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A Stranger and a Sojourner

Aliza Goodman's picture

גֵּר-וְתוֹשָׁב אָנֹכִי, עִמָּכֶם

"Ger Ve’toshav Anokhi Imakhem"

("I'm a stranger and sojourner among you”)

Genesis 23:4

Today was a tough day.

I woke up this morning ready for an all-day meeting with our team of consultants from across the country. Several of them were flying in for the day and I was looking forward to what is usually a stimulating and productive day.

Our day began with a d’var torah and an exploration of the meaning of the verse above: "I’m a stranger and sojourner among you." We were asked to consider the following questions:

Where do you feel at home in Israel?

Where do you feel at home in the country where you were born?

Where do you feel like a stranger in Israel?

Where do you feel like a stranger in the country where you were born?


Now, for a Canadian living in the United States, these are not easy questions to answer! But I tried to explain to my chevrutah partner that home is where my friends and family are – and so I feel at home when I’m watching TV with my parents at their house in Toronto; and sitting in my friend’s living room in Kfar Saba projecting the Olympics on a big screen; and cooking dinner with my roommates at our apartment in Chicago.

As our day went on, and as the events in Israel escalated, I found it harder and harder to focus on the conversations we were having – and thought I was the only one trying to resist the urge to open my computer and check the news or scroll through Facebook to find out what was going on.

When we finally took a break, something happened: nearly every single one of us in the room (15 Jewish and Israel educators) took out our phones and tried to get in touch with our families and friends in Israel. The moment wasn’t about placing blame, or counting rockets, or anything like that – it was simply about the people.

I sat there sending emails to my friends, thinking it might be the best way to get in touch with them, anxiously awaiting a response – any response. Finally one came from the friend in Kfar Saba:

“We feel the tension but we stay optimistic.

This is part of our reality.”

 And in that moment, the meaning of ger ve’toshav became clear to me.

The stranger in us asks questions, and may even have answers to questions, about Israeli history, politics and conflict; the stranger in us gathers facts and information on current events; the stranger in us discusses, maybe even judges, the events happening in a foreign country.

But when we have personal connections and relationships with Israel and its people, then we are also toshavim, and our reactions are emotional, not intellectual; our lives rise and fall along with life in Israel, and our stories live in dialogue with the stories of our people.

עם ישראל חי 




Aliza’s commitment to Israel was originally formed in childhood during family trips to Is- rael from her home in Toronto, Canada. Since then, Aliza has tried to share her passion with as many people as possible, whether it was during the numerous trips to Israel that she led for high school, college students and young adults, or through her three years working at the Hillel Foundation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Aliza served as Communications Director for Genesis and BIMA at Brandeis University, two residential summer programs for Jewish high school students. Most recently, Aliza created and directed a year-long internship program for high school teens returning from summer trips to Israel aimed at developing them as leaders and peer Israel educators. Aliza holds an MBA in Social Policy and Management and an MA in Jewish Professional Leadership from Brandeis University, as well as a BA in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario.