Submitted by: the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati

This fall, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati is welcoming new young emissaries in both Cincinnati and Israel, a move that will deepen connections on both sides of the ocean. 

May From, 18, and Darya Solomon, 18, will be serving the Cincinnati community as this year’s Chaverim M’Israel (Friends from Israel). 

From and Solomon are from Netanya, Cincinnati’s partnership city in Israel, and were selected as the top two candidates from that city to represent Israel in Cincinnati. Both have chosen to defer their army service in Israel for a year in order to help the Cincinnati community form an increased awareness of and a connection with the land, culture, and people of Israel through education and interpersonal relationships. 

Ezra Babcock, 23, will serve as the Federation’s Cincinnati Fellow in Israel (Cincy Fellow), an American emissary who will spend a year in Israel teaching people about life, culture, and Judaism in the United States. 

He will be part of the Israel Teaching Fellows (ITF) MASA program and also do programming through Partnership2Gether (P2G) in Netanya. While helping teach English classes at a junior high school, he will incorporate lessons on American culture, including holidays, through a Jewish lens. 

“I want to teach them about Cincinnati, Skyline Chili, and the Reds, and well as the University of Cincinnati (Go Bearcats!),” he said. “But I also want to illustrate the wide variety of American Jewry and the different strains of Judaism we have here. The diversity of the Jewish community in America.” 

Babcock is a recent graduate from the UC, where he majored in electrical engineering and minored in mathematics. He grew up in Cincinnati and went to Walnut Hills High School. He had a typical Jewish upbringing, which included Sunday school and a bar mitzvah at Beth Adam. He has been to Israel on a Birthright trip and through Onward Israel. Babcock was also active in Jewish life on campus at UC, where he was involved with Cincinnati Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Pi, and the David Project. 

In addition to increasing understanding of Judaism in America, he hopes to learn as much about Israeli culture.

“I am a food tourist,” he said. “I enjoy getting to know a culture through its food. I love falafel, I can’t get enough of shawarma, and nothing beats a great hummus. And I’m excited to live a Jewish life. Instead of being a minority, I’ll be part of the majority and won’t have to seek out Judaism.” 

From lives just three minutes from the sea in Netanya. She is an avid surfer and surfing instructor, and she loves food. She lives with her parents, twin sister Gal, and her two dogs. Her majors in school were theatre and biology. She gets inspiration from Israeli actress Gal Gadot, qualities of whom she hopes to emulate. She knows this year will be a special experience and bring her new family and friends. 

“I'm super excited to be here, and I can’t wait to meet all the people in the community,” she said. “I hope to bring my point of view and culture, and I hope to learn new things from Cincinnati, too. And, of course, have fun.”

Solomon grew up in Kfar Yona, a small town near Netanya, where she lives with her mother. Her family also includes her father and three half siblings. She is passionate about the arts, both visual arts and music; she plays the piano, guitar, ukulele, and saxophone. She is part of the Tzofim, the Israeli Scouts youth movement, where she explores Israeli culture and history and builds team work and leadership skills. She majored in physics and biology and is part of a robotics team, which won the Israeli national championship several times. She hopes to deepen connections between Netanya and Cincinnati that will last a lifetime. 

“I’m really excited to be here,” she said. “I already feel at home. I want to make meaningful connections and make people want to feel more connected to Israel.” 

From will stay with host families Haim and Emily Cohen in Mason, as well as Ronnen Isakov and Lara Danziger-Isakov in Amberley Village. 

Solomon will stay with host families Jim and Pam Geller in Wyoming, as well as Jamey and Vanessa Kurtzer in Symmes Township. 

The two will visit many schools and organizations throughout Cincinnati to help teach about Israel and to help Cincinnatians develop connections with the country. They will have regular visits to Rockwern Academy and area congregations’ Sunday schools. In addition, they will visit Jewish, public, and parochial schools in Greater Cincinnati. 

The Chaverim M’Israel are guided by Jennifer Clark, who manages the day-to-day activities of the young emissaries and serves as their mentor throughout their year in Cincinnati. 

“I am so excited to help May and Darya bring their Israeli flair to the greater Cincinnati community,” she said. “They have already started to make an impact on our community with their enthusiasm and creativity.” 

 “Each year two amazing young adults from Netanya come to Cincinnati to educate our children and teens in a fresh, fun way so that our children can better understand contemporary Israel and her many faces, accomplishments, challenges, and people,” said Barb Miller, director of Community Building.

“The volunteer and professional leadership of the Jewish Federation’s P2G Committee felt it was equally important for a Cincinnati young adult to live and work in Netanya in order to educate young Israelis about American Jews and the diverse ways we practice Judaism, create community, live our daily lives, and care about Israel.”

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