Finding a Home Away from Home

By Yoav Yaron

I’m in Jerusalem. 

It’s a February morning in 2022. 
Spring is just around the corner and the weather’s starting to warm up. With anxious anticipation, I’m heading toward the Citadel Hotel for an interview that will change my life. As I’m walking into the hotel, I’m looking for a person I have never seen before but who will become my mentor. I met Diane Sloyer that morning and a few minutes into the interview we started to chat about beer, Russian literature, Zionism, and the love we both hold for Jerusalem and Israel. That moment was a turning point in my life, for the good. 
Two and a half years later, I’m slowly starting to reflect on the journey I embarked on without knowing much about the new adventure that awaited me. It felt like the right choice, both then and now. Even more importantly, it was about finding the right community. Over these past two years, I have learned so much. I have met and gotten to know so many in our beautiful and warm community. I made life-lasting friendships. I grew as a person and as an educator. 
Deep down, I feel that I have always belonged to the Stamford, New Canaan, and Darien communities. And as one, I will always stay part of it. 
Every program I participated in and led helped me find my voice. I discovered the tools to better strengthen the community’s connection to Israel and one another. From Israeli film and TV show classes to teaching Hebrew, having coffee with people in the community, hosting cooking workshops, leading outreach trips, and mentoring teens, there was no area left untouched. Creating Israeli curriculum, beer sipping and homebrewing, and exploring Israeli nature and culture, the role of UJF Community Shaliach is one I take to heart.
Together with this special community, we found our Israeli and Jewish connections thanks to an established and thriving young adult community. A variety of Israeli voices provided unique perspectives, presented political discussions across Shabbat tables, and allowed us all to remember and honor our fallen and many more. But most importantly, it was about becoming part of our Kehila (community). I have had countless opportunities to learn, engage, teach, laugh, cry, think, and grow over this time, and I could not have done it without each and every one of you. I’m grateful for the hospitality, the open mindedness, the love, and the friendships we have made. 
Even though I am returning to Israel, I will be carrying all of you with me, and will forever be a proud part of our community. I do not like goodbyes, but I do believe in saying lehitraot (see you later) – and a promise that we will meet again.
This article appears in the July-August '24 issue of The New Jewish Voice. To receive The New Jewish Voice delivered free to your home, sign-up today at To support UJF's Community Shaliach program, visit United Jewish Federation to give.