Decades later, a shaliah returns to Tidewater

August 20, 2021

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For two busy years starting in 1986, a young Doron Kissinger Kaynar and his family made their home in Norfolk while serving as the shaliah at the Jewish Community Center of Tidewater on Newport Ave.

Thirty-five years later, Kissinger Kaynar traveled from Israel to visit a few friends and check out the old neighborhood.

“I am here to bring Israel closer to you—and to bring you closer to Israel!” Kaynar was quoted in the October 17, 1986 issue of the then, UJF Virginia News.

When he was just 14 years old, Kaynar left his home in Tel Aviv to live on a kibbutz in the valley of Israel. After serving in the artillery corps and fighting in the Yom Kippur War, he worked in the Army’s education department, accompanying soldiers on tours throughout Israel. He knew then, that he would eventually like to become a tour guide.

First, though, it was time for college. Kaynar graduated from Bar-Ilan University with degrees in Jewish History and Israeli Geography. He also became involved with the Israeli Scouting Program—the largest youth movement in Israel. With the Scouts, Kaynar first travelled to the United States. “My colleagues and I formed an Israeli Scouting Caravan and visited 70 cities,” he recalled.

Then, Kaynar completed the course offered at the Israeli Tourism office and became an authorized Israeli Guide.

Still, he wanted to return to the U.S. So, in March, 1986, he and his then wife applied to be a shaliah, an emissary to share about Israel with American communities. Executives of three Jewish Community Centers—Tulsa, St. Louis, and Norfolk—flew to Israel to interview Kaynar and his now former wife, Batya. Neal Perlman, Tidewater’s exec at the time, sold him on Norfolk. “I’d never even heard of Norfolk!” Kaynar laughs.

During his time in Tidewater, Kaynar “prepared youth for trips to Israel, visited a different shul every Shabbat, gave lectures about Israel at both Jewish and Christian events, and taught about and celebrated Israeli and Jewish holidays,” he recalls.

“I was so busy! I enjoyed it very much!”

His wife taught at Hebrew Academy of Tidewater, where his eight-year-old son attended, adding to their busy lives based in Norfolk’s Wards Corner area.

In the mid-80s, Jim Eilberg served as head of the Israel Committee. His friendship with Kaynar stuck and now, their visit in the Jewish News office at the Sandler Family Campus is filled with laughter and warmth as they look through old copies of the paper, remembering events and people. Kaynar asks about various community members and broadly smiles when he hears good reports.

In Israel, Kaynar lives near his three children in Yehud, a small town near Tel Aviv. He says he’s “now busier than ever.” Self-employed, he lists his diverse work: he’s an organizational consultant conducting management, leadership, and team work workshops; officiates at weddings (primarily for marriages not recognized by the state of Israel) and at funerals (“there are more funerals than weddings” he notes); he leads Orienting sporting events for companies and bar and bat mitzvah parties; and, yes, he’s a tour guide for German- and English-speaking groups.

But today, he’s fondly reminiscing about the Jewish Tidewater he knew 35 years ago with an old friend, and a couple of new ones, too.

-Terri Denison

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