Scott Brown recalls the summer night in 2009 before Shiri Rahamim was to board a flight back to Israel.
“She was at our home and her stuff was strewn all over the house to get shipped back to Israel.”
Brown is now the president of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. Rahamim had just finished two years serving as the JCC’s first shlicha — an Israeli emissary sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel.
“She was deeply embedded in the community and deeply embedded in my family,” says Brown, who hosted Rahamim. “She was like our fourth daughter.”
That last night, Rahamim was busy preparing boxes of items associated with Israel for Jewish educators throughout the community. She wanted to leave behind a tool kit of resources to help their students connect with Israel, Brown says.
Three years after returning to Israel, Rahamim was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. She died last March at the age of 31.
The JCCNV community recently gathered to remember Rahamim on the first anniversary of her death.
As a tribute to Rahamim, the center renamed its shlichut program the Shiri Rahamim Shlichut Program and will engrave her name on the Jerusalem stone donor wall in the lobby. The center also created the Shiri Rahamim Memorial Fund, following the establishment in 2015 of the Jewish Agency’s Shiri Rahamim z”l Scholarship Fund.
“Shiri had a way of immediately connecting with people in the community. In terms of just her warmth and personality and her knowledge base of Israel and her passion for it, it was just unique and she brought you in immediately into her world and she jumped immediately into ours,” says Laurie Albert, community engagement director at the JCCNV and who oversees the Shlichut program.
“She was so approachable. There were no barriers to her. She was just so knowledgeable and it made Israel accessible. You could ask questions and not feel like you were ignorant because it was her passion, and she wanted to share that with our community. And I think she just touched so many lives,” says Laura Adler, the center’s marketing and public relations director.
The community still maintains close ties with Rahamim’s family in Israel. After receiving news of her death, Brown’s family rushed to Israel to be with the family and spoke at her funeral. Before the current shlicha, Na’ama Gold, came to Northern Virginia, she also visited Rahamim’s family.
The center has a journal for people to share their memories of Rahamim. Plans call for taking it to Israel to give to Rahamim’s parents, according to Albert.
Brown is proud of the growth of the program and the ability to maintain relationships with the shlichim and their families beyond the term of service: “It’s something that lasts, hopefully, a lifetime in regards to the relationships built.”