Teaching Each Other About Friendships Across Borders
Nice Family, warm hearts.
“Nice family, warm hearts.”
That’s how Stav Barkai, an Israeli 19-year-old in Cincinnati for a year of service, described the Klings, who live in Montgomery, Ohio and are members at Adath Israel Congregation.
Stav and his colleague from Israel, Liat Falah, volunteered for the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati until this past August, teaching children, teens and adults about Israel. Through their program, Chaverim M’Israel, or Friends from Israel, which is a part of the Federation’s Partnership2Gether initiative, they taught over 5,000 Cincinnatians about Israel. This fall they returned to start their service in the Israel Defense Forces. I met Stav, Liat, and the Kling family – mother Lynn, father Joel, and teens Shayna and Adam – to discuss their new friendships.
Danielle V. Minson: Stav, at the age of 19 you are on the Israeli National Orienteering Team and have been to two European championships. But you’d never been to the U.S. What was it like?
Stav: I remember the first week we came over here we taught our first class, and it was hard for us to speak for 45 minutes in English. We had just come from Israel, and everything was still spinning. Adam approached me after class ended and told me he really enjoyed it. And he had a Packers shirt, of – I don’t remember the name of the player…
Adam: Aaron Rodgers!
Stav: Aaron Rodgers, exactly! And we talked. I met Shayna a few weeks afterwards. We made a connection and I learned from them a lot and saw how welcoming they are. The Kling family really opened their house for Liat and me.
Danielle: And for you, the Klings, what was it like to become friends with Stav and Liat?
Shayna: I loved having a new set of friends to share different Jewish experiences with. I know that next time I go to Israel I’ll have a new set of family, so that’s a really awesome thing.
Joel: It has been a wonderful experience for my kids to have close Israeli friendships and develop some insight into Israeli life.
Lynn: Liat and Stav were wonderful examples to Shayna and Adam, bringing Israeli teenage life to Cincinnati.
Adam: I just thought it was wonderful spending time with them and learning about their culture and Israel, especially since we are close in age.
Danielle: How has the Kling family been affected by these two Israelis?
Adam: I just think it’s cool that you can be from opposite sides of the world, and they can come all the way over here and we can instantly connect, and the fact that we are Jewish brings us together.
Shayna: I would agree with that. I think Stav and Liat make events more fun. I’m the president of the Jewish Student Union, and we would ask them to come and everyone would be so excited. Also, it solidifies the fact in my mind that Israelis are more friendly than Americans. We met Stav and Liat one day in August or September, and the next week at Mercaz we were already chatting it up and laughing. We became friends in about three hours.
Lynn: It brings Israel closer, and makes it not so religious, per se. It’s made it more on an intimate, social level versus something that you learn about on a map or on TV.
Danielle: So, was it Stav and Liat that led your family to agree to host a young Israeli in this same program next year?
Adam: Shayna’s been wanting to do it for years and years!
Shayna: I’m obsessed with everything that’s foreign. [Laughter.] I just want to travel everywhere. And bringing someone from Israel into our home is kind of like bringing a chunk of traveling into our house. And adding a new sister will make the experience even more incredible.
Joel: We both have been very philanthropic and involved. I look at this as another opportunity to say “yes.” That’s important, because it teaches them that it’s good to give back and do something for the community.
Danielle: Liat, Stav, how do you feel about this past year?
Liat: The Klings are a great family. They really showed us the city and taught us how it is to be a Jewish teen over here in America. We had a lot of fun together.
Stav: We had an incredible year. I didn’t imagine that my year would have been so intense in a good way; we had so many high moments. What I’ll take back with me to Israel are the connections I made over here. And the Klings are a big part of this for me.
The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati funds over 50 programs and agencies locally and around the world. It is located at 8499 Ridge Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236. For more information, call 513.985.1500, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.JewishCincinnati.org
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