By Joe Cimperman, President of Global Cleveland
There is a story in the Old Testament about the journey to the Promised Land. When Moses and the Israelites were ready to go through the Red Sea, the waters parted and the fleeing community was able to make it through on dry passage. Scholars of the Bible tell us that it was in fact a brave person known as Nahshon who went into the waters first, to test if the thousands of people behind him would be able to make it through safely. We also learn that Nahshon walked in to the water up to his chin and kept going before the mighty waters receded. It was at this point that the Jews fleeing the Egyptians were able to escape, and continue on.
I bring this up because I am reminded of this bravery and determination in a recent Cleveland Jewish Federation trip to the great city of Beit Shean. Along with a group from Cleveland having deep and abiding connections to the St. Clair Superior Community, we travelled together to discuss ways we could do even more as two communities going through so much of the same growth and opportunity quests. For history, Beit Shean is an amazing city in a region called the Valley of the Springs. This once dire landscape filled with swamps and unfarmable land has become a verdant, green, ecologically sustainable, economically powerful area where more and more people are coming to live. The population grew exponentially after World War 2, many survivors of the Holocaust came here along with the many displaced members of the Jewish Community looking to start anew. We visited a museum of the people and lives lived of Beit Shean and saw in those grainy photographs the joys, sorrows, struggles and ultimate triumph of people looking to call a place home. The level of innovation in this community is staggering. From an agrarian research and implementation strategy, to how to make a lasting peace with neighbors cross border, to wind energy and perhaps most difficult: how to keep civil society engaged in these dynamic times with steady and thoughtful local government. I learned a lot here thanks to our hosts in Beit Shean/Valley of Springs. We will be lucky enough to host some of our Friends in a few short weeks here in Cleveland. What we can be sure of is this: the knowledge gleaned by both of our communities (Cleveland and Beit Shean) is absolutely transferable and has applications in Israel and in The U.S.
The late Art Naperstak worked diligently with so many leaders from Cleveland to share best practices from our perspective to our Beit Sheanen family. The lessons our delegation learned from Beit Shean are best practices for us to work toward implementation here. Ultimately what Amy Kaplan and Oren Baratz and the leadership of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland showed us, and what the lives lived on volume 10 in Israel demonstrate, is that in order to cross to what’s better, we all need to channel the Nahshon in ourselves. To be bold enough to risk to fail, to share openly when bonds are established, to innovate and implement change as it comes to us, in real time. For this and for the opportunity to learn, I am so grateful.