A remarkable relationship
By Deb Silverthorn
The Partnership 2Gether relationship of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Western Galilee will connect, beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 21, via Zoom. National Jewish Book Award finalist Diana Bletter will share her writing, her love for Israel and the importance behind the relationship of our communities.
“It is wonderful to be ‘together’ whenever and however we can,” said Bletter, who made aliyah in 1991 and lives in the seaside village of Shavei Zion. “I look forward to sharing a behind-the-scenes look at the places and people here and to learning more about the Dallas community. Our continued connection is, for sure, of mutual benefit.”
The Partnership 2Gether event, co-sponsored by the Tycher Library, is produced in partnership with Anshai Torah Sisterhood, Beth Torah Book Club, Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, Shearith Israel Sisterhood, Temple Emanu-El Women of Reform Judaism, Temple Shalom Sisterhood and Tiferet Israel Book Club.
“It’s through the lens of Diana’s writing that I revisited the vivid beauty of the region, the warmth and diversity of the people, and the vitality of the entrepreneurial spirit,” said Partnership 2Gether Committee Immediate Past Chair Paula Romberg. “She illuminates the similarities and differences between the Western Galilee and Dallas.”
Tycher Book Club member Sonia Meltzer will speak with Bletter about her book, “A Remarkable Kindness,” about four American women living in a village on the Mediterranean coast of Israel and their role as members of a burial circle, the chevra kadisha.
“Participating in such a ritual, so ancient and spiritual, enhances the joy of being alive,” said Bletter. The author also connects with the story because of her own relationship to her small village, knowing pretty much anyone who has passed away. “All of my children have served in the IDF and in 2006 one of my sons was wounded in battle. Like the women of my story, we got close to death and it truly deepens your awareness of what matters in life.”
While Bletter’s son survived, a medic in his unit, Michael Levin, of blessed memory, did not. In that time Bletter and Levin’s parents, Harriet and Mark, became close and it is a relationship that has endured over time. Levin’s parents founded the Lone Soldier Center in their son’s memory.
Bletter won the 2019 first prize award for Moment magazine’s Karma Short Fiction Contest. Her writing has appeared in belief.net, Glamour, HuffPost, Kveller.com, tabletmag.org, The Forward, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Bletter, the daughter of Gita Bluma and Sydney Bletter, both of blessed memory, and sister of Cynthia Bletter, grew up in Long Island, New York. Raised at Temple Beth El, Bletter, who was already deeply connected to her religion, visited Israel for the first time at 15 with the American Zionist Organization and fell in love with the land.
Even as a writer in high school, Bletter was inspired to tell of the impact of Jewish women by her mother, a feminist dismayed by the “American Jewish princess” and “Jewish mother” stereotypes so often portrayed in books and film. She earned a degree at Cornell University, first wrote for National Lampoon and then spent years in Paris and Rome as a freelance journalist.
Bletter also wrote “The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women,” “The Mom Who Took Off on Her Motorcycle” and “Big Up Yourself.” She is now writing “Red Lights, Blue City,” which takes place on the Lower East Side of New York in the early 1900s.
“The Invisible Thread,” which Bletter shared with the greater Dallas community in December, is a compilation of her prose and and Lori Grinker’s photography, as the two visited 60 Jewish women across America.
When her youngest child finished high school, Bletter and her husband Jonny spent a year traversing the United States by motorcycle, riding nearly 10,000 miles. The book shares not only how Bletter survived the trip, but also how their marriage did.
Bletter’s e-book “Big Up Yourself” provides tools to help readers like who they are in the present. It teaches four primary elements and how to address them in 10 minutes each day. Readers learn how to dream big while starting from wherever they are.
Connecting Dallas and the Western Galilee has been difficult during the pandemic. Still, in the past 11 months, Dallas has shared in wine tastings, virtual tours, medical conversations, concerts, literary conversations, and youth engagement with those in the region.
“The management of our partnership, and our goal to educate and engage our communities, has not changed during the pandemic. Where Diana lives in the Western Galilee is closer to Beirut than it is to Jerusalem and she is a brilliant author,” said Peta Silansky, the Federation’s Israel and Overseas manager. “The story of ‘A Remarkable Kindness’ is one of diversity and the multicultural makeup of the area and she brings us into her village, into her life and into the communities we serve and who serve us.”
Partnership 2Gether’s current investment focus includes providing leadership training and readiness for IDF service to at-risk youth and teens; promoting local businesses that have moved to online platforms during the pandemic, providing products to more than 200 families in Dallas and throughout Israel; and providing job training and skill development for people with disabilities.
The partnership has also provided platforms, in-person and online, for over 200 visitors to experience the city of Akko; access to college classes for 15 special needs adults; and training in digital marketing and marketing resources for 20 businesses in the region.
“The Western Galilee has hidden gems,” said Carolyn Wilkov, Partnership 2Gether Committee member and Tycher Library patron, who first visited the region as a participant in the 2018 Adult March of the Living tour. “Through Diana’s story, we will all get a taste of this beautiful part of Israel and a glimpse of some of the people who live there.”
She continued: “As a wonderful storyteller whose engaging writing style connects you directly to her experience, and our common heritage and tradition, Diana brings us to the place and people we support, that we care about and that, even in these separated times, we feel close to.”
For more information, or to register for the Feb. 21 event, visit tinyurl.com/JFGD-TYCHER-DIANA-BLETTER-2-21.