‘Almost indescribable’: JCC president travels to Israel for mission trip

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas rages on, a local Jewish leader is getting a first-hand look at the impact.

Jason Kunzman, the president and CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, spoke to Channel 11 from the Tel Aviv airport in Israel, preparing to return home after spending the last six days on a mission trip there.

“My heart is broken,” he said. “I have seen, I promise you, what is absolutely unimaginable. I have heard stories that will in all likelihood haunt me for the rest of my life. And at the same time, I am truly inspired by the grit, the determination, the commitment of this nation.”

Kunzman and leaders from a handful of other Jewish Community Centers across the US made the trip, getting a firsthand look at the destruction caused by the ongoing conflict.

They visited two of the areas most deeply impacted.

“It’s almost indescribable. Houses are burnt. Belongings strewn all over,” Kunzman explained.

From the time Kunzman first got off the plane, entering a nearly empty airport, he felt the gravity of the situation.

“It was really eerie,” he described. “And then, right out of the gate, as I was making my way towards customs, the corridor was lined on both sides with posters of folks who had been taken hostage.”

But Kunzman and his fellow JCC executives wanted to bring positivity and support, doing volunteer work and helping to pack hundreds of care packages for Israeli soldiers. Each one included a hand drawn card from JCC students in Pittsburgh.

“Myself and the 12 other execs that I was here in Israel with, we all brought sort of tokens of appreciation, of kindness, of love, so each of those packages was stuffed with some type of token, if you will, from each of our respective communities.”

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