Benny Winkelmann is excited and honored to soon be spending nearly a year in Israel as the first Southeast Fellow (Shaliach) in the Hadera-Eiron Region.
“This is something I have always wanted to do,” he told the Reflector in a recent phone interview. “I am very excited about being part of this Israeli experience.”
Winkelmann is part of a pilot program jointly sponsored by MASA and Partnership2Gether. He was selected for this position by the Southeast Consortium of P2G – composed of 11 Jewish communities in the region, including Richmond, Charlotte and Greensboro, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Chattanooga, Nashville and Knoxville Tenn.; and Flagler and Volusia Counties, Lee & Charlotte Counties, Pinellas County and Jacksonville, Fla.
Engage and Connect
Among his responsibilities in Israel as a Shaliach, he will work with elementary school-age kids and teens in several local schools to share his experiences growing up as a young person in the U.S. He leaves for Israel on Sept. 20.
“I hope to teach them English and work with them on many special activities. This is a pilot program and some aspects will be determined when I am there in the classrooms.”
Benny will also engage and connect with young adults and residents on a number of activities.
“I hope to bring something unique to the table – growing up as a Jew in the South and being active in a variety of Jewish activities here all my life. I don’t feel the Israeli teens will know much about Richmond or the South.”
Benny noted, “Growing up in Richmond, we always hosted Israeli scouts every year and also Shlichim during the summer (who were at Camp Hilbert). They all shared their lives with us growing up in Israel, and I used to tell them that I wanted to come to Israel and do the same thing. Share my experiences with Israeli teens of growing up in the U.S.”
The P2G Hadera-Eiron website offers a full description of the Southeast Fellow at:
The following are some of the highlights:
“The journey of a lifetime starts with a few simple steps … This is a unique opportunity to engage with the local community in a hands-on volunteer experience building lifelong international, professional and social networks and being part of a communal and supportive environment.”
It continues “You will grow as a leader, a professional and a person. You will work with teens and young adults to share your own experiences and learn from them. You will have the opportunity to share your adventures and knowledge gained in your ten-month experience with members of our Southeast Consortium Communities through social media and virtual programming.”
He will be joined in the program by Jazmine Hubara, another Fellow from Charleston, S.C., who will partner with him during the program.
Israel Three Times
This unique program will give our Partnership community an insight on what it means to be an American Jew especially from smaller communities outside of New York City or Los Angeles.
Benny grew up in Richmond and graduated from Rudlin Torah Academy and Yeshiva of Virginia. He holds a B.A. in Communication from the University of Cincinnati where he minored in Hebrew and Electronic Media.
He has been to Israel three times to date. His first experience was Birthright. “This was a blast over the eight days, and I was able to stay with Israeli soldiers who I met on the trip.”
He noted, “When I got to the Old City near the Wall and saw the cobblestones, I knelt and kissed the ground. I had been waiting my whole life to come to this holy place. I have Holocaust Survivors on my father’s side and liberators on my mother’s side, so I finally got to get to go to Israel. I loved it.”
In college, he visited Israel with his fraternity and after college he went to Israel for six weeks on his own.
“I had the time of life (at the time) and loved it. I was only able to do this on some scholarships I received, so I was able to do a lot of traveling during that time. And I always wanted to get back to Israel in the future. This is my chance.”
Benny knows he will get so much out of this new experience too and will learn more about Israel from everyone he meets and works with during his time there.
“My focus will be working with the kids of all ages in English and Hebrew and connecting with the community.”
Benny said, “The Jewish community in Richmond gave me everything whether it was the Center, RTA, Yeshiva, Chabad and so much more. It was such a great opportunity, and now I have an opportunity to give back. I also made my rounds with different cities while in college and after college on the west coast.”
He shared, “While on the water polo team at Cincinnati for four years, I visited many campuses and always tried to visit the local Hillel to say hello and talk to the students. Meeting and talking with Jews everywhere is great.”
Benny noted, “I have room to grow and excited to have boots on the ground and will try to do what is needed and go where I am expected to go.”
To reach out to Benny in Israel, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.