November 29, 2015

GOA Rishon Gili Shtibelman Forging New Relationships

Sophie Goldman, '19

For Gili Shtibelman, one of this year’s new rishonim, Israel gives her a strong sense of community and opportunities unlike any in America.
“You love the place you grow up in,” said Shtibelman. “It’s yours.”
Shtibelman, 18, comes from Rishon LeTzion, a coastal city south of Tel Aviv and the fourth largest city in Israel. She comes to Golda Och with two other rishonim, Doron Gatenio and Dotan Miller.
Israel has given Shtibelman independence from a young age, and she feels that the atmosphere is lighter and safer in Israel. Even though Rishon LeTzion is such a large city, she still finds it easy to meet new people just by saying hello in the street. She finds safety in the community of Israel, in the same way that GOA students are able to connect to the local Jewish community.
The Rishonim program offers Shtibelman and her fellows a chance to experience the different Jewish lifestyles found in America. Aside from visiting GOA, the Rishonim also visit synagogues of many denominations and interact with students of all ages.
In Israel, Shtibelman said she takes the Jewish community for granted, but life in America is a very abrupt change. Shtibelman and her fellow Rishonim have gotten used to living in a culture where not everyone is Jewish, and with these new experiences comes an even stronger appreciation for their home, culture, and Judaism.
In Rishon LeTzion, many were affected by the death Matan Gotlib, who fought in Operation Protective Edge and was killed searching for tunnels when a boobytrapped building collapsed. Gotlib’s death was familiar territory for Shtibelman, as she said almost everyone knows at least one person who died, but the routine of life in Israel helps them cope. She also added that Gotlib’s parents often say that the grief doesn’t take them, but rather walks next to them.
“You are willing to live with that in order to live in Israel,” said Shtibelman.
The high-school-aged Rishonim, have other goals besides spreading awareness about Israel, namely forming long-lasting relationships. According to Rabbi Kallush, the director of Israel programming, the formation of personal connections is one of the most important benefits of the program.
“Having a personal connection with someone in a different country and knowing them personally makes you much more connected to them and their country,” said Kallush.
Shtibelman is excited to bring her community to our school, but more importantly, she is ready to interact with students and strengthen their own connections with Israel, just as Israel did for her.
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