Tal Greenberg has some big plans for Israeli Independence Day. The 23-year-old Israeli woman is a
“shlicha,” an emissary sent to the United States as part of a Jewish Agency for Israel program to promote connections between American Jewish communities and Israel.
She has a passion for photography and wanted to find a way to get to know people at her assigned synagogue, Congregation Beth El. So she made up a project: She is interviewing 71 members of the congregation, ages 1 to 71, photographing them for inclusion in a display in time for Israel’s
Independence Day on May 4.
“I was actually looking for a way to meet all of my Beth El congregation members,” she said. “It’s a very big congregation and there aren’t so many opportunities to get to know more details about people in the community.”
Greenberg is one 11 shlichim in the area; besides her work at Beth El, where she teaches in the Hebrew school and hosts cooking classes, she also works at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School.
She is originally from the village of Lehavim in the south of Israel, close to the city of Beersheba, but spent four years living near Boston as she was growing up. So there isn’t much about American culture that surprises or shocks her. However, after six months in the States she’s tired of the snow and the cold. She’s ready for summer, she said.
And she’s not homesick. Having just returned from a two-week trip home to celebrate a cousin’s wedding, she’s got a reinforced sense of vigor. Two days after returning, she interviewed three people in one day, and has several more scheduled over the next few weeks.
At this rate, she’s certain she’ll have the project done in no time.“I have two or three a day [scheduled],” she said.
On March 13, she interviewed Beth El member Daniel Bender, who is representing year number 49.
Sitting in the lobby of Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, they caught up on life before digging deep into Greenberg’s list of questions.
Through the interview it’s revealed that his wife grew up going to Israel every summer, and he’s been more than a handful of times. Both of his children celebrated their b’nai mitzvahs in the country, and there are a lot of memories associated with it.
She only asked six questions. But typically the answers, depending on the subject, can take anywhere between a few seconds and several minutes to answer.
“It’s like home,” Bender said when asked what he thought of the country, a quick and succinct answer. When asked about his favorite memory, it took a while to pick just one. There are so many.
It’s clear that’s the kind of answer she’s looking for in these interviews. The project is something she’s doing of her own volition, something she’s doing for herself. The project is open for everyone, regardless of whether or not they’ve been to Israel.
Which might be especially true for the younger kids participating.“Even if they haven’t heard about
Israel [or] even if they weren’t in Israel before, they can participate. It’s really just for me to meet them,” said Greenberg. “If they want to learn more about Israel and [want to meet me] because of this, this why
I’m here. I want them to be exposed to an Israeli so I can feel like I’m representing Israel.”
At the end of the interview, she snapped a quick photograph of Bender to use for her project. His photo and interview will be presented along with the 70 others at Congregation Beth El’s Independence
Day celebration alongside Israeli food, music and flags.
“It’s one of the times of the year that you can feel you’re almost in our country even from living so far away,” Greenberg said.