Solidarity mission to Israel includes South Florida participants

·3 min read

A group of representatives from Jewish federations across North America recently visited Israel on a solidarity mission.

The Jewish Federations of North America’s solidarity mission took place after last month’s 11 days of violence that occurred in Israel and Gaza.

Among those who participated were representatives from South Florida: Susan Shulman Pertnoy of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County and Ike Fisher of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

Although Shulman Pertnoy, board-chair elect for the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach, has traveled to Israel many times over the years as a child, a young adult, with her children and in her various roles with the Federation, the most recent trip was for her the first time she had been there immediately after bombings and civil unrest.

“I was with a group of Jewish community leaders on a quickly arranged solidarity mission that required each of us to drop everything at home to be one of the first groups to enter Israel since the pandemic, and certainly since the outbreak of violence,” she noted. “But I didn’t hesitate for a moment.”

Shulman Pertnoy said she was privileged to be asked to represent the Federation by its president and CEO, Michael Hoffman. She said in addition to tremendous physical destruction, she saw a people who are resilient but also battered and stunned by violence and hatred aimed at them.

The group met with Israeli leaders such as Benjamin Netanyahu; visited Ashkelon and Lod where they saw the remains of homes destroyed by bombings and fire; heard first-person accounts from adults and children who survived the violence; and saw resilience centers staffed by mental health professionals trained in dealing with post-traumatic stress open all over the country.

The group also witnessed efforts to open 24-hour phone hotlines operating in five languages to handle specific issues face by the new Olim (immigrants to Israel) populations from Ethiopia, Europe and South America.

Shulman Pertnoy said there was a lot of gratitude expressed by the Israelis towards the mission participants for visiting.

“I know it’s so important for us as citizens of the Untied States to be in solidarity with Israel, maintain support for Israel and teach everyone here, not only the Jewish community but also the community at large, what is going on in Israel and how important it is to support Israel,” she said.

Shulman Pertnoy said sharing with her community, both Jewish and general, the lessons learned on the trip is one of the main objectives for the participants who had the opportunity to visit, especially in light of rampant antisemitism.

“t’s important that we reaffirm the unshakeable bond between the Jews in North America and our brothers and sisters in Israel, and to show the depths of our love and concern,” she said.

Mark Wilf, board chair of the JFNA, said, “Visiting Israel just a few days after the ceasefire was announced was an unforgettable experience that highlighted for our group how the Israeli people are able to meet every attack and every threat with resolve, strength, resilience and hope.”

“We need to look to the Israelis for inspiration as we cope with the surge of antisemitic violence that has erupted in our own country, and that we shall not allow to cow or intimidate us,” Wilf continued. “We can all show our support by visiting Israel at the earliest possible opportunity and demonstrating that we are truly one, united Jewish people.”