nook-and-cranny of the Old City. Pat Anderson noted this as a real highlight. “[It was] unbelievable to walk through a city where the cobblestone roads and buildings were thousands of years old,” she said, adding that it was so much more than another “…museum behind red-velvet rope.”
After experiencing Shabbat in Jerusalem, we finished our week on a “high” note by visiting the ancient city on Masada, learning about the history and its backstory.
Naturally, no trip to Israel would be complete without a quick dip in the Dead Sea, after which we returned to Jerusalem to view the Dead Sea Scrolls.
We were fortunate to visit with several FJA alums who are on their Gap Year programs. Using the trip to do some field research, Ella Dunajsky extended her stay by two days to see for herself several of the programs she helps her students apply to during their senior year. Click HERE for a picture of Dunajsky with several ’16 graduates.
We all saw and learned so much. It was a life-changing week and brought into relief what drives FJA.

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