• Jewish Agency Israeli emissaries Herut Gez and Miki Plotkin served together in Houston, Texas before returning to Israel for their wedding. Photo: Wu Jianxiong/Unsplash


When Herut met Miki

Serving the Jewish Community in Texas, then coming home to Israel to get married

They met at random in an English class at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and their spark of love ignited their joint mission to Texas to forge connections to Israel as Community Shlichim (emissaries) for The Jewish Agency. Now, back home, they’re preparing for their wedding and their next mission: bringing North America’s sense of Jewish community to Israeli society.

“We are interconnected,” says Herut Gez, a native of Israel, of her relationship with Miki Plotkin, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union whose father refused to make Aliyah with him. They have been together for five years.

When they were preparing for Shlichut, it was clear to Herut and Miki that they would serve in the same community. Herut worked with the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, and Miki with the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center and Houston Hillel.

“We came to work with all the Jewish streams throughout the United States, because the community in Houston is a community in which all the streams work together, which enabled us to work together with everyone and get to know them,” Miki says.

“Houston has a very inclusive Jewish community,” Herut says. “For me, to see all the young professionals sitting together and thinking about the community, or a Chabad rabbi sitting together with a female rabbi discussing the community’s challenges, it’s something you don’t see in Israel. You can’t even imagine it in Israel.”

Although both she and Miki grew up in secular Israeli homes, Herut says that “Judaism is no stranger to me and Jewish identity is part of me.”

Still, this was not the Judaism that they knew. “The experience of the holidays in the synagogues in Houston was a novel and special experience for me.” she says.
“I learned about models of religion that I did not know in Israel,” echoes Miki, who is once again studying at Hebrew University in a joint master’s program with Hebrew Union College on Jewish liturgy. Many of that program’s students are returning Shlichim.
Herut and Miki are now two of the hundreds of Jewish Agency Shlichim who return home to Israel each year after serving in Jewish communities in the Diaspora, undergoing transformative professional and personal experiences. Shlichim return infused with motivation and a strong desire to influence society. The Shlichut alumni network aims to create a platform of diverse programs designed to bring the sense of mission they began abroad back home to Israel. The program promotes leadership in a variety of sectors—social, governmental, and business in a way that is committed to world Jewry. In 2017, more than 1,000 returning Shlichim participated in the alumni network’s programs. All programs are focused on The Jewish Agency’s core values and vision, and relate to Israel activism, Jewish pluralism in Israeli society, and connecting Israel and the Diaspora.

“We brought Israel to the Houston community for two years and now we will bring American Judaism to the State of Israel, to all the circles we are in, to friends and family,” she says.

Learn more about returning Shlichim >
This story was originally reported by Nathan Roi for The Jewish Agency for Israel

15 Nov 2018 / 7 Kislev 5779 0
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