By Stacey Dresner
Most Jewish educators would agree that one of the best ways to instill a love of Israel is to travel to Israel.
Which is the goal of “Fly With Us,” a contest for Jewish families around New England presented by the Boston-based educational nonprofit Returning the Sparks and several Jewish organizations including the Consulate General of Israel to England and the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
One family will be awarded four Delta Premium Select round trip tickets from the United States to Tel Aviv, and $5,000 which can be used towards a trip with the tour operator, Authentic Israel.
The contest is open to families in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, and Jewish Federations in those states are participating, including the Federations of New Haven, Stamford, Central Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts
Families with children aged 7 through 17 can visit flywithus2Israel.com to enter the contest, which runs now through March 16.
Contestants are asked to enter a video or an essay or poem on topics listed on the website, like “How does your family successfully integrate both tradition and innovation, like Israel and Israelis?” and “How does Israel inspire you to make your dreams possible?”
The grand-prize winner will be selected by a panel of Returning the Sparks and Consulate General of Israel to New England staff and advisors and announced on the website on Yom Ha’atzmaut – April 26.
“Fly With Us” was created by Arrine Edelman, executive director of Returning the Sparks, which creates “opportunities to transform Jews’ connections with Judaism, with Israel, and with one another.”
“I’m aware that it looks like a tourist thing, and that’s how it manifests. But I’m an experiential educator, so one of the two educational goals that I had was to get people to experience Israel first-hand,” Edelman said. “But secondarily, the website educates families about Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) and provides the original footage of the founding of Israel. So the contest gives people background that they wouldn’t otherwise necessarily research about Israel and Yom HaAtzmaut.”
Edelman added that research by Emory University psychologists, Dr. Marshall Duke and Dr. Robyn Fivush has shown that children raised with family stories that give them a sense of being part of something bigger–an “intergenerational sense of self”–show increased resilience, less anxiety, fewer behavior problems, higher self-esteem, greater family cohesiveness, and improved chances of good educational outcomes.
“We designed the entry process, including optional discussion prompts, to be accessible to all families and to encourage family discussion and exploration of resilience and overcoming challenges, a commitment to both innovation and tradition, and the pursuit of one’s dreams,” Edelman said.
Fly With Us was the 2021 first place winner of an American Zionist Movement Zionist Education Accelerator, which asked educators to design a project to engage youth in Zionism
Edelman then pitched the idea to the Israel Ministry of Tourism, and the Consul General of Israel to New England Meron Reuben who was totally on board.
“I am so excited that ‘Fly With Us’ is finally happening this year and have really enjoyed working with ‘Returning the Spark’, Delta, and Jewish Federations,” said Consul General Ambassador Meron Reuben. “It is great to be celebrating Israel’s 75th anniversary and the special long standing relationship between the U.S. and the State of Israel together.
“Excited to be engaging younger generations and keeping the strong bond alive. It would be great to see everyone win a trip to Israel but only one family will end up as winners who will get to explore the wonderful cultural sights, tastes and warmth of Israel and her people. I am looking forward to seeing all the submissions entries and meeting the winning family.”
Getting Delta to sponsor the grand prize was a real coup.
“It was so generous of them and it’s also such an exciting thing that they [offered] their Delta Premium Select cabin,” Edelman said. “It elevates the competition in my opinion.”
Delta started flying from Boston to Tel Aviv on May 26, 2022 using one of the airline’s newest aircrafts, the A330-900neo.
“Based on the demand to travel to Israel locally from Boston and other cities that feed into it, it was clear that Delta could serve the market successfully,” said Candice Stover, District Sales Manager New England, Delta Air Lines..
Among other perks, the flight offers Delta Premium Select seats, four of which Delta, a Fly With Us partner, will award the grand-prize winner.
“We really wanted to showcase one of our newest onboard products – Delta Premium Select – and highlight the differentiated experience that this audience can enjoy when flying with us,” Stover said. We are proud to partner with organizations in the community to help share more about Delta and by partnering with the Returning the Sparks organization, we are able to amplify our message directly to the people who most likely will want to travel to Israel.”
The Jewish Federations involved are marketing the contest – offering the website on their own websites and getting the word out to families in their areas.
The Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven is working with all of its local Hebrew Schools and Jewish Day schools to encourage their families to take part in this program. The Federation will also offer a special gift to the local “winner” of this program, as judged by a team of local panelists, said Interim CEO Amy Holtz.
“We chose Fly With Us because it is an opportunity to take part in a regional program with partners across the Federations throughout New England, providing a great opportunity to collaborate with our neighboring communities,” Holtz said.
“We are trying to keep Israel engagement high on our list of communal educational priorities, particularly for our young families,” added Rabbi Josh Pernick, director of the New Haven Federations Jewish Community Relations Council. “Israel’s 75th birthday provides a natural opportunity to engage families in conversations about Israel, as often conversations about Israel, when they happen, take place within formal educational programs. This program encourages families to think about and talk about Israel as a familial unit.”
Steven Schimmel, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass. learned about Fly With Us from Edelman, with whom he had worked to bring Returning the Spark’s Israel Art Lending program to Clark University Hillel in Worcester last year.
“We are doing all we can to market and promote it within the community because it’s a real opportunity for families to connect to Israel and of course if they win to visit Israel!s” said Schimmel. “Fostering a stronger sense of Zionist pride and support for Israel is so important, especially at a time when such support is constantly under attack. Connecting to Israel is a priority of Federation, and this program will hopefully go a long way in supporting this priority.”
Families do not need to live in a Federation catchment area to be selected to win the grand prize. Families may also apply through regional partners IAC New England or Jookender.
For more information or to enter the contest, go to FlyWithUs2Israel.com.