Wayne YMCA keeps Jewish soul

Wayne YMCA keeps Jewish soul

Meet Roni Mishpati

Roni Mishpati is on the third stage of her teaching career.

And she’s only 21.

In this phase, she’s a shlicha – Israeli representative – assigned to northern New Jersey by the Jewish Agency for Israel. She works three days a week at the Wayne Y, and spends the rest of her week working for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the Israeli Scouts troop based in Fair Lawn.

A year ago, she was an instructor for the Israeli army, training soldiers in a classified weapons system.

And before that, she practiced informal education as a scout leader in her home town, Ganei Tikva, a residential town of 12,000 near Tel Aviv. That experience helped her in the army: “Standing in front a crowd wasn’t that big of a deal for me,” she said.

Mishpati started in October. “I’m trying to find my way into every program at the Y that might have some Jewish content,” she said.

Among the new programs she’s planning: “I’m trying to develop a program for teenage girls about Israeli and Jewish women leaders throughout history. Girl power and stuff like that.”

She has a Tu Bi-Sh’vat seder planned for Jan. 27, to be led by Rabbi Randall Mark of Wayne’s Congregation Shomrei Torah. She’ll be bringing her Israeli scouts to the event, and she’s reaching out to the Hillel at nearby William Paterson University.

Has she experienced any Christian impact from being under YMCA rather than YMHA auspices?

“No,” she answered. “I feel it’s a title. I don’t feel the Jewish community is less important. They’re very considerate. They ask a lot of questions about what’s appropriate and what’s not.”

Mishpati’s roommate is the shlicha who works at the Kaplan JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly

“Everything is similar,” she said of the Y and the JCC.

“I really am glad to be here. I feel very welcomed. People are hungry for Jewish culture and Israel programming. People really want to know more.”

Mishpati’s grandparents all went to Israel from Poland; her parents were born in Israel. She lived in America with her parents for three years beginning in 1999, when her father worked for El Al at JFK airport.

And she loves America.

“I love the culture and I love the history,” she said. “I love the fact that both Israel and America are countries built by immigrants who moved here from all different places around the world – and you can feel it.

“There’s this one thing that unites everybody but everybody has their own input. You feel welcomed.”

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