Raised in a Minnesotan town with a small Jewish population, Judaism was a peripheral part of Kassandra Grunewald’s life. “My Jewish friends and my daily friends were always separate. They were two different sides of me,” she said.
With a large Jewish population as its main appeal, Kassandra enrolled in Boston University, becoming active in the Hillel and taking multiple Jewish courses. After graduation, Kassandra joined OTZMA to work and volunteer in Israel, where she believed she could continue leading a Jewish life.
During the internship stage, Kassandra lived in Tel Aviv and worked for businesswoman Galia Albin on a project called, Live Hatikva. Albin envisioned a broadcast in which a record-breaking number of Jews in Israel and around the world would sing Hatikva at a specific time on Israel’s 60th Independence Day. The initiative was meant to unite Jews in Israel and around the world in celebration of Israel, to revive the national anthem’s words, and to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Kassandra coordinated this event in Jewish communities throughout the English-speaking world.
“In Israel, people aren’t used to having interns, so either they will give you envelopes to stuff or they will send you into the courtroom,” Kassandra said. In addition to contacting every Hillel inNorth America and many other Jewish organizations, Kassandra worked to ensure that each group involved in the project was filmed – a Guinness Book of World Records regulation.
In the end, the initiative included 30 states and 20 countries, with groups ranging from three to 5,000 people. On May 7, 2008, at 10:50 P.M., Jews from all around the world sang Hatikva while simultaneously watching live broadcasts of Israeli communities doing the same. “It was bigger than anything I had ever imagined I’d be a part of,” Kassandra said.
After the event, Kassandra received emails of appreciation from participants around the world. “So many of them hadn’t even been to Israel and, yet, this had made them feel so connected,” she said. The U.J.C. expressed interest in making the Live Hatikva initiative annual.
At the end of her nine months with OTZMA, Kassandra decided to make Aliyah and continue her work for Live Hatikva.
“I’m not that religious, but Israeli culture is one of closeness, of family. People on the street will tell you to use their cell phone and will try to lend you money,” she said. “And, if I haven’t had enough of Israel for the year, then it makes sense to stay.”