Published on October 11th, 2017 | by LedgerOnline0
Tali Bass hopes to share her passion for Israel with Hartford’s Jewish community
By Stacey Dresner
WEST HARTFORD – The only thing Tali Bass doesn’t like about being in West Hartford is that – despite the mild weather she has experienced so far – she is constantly cold.
“I’m from the desert,” she laughed.
Bass, the new shlicha – Israeli emissary – at the Mandell Jewish Community Center, arrived in Connecticut in early September. Her mission is to enhance the community’s connection to Israel through programs and events.
In addition to working with children in the JCC’s family room, early childhood center and afterschool program, she will teach at Hebrew High School of New England and JTCONNECT, the weekly community Jewish high school program, and will partner with local Hillels to develop programs for college students.
Bass will also coordinate special events and programs for the local Israeli community and work with the other area shlichim, including Hartford’s two Young Emissaries and the Israel Fellow at UConn Hillel.
“For the first month, I have been meeting people at the JCC and the people in the community,” she says. “I go to Shabbat dinners and went to the synagogue on Yom Kippur. I’m trying to meet people and to get to know the families and get to know the people who work in the community so I can make connections and bring Israel to them.”
“Having a shlicha in the community is like having our own personal window into Israel – culture, language, food, traditions,” says Elana Macgilpin, the JCC’s director of outreach and Jewish engagement. “We have been fortunate to have this revitalized program, due to the Jewish Federation and the Jewish community Foundation, and we are incredibly grateful. The shlicha is able to bring Israel to so many people in our community. There is a certain authenticity and energy that comes from a shlicha. Without someone like Tali our community would be lacking these connections.”
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Bass’s maternal grandparents “had the dream to move to Israel” – and so her grandfather and aunt did. Bass and her parents and older sister followed suit when the young girl was three years old.
The family settled in Be’er Sheva, where her father works in a computer parts factory and her mother, a housewife, helps Tali’s older sister with her two small sons – or “my monkeys,” as Bass calls them.
Bass served in the Israel Defense Force as a medic, then earned her BA from Hebrew University in theater and literature.
“I wanted to be an actress. After my first degree I went to acting school because it was something I wanted to do since I was a little girl,” she says.
At the same time, she participated in a scholarship program called “Nefesh Yehudi” which provides secular Israeli college students with Jewish knowledge and Jewish study. It was through that experience that she learned a lot more about Judaism.
After two years of acting school, she had a change of heart.
“I thought about why I wanted to be an actress in the first place, and I realized that I didn’t want to be the actress that plays the character – I wanted to be the character. I want to be the person who does everything and moves to a different country…so I realized I don’t want to act that, I want to live it.”
She had considered becoming a shlichot before going to acting school, so she revisited that idea.
“I talked to some people who had served as shlichot and I realized a lot of people I know and friends of my friends did that. All of them said that it was an experience that changed their lives.”
While living on Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev, she applied to the Jewish Agency, and once accepted spent a year preparing to become a shlicha, training, studying and taking exams. After interviewing with several Jewish communities in the U.S., she settled on Greater Hartford.
“We are excited about Tali’s shlichut in our community,” says the JCC’s Executive Director David Jacobs. “As a kibbutznik, émigré from Russia, and actress, she brings a diverse set of skills and experiences along with her great energy. In the short time she has been here it has been clear to us how committed she is about sharing her love of Israel with all of us.”
Just before arriving in West Hartford, she spent a month in Moscow, through the Jewish agency, working on a summer camp. She had previously been back to St. Petersburg twice with her parents to visit her grandmother, who has since died.
“This was the first time as a grown-up that I decided to go there by myself and to experience Russia,” she says.
But despite her Russian roots, she is pure Israeli.
She is excited at the prospect of bringing the celebration of Israel’s 70th anniversary to Connecticut next April when the JCC hosts its week-long Israel Festival. She plans to work with shlichim in other cities to get ideas and with the Young Emissaries to conceive new events to hold throughout the year to celebrate Israel.
Now, Bass is preparing to launch a new program – with community member Danielle Moghadam – called K’Tantanim or “Little Ones,” a program for Hebrew speaking children 6 and under and their parents.
“We read a book in Hebrew and sing songs in Hebrew and do crafts,” she says.
This program will run on three Sundays, Oct. 22, Nov. 12 and Dec. 10 at 4 p.m. at the JCC. If there is interest, a group for older children may be formed.
“It’s for the kids that only speak Hebrew with their families, so they have a place where they can talk to friends and feel they belong,” she says.
She is also finding ways to bring Israel throughout the JCC and larger Jewish community. Recently, she went to a meeting of the fitness staff to introduce herself.
“I was thinking about how to bring Israel to the fitness center. For example, I can do a wall with Israeli athletes,” she says.
She has also taken part in an Israeli folk dancing class at the JCC, attended a USY meeting with the community’s Young Emissaries, and met with groups advisor Penina Beedee, with whom she discussed ways in which to engage Beedee’s peer group – Jewish young adults in their early 20’s.
It’s all part of her desire to share her passion for Israel with the community, especially its younger members.
“I think it is important for kids in the college to know what to say when other groups say things that are not correct about Israel,” she says. “There is a such a strong connection between Jews in Israel and Jews from America and all over the world. I want them to understand that Israel is their homeland. Israel will always be our strength.”