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Pay it Forward | Milestones Israel

This blog is dedicated to a very special family in Kansas City, Kansas. Alvin and Sharon Cohen, this one’s for you!

The seed for Milestones Israel was planted exactly 30 years ago, in June of 1982. I was in Overland Park Kansas at the home of Sharon and Alvin Cohen and their 3 children; Brant, Andy and Beth.

The Cohen Family in Kansas City

The Cohen Family in Kansas City

That summer was one of the most confusing of my life. I was a young reserve soldier and found myself working as a camp counselor in Kansas City, Kansas. It was so far from where I felt I should be, which was in Lebanon, during the first Lebanon war, fighting side-by-side with my friends and countrymen. I was miserable. Every day, I asked myself: “What am I doing here?”

My upbringing was so different from where I found myself. I was seven years old during the 6-day War and I remember digging trenches in the school yard with my classmates. I was b’nei Mitzvah (12) during the Yom Kippur War and helped paint car headlights black to stay hidden from enemy jets.

During the first Lebanon war, there was such camaraderie. Every Israeli that was outside the country, caught the first planes they could to come home and join the troops. Now it was my turn and I was at the Berny Goodman JCC Camp telling stories about Israel. To be perfectly honest, it felt like such a waste.

Every day, I contemplating going home, back to Israel, but there was something stopping me. Back then, I didn’t understand what it was. Now, 30 years later, I know just what it was. It was love.

I was placed with my first host family, the Cohens. With their incredible empathy and sensitivity, they could feel what I was going through and supported me with so much love. They showed me the other side of the coin – the importance for them, personally, for the children in the camp and the Jewish community – that I be there.

People with so much love for Israel need a personal connection. They need more than just to sit in front of a TV screen or to listen to lectures about ‘the situation in the middle east.’

Little did I know that the Cohen’s home would serve as such an important milestone in my life. It was here that I started on my path to connect people to Israel on a personal level.

After 30 years, we still keep in touch. They call me their Israeli son and they are my American parents. The Cohen’s may not have thought so at the time, but their gesture of hosting a stranger, was for me, a life changing experience.

To my dear American parents, for all the people I have guided through Israel over the years with the personal approach, it has a little piece of you in them. I want to take this opportunity to say Mazal Tov on your 30th anniversary.


4 thoughts on “Pay it Forward

  1. Erez, I feel so fortunate that you came to live with us that summer. You became a member of our family and in return showered gereous amounts of love and support on me while living in Israel. We all adore you and your beautiful family and look forward to the next time we meet!
    Shabbat Shalom!! Love you!

  2. My Brother From Another Mother,

    What a beautiful post. It’s been so much fun staying connected with you and watching you do all of the amazing things that you do for yourself, your family and for Israel. Can’t wait to see what the next 30 years will bring! Thanks for the reminder of our anniversary and for pointing out how amazing Sharon and Alvin Cohen were, are, and will always be. All of their children, you included, are very lucky to have them in our lives.

    Love to your family!

  3. I am proud to know your American family. I grew up with Alvin and went to college with him and Sharon and I know what wonderful people they are. My daughter Roslyn Roucher made Aliyah five years ago and sent me your posting. Your words are beautiful.

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