Miri Bernovsky, Shlicha (Israeli Emissary)

Email Miri at mbernovsky@agudasachim-va.org.

Miri Bernovsky, Agudas Achim’s Shlicha, (emissary from Israel) was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. When she was three, her family immigrated to Israel as part of the Russian Aliyah movement of the early 1990’s. “We settled in Tel Aviv, which is where I lived with my family until enlisting in the military at the age of eighteen,” she adds.

“I grew up in a family where both Hebrew and Russian were spoken at home,” says Miri. Her mother is a speech therapist who specializes in autism, and her father is an engineer, working for Israel’s aerospace industry. Miri has a younger sister who currently serves in the Israeli Air Force.

Miri earned a B.A. in social work from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and she completed her M.A. in social work at Tel Aviv University this past summer. If you speak or write to Miri, you will notice that her English skills are excellent. “My grandma was an English teacher in Russia, and she used to talk to me in English. I also get some help from my husband, Amir, a journalist,” she explains.

Miri has been married since June 2016 to Amir, the Washington correspondent for Haaretz, a leading Israeli newspaper. When Amir received a three-year job offer in Washington, D.C., Miri decided to apply to the Jewish Agency for Shlichut and was accepted for an assignment in Northern Virginia. “We chose Agudas Achim because I liked the idea of becoming part of a thriving, local community,” notes Miri. She says she is excited to be the “first ever” Slicha at Agudas Achim Congregation.

During her service in the IDF, Israeli Defense Forces, Miri was a teacher and commander at Nativ, the unit in charge of assisting soldiers who go through Jewish conversion inside the military. “This two-year period left a strong impact on me, and I always knew that at some point in my life, I would like to once again, engage in issues of Jewish education and identity,” says Miri.

For the last three years, Miri has worked with at risk children and foster families in Israel. In her last job, Miri was in charge of more than two dozen families, including many Bedouins in the Negev area.

In  order to become a Shlicha, Miri went through a six-month long process of interviews and tests followed by a two-week professional training course in Jerusalem. Her training included intense learning about Jews in the Diaspora, religious pluralism, the U.S./ Israel relationship, and other issues important to her work.

Miri’s goal as a Shlicha is to serve as a bridge between the Northern Virginia community and Israel.  “I will be working with all age groups and many social groups to promote Israeli education, answer questions about life in Israel, and expose people to interesting aspects of Israeli society, culture, and history,” she explains. Miri emphasizes she is not a representative or an employee of the Israeli government. Her affiliation is with the Jewish Agency to create a strong partnership between Israel and other world communities.

During her relaxation time, Miri’s plans include hiking, reading, dancing, and gardening.  She and Amir are both dog lovers, and they enjoy cooking Israeli meals on weekends. They also hope to explore many nature trails and biking routes, especially in the Northern Virginia area.  One challenge Miri admits about living here is dealing with  some  foods in the American diet. “I have had a hard time during past visits to America getting used to the large amounts of sugar in food,” observes Miri.

Something Miri would like to share with Americans is that Israel is a diverse country, home to many religious, ethnic, political, and cultural groups. “I hope to succeed in introducing different aspects of this fascinating country to the NOVA community, and at the same time to educate myself and improve my understanding of the unique American Jewish experience,” Miri says.

Before coming to Northern Virginia, Miri lived for two and a half years in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, the closest place in Israel to Gaza. They moved there shortly after the 2014 Gaza War, because they wanted to become part of a community close to the Gaza border. “Once we return home, I want to continue my work as a social worker while building a home on our kibbutz,” Miri observes. In the meantime, Miri invites everyone to get to know her by participating in some of the many activities she will be leading at Agudas Achim in the next three years.

By Carol Backman - July 30, 2017