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Meeting Natan Sharansky

At the end of the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly, I had the honor to briefly meet the legendary Natan Sharansky.

Here is a letter about it from the head of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (D.C.):

Ari Teman and Natan Sharansky

Dear Friends,

I want to share an incredible moment with you from the past few days of GA fever. As many of you know, the General Assembly, the Jewish Federations of North America’s largest annual conference, was held here in D.C. this past week. We hosted over 3,000 participants. For me personally, there were many moments of deep pride, high energy and great momentum. I watched Greater Washington jump into action; our local leaders took the stage time and again, giving our community an opportunity to shine. My thanks to the Feinbergs and the Gildenhorns for their exceptional stewardship of the GA. Our professionals, under Eileen Frazier’s leadership, also did a masterful job of highlighting the work we do in our nation’s capital and ensuring everyone had a great time.

Our booth in the large exhibition hall promoted the synergy of living with a set of Jewish values and American values by showcasing Jewish quotes of meaning with the sayings of American presidents and leaders, all set within the visual backdrop of our country’s finest memorials. Thomas Jefferson‘s statement of purpose “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Actions delineate and define you.” was juxtaposed with Anne Frank’s precious inspiration: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” In the foreground were pictures of a young leadership mission, young adults at a tree planting and the Jefferson Memorial. Where but here is that combination so pronounced?

I heard many serious and engaging conversations about peoplehood, about re-focusing our organizations, about making Jewish values matter in the work that we do. I watched our Birthright returnees listening closely to the words of Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman as they spoke passionately about their commitment to enhancing Jewish life for college students and beyond. I listened carefully as Israeli leaders talked about what they have to learn from us about community-building. I felt a freshness and an honesty in these conversations.

But the moment I want to share lasted only a few minutes. I was taking my friend Natan Sharansky to the airport as the GA ended. At the hotel, we ran into Ari Teman, founder of JCorps, a grassroots initiative to encourage Jewish community service all around the country, also walking out the door with a friend. Ari was honored Tuesday with The Jewish Community Hero Award, an award to identify an American Jewish hero . The contest had over 500,000 votes, and Ari was chosen. Ari’s friend stopped us and asked for a picture of this newly minted hero with Natan Sharansky, a contemporary hero of the Jewish people .

It was more than a wonderful photo-op; it was a statement about the importance of people who inspire and about putting positive energy together so that we strengthen optimism.  Watching these two heroes as the camera flashed made me smile and feel good about the Jewish future. Now that’s optimism.


Misha

Taken from http://www.shalomdc.org/page.aspx?id=210193 at