ECHAD AL ECHAD - CREATING LASTING BONDS WITH ISRAEL
Echad al Echad (literally "One to One") is our initiative designed to strengthen the bonds between Oak Park Temple and the Reform movement in Israel. Founded in 2007, Echad al Echad is a partnership between Oak Park and Kiryat Tivon, a town 10 miles east of Haifa and one of a few dozen communities in Israel with a Reform synagogue. That synagogue, Ma'alot Tivon, belongs to the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, the equivalent of the Reform movement in the United States. The flagship activity of this sister congregation relationship is an annual summer teen exchange, where Oak Park Temple and Kiryat Tivon teens visit each other's city every other year.
The Echad al Echad program remains unparalleled, not only because of the quality of the exchange, but because of the program's ability to foster sustainable relationships between our two communities. Every effort is made to run the program as cost efficiently as possible, with an eye towards making this an integral part of our community. Our guests are housed in our homes, we utilize public transportation, and we work hard to find in-kind donations in addition to the financial support needed to fund the activities during the Israelis' stay with us. Similarly, when our teens visit Israel, they have only to pay airfare, and our Israeli partners cover the rest of the expenses.
In the summers of 2007, 2009, and 2011, 28 Israeli teens visited us over two-week periods. These teens and their chaperones took in Chicago and the environs, attended a White Sox game, enjoyed a five-day trip to a Kallah at OSRUI in southern Wisconsin and interacted with temple youth and adults alike. In the alternate years of 2008, 2010, and 2012, Oak Park Temple teens traveled to Israel with our chaperones where they toured historic cities and sites, rode camels and slept under the stars in the Negev Desert, and stayed with the families of the teens who visited the US the previous years.
How can you and your family become involved in Echad al Echad? If you are a parent of an Oak Park Temple 9th, 10th, or 11th grade teen, we want you to be aware of this exciting program and consider hosting an Israeli teen and participate in activities in the summer of 2013.
From the outset we hoped that these one-on-one connections between our congregation and Kiryat Tivon would lead to a deeper understanding and closeness with Israel. Over the past five years that hope has come true.
Teens and adults on both sides of the Atlantic have found their bonds deepening with time: Israeli teens visiting the United States have returned to our community to see their American "families;" adults traveling through Israel have stopped in Kiryat Tivon to visit, worship and stay; and Oak Park teens who were in Israel for a gap year have sustained contacts with their Israeli peers in Kiryat Tivon.
Some of our congregants took the step of becoming overseas members of Ma'alot Tivon, an effort that further bolsters our bonds and strengthens the Reform movement in Israel.
Cantor Green' s annual trip now includes a stop in Kiryat Tivon to chat, pray and tour with the friends we have made; and several individual families have done the same.
Echad al Echad has been locally and nationally recognized with Oak Park Temple's Best New Initiative Award in 2007 & nationally with ARZA's Gittelsohn Award in 2008.