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The woman bringing a touch of Israel to Atlantic Canada

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Lucy Kleinerman

There aren’t enough hours in the day for Lucy Kleinerman to do all she wants as shlichah, or emissary, to the Atlantic Jewish Council (AJC).

The Moldovan-born, Israeli-raised woman has a limited amount of time to fulfill her primary goal of carrying out programs in the region. Kleinerman is halfway through her stint with the AJC, which is sponsored by the Canadian Zionist Federation (CZF) and the World Zionist Organization (WZO).

In her first four weeks in Halifax, Kleinerman – who’s fluent in English, Hebrew and Russian – has launched a seven-week series of Hebrew lessons for all ages, taught Hebrew to children at the Halifax Joint Hebrew School, cooked Shabbat dinner for young women, met with Russian-Israeli immigrant families and even travelled to Memorial University in St. John’s, to meet with Hillel students and community members.

Her schedule for the next four weeks is just as packed.

The enthusiastic young woman moved to Israel with her family when she was three years old in the early 1990s. She earned a bachelor of education degree at the Kibbutzim College of Education in Tel Aviv in 2014, following two years in the IDF medical corps. She worked for two years at the Weizmann Institute of Science, did short-term shaliach work at summer camps in Russia and Georgia, and, in July, completed a one-year shaliach stint as a Jewish Agency for Israel fellow at Hillel York University in Toronto.

“I was home in Israel this past summer, trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life, when I heard of the CZF and WZO opportunity in Halifax,” she said.

Naomi Rosenfeld, executive director of the AJC, said the regional organization has been trying to get a shlichah on site since she started in her role two years ago.

“Nothing worked financially until finally Lior Sagi, education program co-ordinator of CZF, and Les Rothschild, president of CZF, presented a solution to us that worked. Lucy was ideal – an educator who speaks English, Hebrew and Russian. The program was targeted for communities that can’t afford long-term schlichot, but would work in a two-month period,” she said.

Kleinerman spent another two months trying to make a career decision, but said that she “thought this would be an opportunity I might never have again, to go to a smaller community and help develop Israeli-oriented programs. I decided to take a chance.”

“And we’re glad she did,” exclaimed Rosenfeld. “She’s been perfect for us. It all came together really fast. Within days, Lucy was here and working. She’s enhancing Israeli components to a lot of programs we had scheduled, such as our Israel table at the Mosaic Festival in Halifax, our PJ Library apple-picking event for children and she’s already spoken at both synagogues (in Halifax) and cooked a Shabbat dinner for young girls.”

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Coming up, she’ll lead a discussion after a showing of the documentary film, Ben-Gurion, Epilogue, and a week later, she’ll help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Jewish Legion, at which David Ben-Gurion received military training in Windsor, N.S. As part of the program, Kleinerman will read letters sent from Paula Ben-Gurion to her husband, while he was in Windsor.

Through mid-October, Kleinerman will speak to elementary school students about Israel, lead Shabbat-related programs and visit Saint John, N.B., for a community Shabbat dinner. She hopes to make trips to Moncton and Prince Edward Island, as well.

“At York University in Toronto, I was among several Israeli and Jewish people working with the Hillel community. I discovered in St. John’s, I was unique. People, both Jews and non-Jews, felt they could learn from me by asking questions. They were open-minded to talk, not to just see things in black-and-white.”

In a month, Kleinerman will return to Israel. Where will that leave the AJC?

“We’re using a train-the-trainer model,” said Rosenfeld. “Lucy’s working with community leaders to facilitate the programs. We’ve found there’s a greater appetite for more than we realized. She’s shown us what works. It’s been an opportunity we couldn’t pass up and we’re open to doing these short-term schlichim again.”