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Israel emissary makes connections between KC and Israel

Shiran Cohen, the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City’s Israel emissary, shows some cards made by children at Congregation Beth Shalom that will be sent to soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces during the High Holidays.

After two months of traveling in Central America and visiting my family in Israel, it is time to start a new year of serving as your shlicha (Israel emissary). I’m here for my second year to serve as the Kansas City Israel Emissary bringing Israel, my homeland, to Kansas — now my second home.

When I decided to become the Israel emissary, I didn’t understand how important and essential that role is to our Jewish community. For example, when people boycott and call for the destruction of Israel, I’m the one to advocate, to teach and make sure that people will hear the other side of the story. It is my responsibility to make a “kesher” (connection) between Israel and the United States, as well as to help us to sustain and enhance Jewish life at home and around the world. 

My summer in Israel was extraordinary. During my time there I visited Ramla, Kansas City’s sister city in Israel. Every year, Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City supports more than 19 programs in Israel and 75 total programs overall. I will never forget my visit to “Branco Weiss,” a high school in Ramla for youth at high risk. In Israel we call it the “last chance high school,” where the requirement to get accepted is that no other school is willing to accept you. Throughout my visit there, I met with the teachers and the school principal. In the course of my visit I met a boy named Aaron. He stood at the door and said, “School starts in September. I’m 14 years old and I have no place to go.” I looked in his eyes and knew that he was in the right place. Jewish Federation graciously extends funds so that kids like Aaron, who come from low socioeconomic homes, with emotional and sometimes sexually abused backgrounds, will have after-school programs, arts and crafts sessions, music studio and access to professional emotional therapists. Talking to him I felt the difference this school will make in his life — I knew this was the change we talk about making in other peoples’ lives. 

Last week I got back from the Israel American Council national conference in Washington, D.C., which was attended by over 2,100 participants from across the nation, Israel and around the world. I met Israeli and American leaders, scholars and heard inspiring lectures and took part in workshops, panels and activities. Today, Israel is the only real stable country in the Middle East. ISIS has infiltrated Lebanon and Syria; over 250,000 citizens have been murdered in the war of President Assad. Israel is facing a new challenge at home now with the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement, which calls to boycott Israel and is spreading throughout college campuses all over the United States. My hope is that in the coming year, Israel will stay strong and handle all of the challenges it is currently facing.   

Rosh Hashanah is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. We receive this amazing opportunity to stop and think about the past, evaluate what we have achieved, and think how can we make things better in the future. On Yom Kippur we practice introspection, asking G-d to forgive us and pray for the upcoming year. I pray and send my love to the IDF soldiers who give their time to protect Israel during the High Holidays. May we all have peace in the land of Israel soon.  

I will finish with a quote by Shimon Peres z”l (1923-2016), the beloved Israeli leader who died last week at the age of 93.  

“Sometimes people ask me, ‘What is the greatest achievement you have reached in your lifetime or that you will reach in the future?’ So I reply, ‘that there was a great painter named Mordecai Ardon, who was asked to identify which was the most beautiful picture he had ever painted.’ Ardon replied, ‘The picture I will paint tomorrow.’ That is also my answer.”

For the Jewish New Year, I wish for you that the picture you paint tomorrow will be full of color and life. I wish all of you a Shanah Tovah and G’mar Chatima Tovah! May you and your loved ones experience a year filled with prosperity, health and community! 

I also want to thank you for for being so welcoming and for your great love and support of Israel. I will be happy to invite you to the first ever Israeli sukkah in Kansas City, in collaboration with the Jewish Community Center Heritage Center. We are building our sukkah on the Heritage Center patio, and it will be available throughout Sukkot. For more information about this event or how to become more involved with the Israel Emissary, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 913-832-7224.

Shiran Cohen is the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City’s Israel emissary.