Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Ben Klafter on the Bay Area’s special connection with Israel’s North

Posted by Oyster on September 18, 2006

Not many people know this, but different Jewish communities in the US are partnered with various regions in Israel. For the Bay Area, we are linked to Israel’s north. So it was especially poignant that the Aviv Geffen concerts were held here, to help us fundraise to rebuild the homes and communities in Metulla, Kiryat Shemona, Haifa, …

Benjamin KlafterMy friend Benjamin Klafter, former Project Otzma Participant and all-around swell guy, who helped organize the concerts with the San Francisco Israel Center and who has travelled extensively in Israel’s north, wrote a very moving piece in the brochure of the event, that I will quote here:

For me, like many Bay Area Jews, the latest round of rockets to fall on Northern Israel hit especially close to home. For decades The San Francisco Jewish Community Federation has enjoyed a special bond with the Upper Galilee, the area at the heart of the recent violence. While there exists a long tradition of North American Jewish communities partnering with towns and communities in Israel, we in the Bay Area like to think that ours is stronger bond than most.

The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties does so much more than fund important educational and cultural programs throughout the Upper Galilee. JCF missions always include a sojourn in the North, to meet with local community members and to the strengthen the personal bonds on which our partnership is based. And the Federation has long maintained a dedicated staff member in the North to facilitate the important ongoing partnerships between the Bay Area community and the residents of the North.

My own connection to the Upper Galilee is especially strong. It was the first part of Israel that I ever experienced, as a participant on the Israel Center’s Beyond Ben-Yehuda Student Mission in 1998. I would return to the Upper Galilee three short years later, this time as a participant on Project Otzma, a ten-month volunteer program of the JCF and the United Jewish Communities.

As an Otzma participant I joined the swelling ranks of Bay Area Jewish community members who have personally helped build and maintain the living bridge between our community and that of the Upper Galilee. From the community centers of Metulla and the regional college at Tel Hai, to the high schools of Tuba-Zangariyya and non-profit agencies of Kiryat Shmona, Bay Area Otzma volunteers, as well as JCF staffers, have poured immeasurable energy and love into the development of the Upper Galilee. And in doing so have formed an unbreakable personal bond with the people and places of this special region of Israel.

So imagine my surprise when, following the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers from the Northern border, I turned on the TV to see the foreign press corps assembled on the once-quiet streets of Metulla. It’s a town in which I had spent many a Shabbat, and a town the residents of which I knew well from my work in neighboring Kiryat Shmona.

As the weeks stretched on, I saw the communities in which I and my fellow Otzmaniks had volunteered targeted by katyusha fire. And as the rockets fell, the Otzma alumni phone tree sprang to life. Bay Area Otzma volunteers from years past made concerned phone calls and sent worried e-mails to each other and to our Upper Galilee friends and adopted families. After all, the devastation recently wrought on Northern Israel was more than a news story for many of us Bay Area Jews; it was a personal tragedy. And when the rockets’ rain finally ceased, some of the very towns, villages, moshavs and kibbutzim that we knew and loved lay smoldering.

Today the Upper Galilee is in need as never before, and it is only fitting that the San Francisco Jewish community should answer the call. We have a special bond with the residents of the Upper Galilee. It’s a connection that has seen years of calm and years of disquiet, but one that will surely last long into the future. Join us as we come together to help our sister communities in the Upper Galilee rebuild. Our efforts ensure that the bridge between the Bay Area and Israel continues to “live.”


5 Responses to “Ben Klafter on the Bay Area’s special connection with Israel’s North”

  1. Alan Abbey said

    Nice piece. We are all connected.

    I write this as a possible distant relative of Benjamin Klafter. Klafter is the family name of my mother’s side of the family. My grandparents were Arthur and Lena Klafter of Brooklyn, both long gone.

    I live in Jerusalem, and would love to get in contact with Ben Klafter. You have my email. Please pass it along to him.

  2. Oyster said

    Hey Alan,

    I’m definitely on it! BK will be put in touch with you, rest assured. 🙂

  3. Gerald "Jerry" Klafter said

    Hi Cousin,

    Came across the site and thought I would say hello. My Dad, Joseph was Arthur’s brother.

    Good Luck,


  4. Ben Klafter said

    How’s the weather out in Florida, Jerry?

    San Fran’s 52 with clouds and wind….


  5. […] is a guest post by Benny Blanco, seen here with Shmulik at the Bureau of Jewish Education’s 2nd Annual Young Adult Feast of […]

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