Nir Cafri works to connect Rhode Islanders to Israel

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JAFI’s mission today is to “do all they can to ensure that every Jewish person feels an unbreakable bond to one another and to Israel no matter where they are in the world so that they can continue to play their critical role in our ongoing Jewish story.” How do they do this? Through direct services and Israeli education opportunities such as the Shlichim program, Youth Futures, and Net@, to name a few. All of these programs receive support from our community through the Annual Campaign.

In August 2018, Cafri arrived in Rhode Island and has been working in the day schools, religious schools and Hillels. Cafri also leads the Israel Culture Series at the Dwares Jewish Community Center in Providence and regularly visits local synagogues to present programs for all ages.

Cafri recently spoke with Jewish Rhode Island as part of our ongoing efforts to introduce readers to community leaders.

Where are you from in Israel?

I am from Nes Ziona, about 15 minutes outside Tel-Aviv.

Tell us about your family.

I am the youngest of three siblings. My sister Noa is the oldest at 29, and she is a combat navigator in the Air Force. My brother Or is the middle child. He is 27 and flies drones in the security industry. My father Gidon works in technology for drones in the air force industry, and my mom, Daniella, monitors invasive species for the Ministry of Agriculture

What was your army experience?

I spent 3 1/2 years in the army. For three years, I was drafted for combat engineering, a commander for heavy machinery, and responsible for combat engineering in the northern part of the country, near the Syrian border. For half a year, I was enrolled in a flight course.

Did you enjoy flying?

It’s fun… as a hobby.

What inspired you to become an emissary?

I have been involved with connecting Jews to Israel by working with Birthright, Young Judea and Onward Israel. This was the next obvious step for me. This is the way you get the ultimate connection of Jews and Israel by coming here.

What do you hope to accomplish during your time here.

I have three main goals:

Create unity. This includes school programs such as school twinning. This program pairs the day schools with Israeli schools for collaborative work. It feels like the Jewish community in Rhode Island is divided. We must remember that we are all Jews.

Create a connection. I’m trying to create a connection between Jews in Israel and Jews in Rhode Island. The Think and Drink series is a program that unites Israeli scientists with U.S. scientists through Science Abroad. An event for this program is being planned for April.

Create a legacy. Zikaron B’Salon means memory in the living room. This is a different way to commemorate the Holocaust. A survivor tells their story in someone’s living room, followed by a discussion. I am excited to say the first one will be held sometime in May.

 

What is hardest challenge you have?

The Israel Culture Series and getting the word out is the toughest thing so far. Movies attract people. We had over 70 people for a movie in January but 20 for a program in February. I am trying to find interesting and appealing content to bring the community to the building [the Dwares JCC].  On March 13 we will have our next event. Rachel S. Harris, author of “Warriors, Witches, Whores: Women in Israeli Cinema” will be here for a book talk and signing.  (See story on page 10)

Is there a program you are really excited about?

For the first time in a long time, all the temples and the Alliance are uniting together for an all-community Yom Ha’atzmut (Israel Independence Day) celebration on May 9.

Besides these programs what else do you do in the community?

I travel all over the state doing Israel programming and Israeli culture. My favorite programs are the ones where I am interacting with the schools. Working in the Sunday Schools is my favorite part of the week.

What do you like about the United States?

This is my first time in the U.S. I have traveled to California, New York City, Philadelphia, D.C. and Baltimore. My favorite place I have visited is Joshua Tree National Park [in southern California]. In Rhode Island, I love Lincoln Woods. I have also loved going snow tubing at Yawgoo Valley. Rhode Island is a really fun place to be.

Do you miss Israel and home?

I miss my family and the food. The produce in Israel is just so fresh and tasty. The best food is the food my mom makes. Here, the Mexican food is great!

What are your hobbies?

Really anything. I love running, biking, TRX, rock climbing, guitar, skiing. I love to be active.

What are your plans after your time here?

I plan to attend Beersheba University to study cognitive neuroscience.

Each year, JAFI sends nearly 1,800 Israeli emissaries around the world to strengthen Jewish identity and connection to Israel. These shlichim are selected from more than 10,000 applicants, and represent the best of Israel.

For information on upcoming events Cafri will be running or on giving to the Annual Campaign, please contact Seth Finkle, manager of development, at 401-421-4111, ext. 146.