The Lekets

by Yiftah Leket, Community Shaliach (emissary), Federation’s Israel & Overseas Department

(Note: Each year the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) sends over 1,000 Israeli emissaries to live and work in communities like ours, to assist in the strengthening of local Jewish identity and our connection to Israel. They provide a living bridge to Israel by promoting Israeli experiences, facilitating Jewish social activism and speaking authentically about faith and culture.)

395 days after arriving to Michigan, it’s time to lean back and reflect. Thinking about my time here, I have decided to share three not-so-glamorous, but special stories. 

I truly believe that the day-to-day moments in life are the most important ones. They are those dots we connect which create our life experiences and are sometimes much more meaningful than any big moment. 

The passion to learn

On a hot, humid summer day, I was sitting in my office in Federation, going through my emails, when suddenly I received an email from Sylvia Starkman. That name rang a bell, I thought to myself. As I read the email, I realized Sylvia Starkman is the mother of Miriam Starkman — the head of Hillel of Metro-Detroit and a friend who I have been in touch with since I arrived. This is just more proof that everybody is related to somebody in the community. In her email, Sylvia asked me to meet a study group she is part of, which has been meeting every week since 1985!  Yes, that is correct, they have been meeting for 36 years now. I was very excited to be a guest on their list and planned a virtual program about my job and about Israel education. For me, seeing this curious group of people, who made learning such a big part of their life, was not only inspiring but really so much fun! 

Bringing life (during Covid, in Michigan, in the winter)

The birth of our youngest daughter, Gili, has made our experience here in Michigan even more special than expected.  As a family, going through all the stages of bringing life into the world, is hard to put into words. From setting doctor’s appointments to finding/buying/receiving many of the necessities for growing a newborn, to the amazing staff and treatment we received in the hospital — it was incredible. Yes, Gili is a Winter-Covid-American, which makes her very special (hence why her name in Hebrew means “our joy”), but even with all of these challenges, we grew as a family. This year gave us the opportunity to be together (a lot); to learn each other, explore the world together, and enjoy what this Jewish community is all about (and I am not talking only about food!).

(Oh, and one more thing – Yes, she can run for office.)

Garbage day is a blessing

After a hectic workday, coming back to a full house that needed much of my attention can sometimes be difficult. I needed to find some short periods of time just for myself.  For me, those times come on garbage days, when I have a couple of minutes to myself. 

I don’t know if you feel the same, but taking out the garbage the night before garbage day has become one of my favorite times of the week. Maybe it’s because in Israel there is no such day — you just take out your garbage whenever it is full. So for me, going out, in the evening, when the air is crisp, the stars are out, the natural environment is awake, and it seems like the world is at ease, allow me to reflect on this entire experience. These moments allow me to look at myself from a distance, and say, “Can you believe you live in Michigan right now, in this American house, taking out the garbage (and will one day be doing it in the snow)?” It feels like yesterday that I was living in Tel-Aviv, working in a high school, living my Israeli life. That sentence, for me, is a reminder that dreams can come true, and this sentiment has given me so much energy to go through some of the hardest challenges I have ever faced.  

This is the time to thank all of you for being with us in moments big or small, which have made this year so special. I’m looking forward to the next year, and most importantly to Monday night (my garbage day)!

Two communities. One family. Learn more about how Federation’s Israel & Overseas Department is bringing Detroiters and Israelis closer together.