As part of a delegation of the B’nai B’rith Young Leadership Network (BBYLN), eleven young professionals were recently invited to Japan for the Kakehashi Project, a friendship ties exchange program sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, designed to build bridges between Japan and the United States.
Hailing from Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New York, Washington, D.C., and South Florida, the group was accompanied by two staff members from B'nai B'rith International.
“The Kakehashi Project is an important cross-cultural exchange that increases our understanding of trilateral relations between the United States, Japan and Israel,” said Eric Fusfield, Director of Legislative Affairs at B'nai B'rith International. This was the second B’nai B’rith-Kakehashi Project delegation to Japan.
This year’s trip, from March 4-12, included several points of interest in Japan with stops in Tokyo, Hiroshima, Fukuyama and Kobe. In Tokyo, the delegation talked with diplomats from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including the former Japanese Ambassador to Israel. They also met with the Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Israel in Japan, as well as attended Shabbat services and dinner with the congregation of the Jewish Community of Japan.
"Our experience in Japan was an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the fascinating culture and history, all while making new life-long friends,” said Rebecca Saltzman Barsheshet who attended the trip. "This experience was not only unforgettable, it was inspiring, and ignited our enthusiasm to continue our involvement with B'nai B'rith and building relationships around the world."
Barsheshet is a member of the executive board of directors, chair for the marketing committee, and past chair for the B'nai B'rith Young Leadership Network. She is also the past chair of the network’s Denver group.
After seeing the Atomic Bomb Dome in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the delegation visited the adjacent museum, where they heard the testimony of a woman who survived the bombing.
Stopping in Fukuyama, the group toured the Holocaust Education Center, where they were welcomed by a Japanese choir singing Hebrew melodies, and then visited Kobe. There, they saw the city archives, which documented the pre-World War II Jewish community, and met with the rabbi from the Ohel Shelomo Synagogue.
The last stop of the visit was the Tokyo Dome, where participants cheered Team Israel as they defeated Cuba in the World Baseball Classic.
The Kakehashi delegates plan to share their experiences in Japan with their local young professional communities during events this spring. For more information, look for the hashtags #kakehashi2016 and #BBYLNinJPN in social media.