From Humble Beginnings: Eshel Retreat 

Date: December 29, 2018

Source: Baltimore Jewish Times

URL: https://www.jewishtimes.com/from-humble-beginnings/

When Yarden Fanta, this year’s Sue Glick Liebman Visiting Israel Scholar for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, came to town earlier this month, she called her presentation “From Tragedy to Triumph.” And indeed, it’s an inspiring tale, as Fanta was born in a small village in Ethiopia and went on to become the first Ethiopian woman in Israel to earn a Ph.D. Her journey, which she graciously shared with so many Baltimoreans, included walking 450 miles to reach a refugee camp in Sudan, where she spent a year before immigrating to Israel.

Now, she shares her story with readers of the JT in this week’s cover story by Susan C. Ingram.

Fanta only spoke Amharic when she first went to school in Israel at age 14. But she would go on to get a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and travel with Israelis and Palestinians to Antarctica on a “peace expedition.” When she earned her Ph.D. in education, she made Israeli history. Now based in Boston after completing a Harvard postdoc, Fanta has a career as an educational consultant.

Though the outlines of Fanta’s story mirror that of many Jews — setting out on a treacherous journey in the search for a better life — going from tending sheep in rural Africa to running a coaching business in urban America is rather dramatic. We hope you’ll find her tale as inspiring as Rabbi Joshua Gruenberg of Chizuk Amuno Congregation did.

“Her story will remind me of just how fortunate we are, and I am, to live as a member of the Jewish community in America,” he said after hearing her speak earlier this month.

Also this month, a unique gathering took place in the Baltimore area. Eshel, which works for inclusivity of LGBTQ Orthodox Jews, held its annual parent retreat at the Pearlstone Conference & Retreat Center. As you’ll read in reporter Erica Rimlinger’s story, the group provides a safe space for parents of Orthodox LGBTQ children who are reconciling the love of their children with the love of their religious community. This year, the retreat featured Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat.

Speaking of inspiring times, Chanukah is almost here. Before prepping those latkes and ordering your favorite sufganiyot, check out our roundup of local events. Or, learn about a local Jewish-owned toy company that is taking a fresh look at Chanukah gifts. We also have the stories of this year’s Chanukah stamp and a Los Angeles-based band with a Baltimore-born member whose new album features a Chanukah-inspired song.

Happy reading, and have a happy Chanukah!

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