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East Bradenton residents travel to Israel on volunteer mission

Temple Emanu-El congregants hear stories of tragedy as the Israel-Hamas war continues.

Rabbis and members of Temple Emanu-El, including East County's Paula Hayden and Mike and Harriette Krasnoff, travel to Israel to volunteer.
Rabbis and members of Temple Emanu-El, including East County's Paula Hayden and Mike and Harriette Krasnoff, travel to Israel to volunteer.
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In an effort to make a personal connection with violence-torn Israel, a group of nine members of Temple Emanu-El of Sarasota went on a volunteer mission to Tel Aviv March 10-14 in connection with the Jewish National Fund.

They knew it would be an emotional journey.

That was apparent as Tara's Harriette Krasnoff cried while planting a small oak tree in honor of an 18-year-old woman who was killed during an October attack. 

Krasnoff said the woman, along with her parents and sister, died in their home after armed Palestinian militant group Hamas crossed the border from Gaza into Israel on an October attack. The family was killed two months shy of celebrating the bar mitzvah of the woman’s brother. Krasnoff said despite the death of his parents and sisters, the brother went through the ceremony with his grandparents. 

The story was one of many Krasnoff heard while volunteering with the Jewish National Fund in Israel March 10-14. 

Krasnoff traveled to Israel with her husband, Mike Krasnoff, and another East County resident, Paula Hayden of University Park. The other Temple Emanu-El members who were part of the mission were Jack Braverman, Howard Kilman, Barbara Schenk, Dalia Rosenthal, and Rabbis Brenner Glickman and Elaine Rose Glickman.

Krasnoff said the trip led to moments of heartbreak and inspiration as well as an understanding of the resiliency of the Israeli people. 

The Temple Emanu-El volunteers worked on farms to help clear the irrigation systems. The farms were in need of assistance as their employees from Thailand had been sent home due to the violence. Also many of the workers were Israeli soldiers or reservists called to serve.

University Park's Paula Hayden and Tara's Mike and Harriette Krasnoff planted trees at the site of the Nova Music Festival in Israel in honor of those who died during the attacks at the festival on Oct. 7.
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They also helped to paint and clean homes that were attacked as part of the rebuilding effort.

Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman said the time in Israel was "heartbreaking, inspiring, difficult and gratifying." She said their trip was a way for the entire Temple Emanu-El community to connect with Israel. Many of the members gave donations for those in need, and on their return, they brought back messages of gratitude.

The hotel in Tel Aviv was housing 71 families who were waiting for their homes to be rebuilt. 

Hayden said some people might not return to their communities as it will remind them of the trauma they endured.

During their trip, the volunteers heard stories of of the violence from those affected.

“We should all hear all the stories around the world,” Hayden said.

She heard from a woman whose husband went to help defend a neighboring community and was killed. The widow now cares for her six children alone. 

Mike Krasnoff said he heard about a 65-year-old woman who was taken away from her family and held hostage. After she was released, but later died in the violence. 

Hearing the stories and visiting the massacre site at the outdoor music festival where 364 Israelis were attacked and killed was heartbreaking, Harriette Krasnoff said. 

“It’s one thing watching it on the news,” she said. “It’s another to be there. There really were a lot of tears shed throughout the four days.”

Hayden and the Krasnoffs said the resiliency of the Israelis was inspiring. 

Five months after the Oct. 7 massacre, the Krasnoffs said children were stepping off the bus with smiles on their faces and families were returning to their rebuilt communities. 

The Krasnoffs visited a large tent where soldiers go for a meal and to rest. The A Team, an organization in Israel that feeds soldiers, runs the tent. While there, volunteers spoke to a few soldiers and were entertained by a group of soldiers with disabilities who played music. 

A group of Israeli soldiers with disabilities provide entertainment to bring moments of joy.
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The Krasnoffs and their volunteer group wrote letters and made cards for the soldiers, who Hayden said were appreciative of the volunteers’ efforts and support. 

A group of 11th grade boys go to the Western Wall and sing and dance every Thursday. 

Seeing the moments of joy from Israelis reminded Hayden of the strength needed to keep moving forward. 

“You do what you can to keep life going,” Hayden said. “We should live a life after no matter what your personal tragedy is or your country’s.”

Back at home in East County, Hayden said she wants to live her life carrying the messages and lessons learned from her trip to Israel.

A community member told her to “give as much as you can and take back the least you need.”

“That is the idea of any valuable community, where people matter,” Hayden said. “Whether it be in Israel or here, that’s what community is. You hope to give back.”



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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