After our screening of “Beneath the Helmet” we had the opportunity to sit down with Rabbi Raphael Shore, the CEO of Jerusalem U. Many of us left the screening feeling incredibly inspired and proud of Israel, and our conversation with Rabbi Shore enabled us to understand the vision behind the creation of the film and how this vision essentially hand made the feelings we were experiencing. Rabbi Shore explained that when it comes to Israel, there are two war fronts- the war of the IDF and the war of ideas/ de-legitimization of Israel. He explained to us that since Israel has been slightly preoccupied with its seemingly endless stream of physical threats, it has fallen behind in its domination of the second war front: social media and social perception. Through its humanization of basic training, IDF soldiers, and greater Israeli community, “Beneath the Helmet” changes the lens through which the viewer is exposed to Israel.
When asked why this was important, or how we could help with this second battlefront, Rabbi Shore revealed to us the bigger picture. To him, “Beneath the Helmet” and much of the other work produced by Jerusalem U is a lesson in ownership and personal responsibility. Continue reading →
By Dani Katowitz
Being in Israel during Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haaztmaut is a very unique experience. Yom Hazikaron is the day of remembrance for the fallen soldiers of Israel as well as victims of Terror. This solemn day is directly followed by Yom Haaztmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, when we celebrate the existence of a democratic Jewish State.
These holidays are two of the most important holidays in Israel. The emotional experience of transitioning from a quiet, sad day of remembrance into a wild day of celebration was an experience quite unlike any other, a feeling that one can only feel after being in Israel to partake in these special days.
The Nachshon fellows began the powerful week of holidays together and ended it together. We started by remembering those who lost their lives for our freedom, at a tekes (ceremony) sponsored by Masa. Continue reading →
By Leah Beck
At the end of April the Nachshon Fellows ate sushi with Etgar Keret, a well known and eccentric Israeli author. He was one of my favorite speakers we have heard all semester, not to mention the extravagantly delicious sushi we ate at Nini Hachi in Tel Aviv. Keret spoke to us about his writing style and opened us up to his personal process in writing a story. I loved hearing Keret speak and read pieces of his own work, and felt myself hanging on to his every word. This was one of the times this semester when I felt confident speaking up and asking questions because, creative writing being my major in college, this was a topic I take interest in and know a lot about.
My favorite part of the evening happened while we were eating mushrooms, which I remember because I don’t usually like mushrooms, but these particular mushrooms were delicious. Continue reading →
Do what feels right. Try your hardest. Lead by example.
With less than a month left in our semester abroad as Nachshon fellows, the conversation has turned to how we can utilize everything we have learned and experienced as we return to our home camps, college campuses, and start to plan for graduation, grad school, and our future careers.
Do what feels right. Try your hardest. Lead by example.
It sounds like a pep talk a football coach might give to his players as they prepare for the big game. But in this case, these “proverbs” weren’t for a group of football players, they were the lessons I took away from what started out as a regular text study with Rabbi Leon Morris based on the topic of leadership and the how responsibility affects the leader.Continue reading →
By Heather Shore
Our Shabbaton in Nachsholim was intense and thought provoking. During the course of this weekend we had the privilege of participating in several sessions led by Professor Joe Reimer. In addition to being a member of the Nachshon Senior staff, Professor Reimer is also a professor of Jewish Education at Brandeis University. Some topics from his sessions included intense discussions about the psychology of creativity, the individual importance of each and every camp, and the place for Israel education in a camp setting.
Like many of our other experiences with Nachshon, the most meaningful moments from Professor Reimer’s sessions came when our discussion transcended the initially intended framework. In our last session with Professor Reimer, we found ourselves tangled in a conversation about our frustrations, concerns, and pride regarding our respective denominations. The conversation started with a simple prompt: “What would the Jewish community be missing if your camp closed?,” Or, more broadly, “what does your camp specifically bring to the Jewish community that makes it distinct, impactful, and meaningful?” Continue reading →
By Benjy Forrester
Our first day back from Pesach vacation, we gathered as a group at the Hartman Institute to meet with Rabbi Donniel Hartman. Tanach in hand, we worked through Genesis 18, better known as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. We learned what covenant means according to Rabbi Hartman: a way of filtering God’s justice into the world through His chosen nation. We become a vessel through which God relates to the world. Rabbi Hartman explained that the whole Torah becomes an embodiment of this message, and a challenge to us, His chosen people, to advocate for and defend a world of justice and righteousness. We do not fight for justice because we think that it is how we ought to act; rather, we fight for justice because we understand that that is how God ought to act, and as creatures created in God’s image, we must uphold that standard.
Beyond just the text study, we discussed how, as North Americans, we compartmentalize our identities into the many hats we wear: Jewish, American, Man, Woman, Student, Employee of Camp, Lover of movies, and so on. Instead of our Jewish identity reigning supreme, we are pulled in many different directions. Not only do we devote serious time to our other identities and interests, but they now seem to come at the cost of our Jewish identity. However, our existence as liberal Jews in a broader world does not necessarily need to seem dooming. In fact, Rabbi Hartman cautioned the expression of of existential threats to Jewish continuity that are often thrown around in discourse, because they are actually misunderstood or not as daunting as how they are presented. Our multiplicity of identities in America enriches who we are, and grants us many different entry points with which to relate to Judaism. We must wear all of our other hats above our kippah, so to speak, meaning we must use Judaism as a lens through which we access the vastness of the world around us. As educators, we should not pitch Judaism as its own entity that exists in a vacuum. Rather, we must show how Judaism is not only relevant, but actually crucial in the way we see the rest of our life, and how we can enrich ourselves from carrying our Jewish identities with us in all that we do.
By Rachel Glazer
If I ever served in the army, I would probably spend most of my time crying. Not because of the rigorous physical training, psychological impact of carrying a gun, or grappling with the intersection of a pacifist inclination and survivor’s imperative. To be honest, I would probably be a jobnik or have a Captain America-type gig (pre-superhero status) where they make me into their dancing monkey to boost morale.
No, I would cry because of the historical strain of thousands of fallen souls whose memories are beginning to fade, and their newly joined comrades whose stories will soon be dimmed in light of the next war, the next conflict, the next, the next, the next.
We have been reminded so many times on this program of our vital obligation to remember. The memory of our people is perhaps our strongest unifying factor, and every story is a new chronicle to be carried on the backs of the next generation. Accordingly, as tough as it was to walk over Har Herzl with Aviv Warshavsky and hear the narrative of so many young lives in the days leading to their last, it was agonizing to look at the rows of graves and notice some lacking stones, flowers, and tokens of remembrance; some of these chronicles have already been lost.
A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to go and study with students at The Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies. Pardes is a co-ed partner based learning community where students can learn and talk about Jewish texts.
When we got to Pardes, we watched a quick video about the school and then split into two groups divided according to which topic we were interested in. I chose to go to the class about Jewish History and Jewish Memory. We were given a packet of sources, and then we went into the Beit Midrash to study in chevruta, in partners. All of us Nachshon participants were paired with Pardes students and we went through each source one by one and talked about it and tried to understand what it meant in the context of our topic. After about 20 minutes of chevruta work, we came back together as a group and discussed each source one by one in the context of our topic.
Growing up, I attended a Jewish Day School so I have had experience with learning in chevruta before, but being at Pardes reminded me how helpful it is to learn in that type of setting. We were able to bounce ideas off each other, voice different opinions, and work through a text in order to arrive at a deeper meaning of the text than I would have been able to reach on my own. Even though there are more than two or three people in this project, The Nachshon Project is similar to a chevruta. We are able to work together and help each other to understand and explore both Judaism and our own personal Jewish identities.
By Naomi LeVine
As part of our unit on education, we went out on Thursday to see firsthand some different educational models in action. First, we went to Talpaz Elementary School, an English-immersion school, and we got to work with third-graders learning English. All of the fellows paired up with one or two kids, and answered the questions they had for us. I worked with two girls, who started the conversation by asking me what my name is and where I am from. Our conversation was mostly in English but, on occasion, when one of the children couldn’t express something in English she switched to Hebrew. I was impressed with myself that, although my Hebrew skills still need improvement, I was able to understand her Hebrew and respond. After working in small groups, the whole class came together and one of the teachers pulled up the different hometowns of the Nachshon fellows on Google maps and the kids were able to see where we lived. Because Israel is such a small country, they were shocked at how big the United States is and how far our hometowns are from one-another. It was a heart-warming morning, and it reminded me how much I love working with kids.
Our next stop was the Hartman Institute’s school for girls, Midrashiya High School. Continue reading →
By Rose Levenson
As I walked onto Bar-Ilan’s idyllic campus in Ramat-Gan a few weeks ago, I was thinking about the future because we were scheduled to talk with Dr. David Passig. Dr. Passig specializes in futures studies. Yes, futures, not future studies. As a rising senior in college, it is that time when I need to start making decisions about next steps. I often think about my personal future, but what about the future of the world and how that will impact me and my children?
Dr. Passig threw some staggering statistics at us. Did you know that there are currently more men than women living on Earth for the first time in recorded history? In another light, in 1948 there were 600,000 Jews in Israel. In 2014 there were approximately 6.5 million Jews in Israel, and in 2050 there are projected to be 15 million Jews in Israel with a global total of about 18 million Jews total. These numbers have dramatic consequences for the future of North American Jewry.
As potential leaders of the future of North American Jewry, we need to be able to use Passig’s work to help inform our decision-making as we go forward. Passig made it clear that we should not take him on face value, but that we should look deeply into the reasoning and mathematics of his research. These predictions are not based in brainstorming (predictive reliability of around 7%) or linear extrapolation (predictive reliability of around 30%). Instead, his method is an offshoot of systems theories studies which provide a much more reliable and valid measuring stick. As I go forward in making decisions for my own life, community, or perhaps something even bigger, I will keep Dr. Passig’s advice in my mind: there is logic within systems, nothing is random. We must use what we know to help us, not to hurt us.
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