JUF News | Chicago to Israel to Kenya
When Avital Kaszovitz prepared to be a Modern Orthodox
Shlicha(emissary) to the Jewish community in Kenya, she never
imagined that one of the first things she would do would besending homemade challah and chicken soup to recovering COVID-19 patients.
“Hearing how grateful they were and feeling like I could share the taste of Shabbat with people I hadn’t even met yet was a really special experience for me,” said Kaszovitz, who recently started his service, with her husband. , Netanel and their six month old daughter, Tzofia.
Avital, a native of Chicago and a graduate of Arie Crown Hebrew Day School, prepared for the family’s two-year mission under the Straus-Amiel Emissary Program to Ohr Torah Stone, a modern Orthodox institution in Israel . To date, the program – which is committed to strengthening Jewish life and identity in diaspora communities – has trained 640 couples and helped them find internships in 37 different countries as Jewish teachers. , rabbis and spiritual leaders.
Netanelcompleted a parallel rabbinical training program and became ordained shortly before their departure to help strengthen the “small, diverse and well-rooted Jewish community” in Nairobi.
Among various job placement opportunities around the world, the Kaszovitzes chose to travel to Kenya out of a sense of adventure and “an opportunity to help fill a long vacant role in a community that needed new leadership. help him get back to the country. life, ”said Avital.
As the couple studied aspects of Judaism and cultures around the world, the most important thing they learned was’ how to interact with people and be open enough to be able to bond with people coming from. from very diverse backgrounds ”. she said.
Since Avital and Netanel got married seven years ago, they have been delighted to start their international experience together.
“We have always had this innate desire to be able to help Jewish communities abroad, especially after growing up in the Diaspora and understanding the complexity of what it means to be Jewish in the Diaspora,” Avital said. “We realized the importance of strengthening our Jewish identities and we wanted to be there for those who seek that connection to their Jewish heritage” – no matter where they are in the world.
Due to the pandemic, their departure was delayed several times, and their first encounters with members of the Kenyan community took place on Zoom – when this allowed the Kaszovitzes to make “a slow but steady transition to a new country and a new culture”.
The couple look forward to being able “to step out of our comfort zone to help achieve a bigger goal with the future of the Jewish nation in mind,” Avital said.
Now newly arrived in Kenya, the family meets people, settles into their new lives and determines how best to feed the Jewish community.
“The community here has been so warm and welcoming,” said Avital. “We still have a long way to go, but we’re off to a good start!”