27-year-old Sara Barach speaks to us from her home city of Netanya in central Israel, a Mediterranean resort dubbed the ‘Israeli Riviera’, known for its sandy beaches, wild cliffs and nature reserves. Born and raised in Israel with her eight brothers and sisters, Sarah’s parents made Aaliyah during Operation Solomon in 1991, a covert Israeli military operation to airlift 14,000 Jews from Ethiopia in response to a tottering regime following a long civil war.
During her time in the IDF, Sara served as a commander and sergeant in the education and youth corps, earning a degree in education and a teaching certificate in social sciences and citizenship. She then went on to work with at-risk youth at the Department of Education in Netanya as well as Nirim in the Neighborhoods, a community outreach program active in deprived crime-hotpots across Israel, where she volunteered for over six years.
In the coming months, she is set to leave the sparkling waters of Netanya behind to embark on a year-long tenure as Manchester’s newest UJIA Shaliach following the departure of the much-loved present incumbent, Sahar Sazgar.
As an emissary, Sara is tasked with representing Israel, combating negative opinions and encouraging the community to connect with their Jewish homeland: “I’m always looking for a challenge: I believe that in order to develop as a human being you need to go on a journey and tread a new path. Part of the reason I wanted to go on a mission is to experience Judaism from a different angle – to see the connection between diaspora Jews and Israel. I want to learn from them how to be a part of the nation without being present and I hope to establish a connection between them and the Israel I know. I feel a deep connection to the State of Israel and think I have the will and ability to contribute as a Shaliach.”
Sara has a number of ideas lined up for her tenure to help the Manchester community engage with all the dynamic multiculturalism Israel has to offer: “I’m planning to bring over Ethiopian-Jewish culture, which has been a big part of my identity. It will include food, dance and language – I’m bringing some of our spices and outfits with me! And I also want to bring our three-times-a-day buna (coffee) culture, where you sit and share news with your loved ones and hear about their day with coffee that you’ve made from scratch.
“I hope we’ll have the chance to celebrate Sigd, an Ethiopian-Jewish festival, which happens 50 days after Yom Kippur – a day of prayer, fast and reading from the Orit (Torah). After that we have a meal with dancing and singing, to renew the alliance between G-d and the people.”
“Plus, I want to do an evening about women in the army and try to show the different traditions we have amongst Jews in Israel. There are so many ideas, but I think in each idea we can bring Israel to the community and share its diversity.”
Asked if there is a part of Israel she would like to bring with her to Manchester, Sara replies:
“I would like to bring young and accepting Israel: the one that can combine Zionism, Judaism and the Israeli spirit. The colourful, challenging, and unique nation that can handle a variety of different populations in an attempt to maintain values that characterise the country.”
“I’m excited to arrive in the city and look forward to meeting everyone. I’m hoping to share my interests in music, dance, food and camping with you all. Thank you very much to UJIA and the Manchester community for the opportunity!”