The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore-Family Mission to Israel, December 22-30, 2019

Courtesy of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Photo by Jordan Polevoy.

This December, we at Kenes Tours & Gil Travel had the honor of taking part in planning, operating and supporting The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s Family Mission to Israel. Led by CEO Marc Terrill, this incredible community-building experience saw 85 people between the ages of 5 to 80 choose to come on a nine-day family trip specially designed to celebrate and showcase Baltimore’s Jewish community and its special relationship with Israel. The tour’s itinerary was expertly crafted to tell the unique story of the Jewish State, its impact on world Jewry, and the Baltimore community’s impact on Israel.

Throughout the trip, the program provided participants with a variety of tracks each day that enabled each individual/family to choose what they wanted to do and see from a diverse selection of custom-curated content. A key component of the mission was its many exclusive encounters with dedicated Partnership projects that provided a great platform to engage with and learn about Associated-supported JDC and JAFI programs making an impact on many peoples’ lives in Israel.

The Associated seeks to strengthen and nurture Jewish life by engaging and supporting Jewish communities in Israel and around the world. It is committed to connecting Jews in Baltimore with Jews in Israel and around the world.

Courtesy of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Photo by Jordan Polevoy.

“The State of Israel is our Jewish homeland, strong as is the Jewish community of Baltimore. More people from our town need to visit to dispel many unfounded myths that they hear.” Robert Keehn, Mission Co-Chair. 

Programming as a vehicle to enhance the Federation’s goals:

As is always the case at Kenes Tours & Gil Travel, special attention was dedicated to choosing optimal programming designed to engage, entice, and connect participants with one another and with Israel.  Not only did the program aim to educate about issues of contemporary importance facing both the local and global Jewish communities, but also to create meaningful and memorable experiences that unite people across generational divides and which strengthen the commitment of future generations to the State of Israel and as active members of their community back home.

Courtesy of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Photo by Jordan Polevoy.

Featured tracks and highlighted activities included:

  • A family-friendly Mission Kickoff in Jaffa
  • An interactive, hands-on street art tour in south Tel Aviv
  • Learning how to make Israeli culinary classics ‘Master Chef’-style at the Cooking Studio
  • Exclusive geo-strategic and security briefings in the Gaza Perimeter region
  • Engaging encounters with Baltimore’s Partnership community city of Ashkelon
  • Stargazing, rappelling, and a 4X4 off-road adventure in the Ramon Crater
  • Sandboarding down the dunes of the Negev Desert
  • A community-wide Kabbalat Shabbat in Jerusalem led by popular song leader Shimon Smith
  • Enjoyed touring the Old City Of Jerusalem
  • Commemorating the Shoah as a community at Yad Vashem with a special ‘Twinning program’ for B’nai Mitzvah youth and families
  • Celebrating the community’s B’nai Mitzvah atop Masada
  • Coming together each evening as a community to celebrate Hanukkah
  • & many more experiences designed to impart lifetime memories for all!

Courtesy of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Photo by Jordan Polevoy.


Throughout the itinerary, special focus was given to weaving in Jewish and educational programming to enhance the experience.

One of the most notable speakers was Dr. Rachel Korazim, a renowned expert on the Holocaust who addressed the group at Yad Vashem.  Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel Isaac ‘Bougie’ Herzog delivered a powerful address to the group at the farewell dinner held at the Israel Museum’s Modern restaurant.  The group visited Baltimore’s Partnership community city of Ashkelon. While there, mission participants, Associated staff and leadership had an incredible opportunity to visit a selection of Associated-supported initiatives and endeavors, to learn about the partnership’s impact on both the local Ashkelon and Baltimore communities, and to meet with local program beneficiaries and Partnership leadership.

Swimming in the Dead Sea - Jewish Mission Group

Courtesy of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Photo by Jordan Polevoy.

Why was this mission considered to be a success?

One of the challenges of planning a multigenerational trip is ensuring everyone can participate in and enjoy the activities in their own unique way. On this mission, age was not a barrier. When sixty people chose to walk up Masada on the snake trail, children, parents, and grandparents alike enjoyed amazing weather, scenery, and a sense of accomplishment when they arrived at the top.

The rest of the group made their way up on the cable car and all participated in the exciting community-wide B’nai Mitzvah ceremony held atop the ancient plateau.


“This was something like my 30th trip to Israel. Every trip is different and special in its own way. Seeing Israel through the eyes of your children or first-timers, or trying a new or different experience always leads to new insights. Another wonderful moment we had was being welcomed so warmly and completely by our host family in Ashkelon. This past year, we had hosted their daughter, and they ours, through a teen leadership program through The Associated. On this trip, we met the rest of the family, and instantly we felt like they were our family. I hope to stoke this relationship. There is no place like Israel.” – Randy Getz, the Chairman of the mission.


Why was this mission considered to be a success_760x450

Planning a successful mission to Israel is always a team effort.  Kenes Tours & Gil Travel strive to ensure maximum satisfaction through strong and professional collaboration with our Jewish organization partners.  Working together, we develop missions that contain high-impact content, provide smooth and seamless logistics, present real-time solutions to challenges, all the while keeping our partners’ organizational goals front and center.