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Men with a mission

Federation gathers guys for April Israel trip

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Dan Shlufman and Jon Mangot on the court of Nahariya’s professional basketball team.

Dan Shlufman of Tenafly and Jon Mangot of Haworth are looking for a few good men.

Actually, more than a few. They want at least enough of them to fill a bus.

The two are organizing a trip to Israel for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey – a mission for men only, to take place in April.

“We gear the trip a little bit more toward physical activities,” Mr. Shlufman explained.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to do and see things that you would never experience other than on a Federation mission, and other than with fellow men,” Mr. Shlufman said.

The two traveled together to Israel in 2008 – the last time the federation had a mission just for men. They had met and became friends a couple years earlier on another such mission that Mr. Shlufman, 50, “just went on on a whim.” (Mr. Mangot is 52.)

“I knew nobody. I did not know a person on the trip. From that time, Jon has become one of my closest friends,” he said.

“It was a life-changing experience,” he said.

On Monday night, the pair hosted the first informational meeting to promote the mission. The speaker was Shlomi Avni, a former officer with the Israeli SEALs and the founder of a social service agency in the federation’s Israeli sister city of Nahariya.

The Men’s Mission will take advantage of both of Mr. Avni’s roles, soldier and social worker.

As a federation trip, it will see some of the social service projects the federation funds in Nahariya and elsewhere around the country.

But it will also have a gung-ho element.

Trip members will take part in the SEAL training alongside the high school students with whom Mr. Avni works. Then they’ll travel up to – but not across – the Lebanese border in torpedo boats.

They’ll tour an underground bullet factory, where before the State of Israel was created Jewish militias manufactured ammunition to fight the British.

On Yom Ha’atzmaut, they’ll visit an air force base to see planes take off from the tarmac for their Independence Day air shows.

“We’ll mix in touristy things with charitable things and fun things,” Mr. Shlufman said. “We’ll be meeting with the CEO of Google Israel, the CEOs of other startups. We want to emotionally connect men in our community both to Israel and to Federation.

“We’re targeting any man between 35 and 75. The average age is between 40 and 55. We have one guy who is coming with his son, who is in his 20s. We have people who have never been to Israel and one guy who has been a number of times.”

And that’s just from the first dozen people to sign up.

Mr. Shlufman emphasizes that the trip is designed to fit into a busy schedule.

“You’re only missing one weekend with your family and one week from work,” he said. The recommended flight is Sunday night out of JFK; we’ll start the mission at 4 p.m. Monday at the Knesset. It will end the following Saturday night.

“Basically you’ll be back by Sunday at 4 or 5 a.m.”

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