How can I even start saying goodbye?

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Truth be told, I didn’t believe this day would come. This day of closure, in which I’ll come back to Israel from two exciting, life-changing years at the 14th Street Y as your Israeli Shaliach.

While I always KNEW that my term was temporary, I FELT I’d be here forever. From the standpoint of a 24-year-old Israeli, back in 2018, two years sounded like eternity.

And god, we have accomplished so much together during the last two years! I’m saying “we” on purpose, because a community is always a “we,” a collective made of many individuals. It’s easy to write on my resume how I produced events at the 14Y or how I gave lessons about Israel–but all of that wouldn’t be possible without you, the community members, and without the wonderful team of the 14Y staff.

Shakespeare once famously said that the whole world is a stage, and we’re all merely actors. In my sense, while the 14Y was our stage, we were not actors. The 14Y is full of real, genuine human beings who look to interpret the world by means of enchanting art. When my task was to bring “Israel” to the 14Y, I perceived it as a piece of art. Israel has the capacity to excite, entertain, provoke and to challenge. Eventually, it’s all about people.

What I came to realize is that Israel as an angle of Jewish matters less than authentic human connection. It’s the reason why I preferred emphasizing Israeli films as means of entertainment and engagement. It is why I chose to go beyond the Ashkenazi Jewish bubble and explore the interfaith nature of the Mimouna, a North African Jewish/Muslim holiday.

Yet I enjoyed the human connection the most. The small gestures are the ones that make us feel “at home,” and the 14Y, and Downtown Manhattan alike, are gifted in such elements. Whether it’s a meaningful conversation with a member in the gym or during a lunch and learn session, or the fascinated faces of dozens of 14Y members who watched a Zoom panel with the cast of Unorthodox, or even a mundane “how are you” in the lobby–each interaction and experience holds a very close place in my heart, and turned the 14Y into my second home.

If you were a fly on the wall in my apartment, you’d notice that most of the furniture is gone and my entire life is packed in two modest bags. As I’m writing these words, I’m staring at those bags and can’t believe these two years are almost at an end.

In a way, I’m embarking to a second Shlichut, a second relocation. This time, I’m coming back to a country I grew up in, will return to speaking in my Hebrew mother-tongue, and will be close again to my family and friends. Yet in every possible aspect, it is still a relocation with all its attached hiccups and difficulties–from finding a job when there is 20% unemployment rate in Israel, to moving in with my girlfriend (my heart is beating with excitement when I think about that), and readjusting myself to the straight-forward Israeli mentality.

Thanks to you I learned what is New York tough, and what is New York love. I’d love to stay in touch with you, reveal updates on my new life in Israel, and pass the torch to another kind of an Israeli – the next Shaliach who will work with you beginning December.

Be-Ahava (with love),

Ophir

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