In order to create successful, sustainable change, one must be able to follow a vision. A vision, combined with a passion to fulfill that vision, is the foundation for success. During our first week together at Shefayim, Rabbi Zeff helped us explore the concept of setting a vision. We started by looking at mission statements. We discussed the difference between intention and execution of missions using camp as an example. In my experience as a staff member, I am aware of the general idea of my camp’s mission, but I do not often intentionally think about it while doing my work. This does not mean the vision is unsuccessful; however, ideally everything that happens at a camp should work toward its intended mission.
As growing Jewish leaders, we can start to develop our visions and determine the steps we need to take to begin chasing them. What better place to develop a vision than the land of innovation and startups? Continue reading →
By Betty Soibel
Neve Schechter, located in the Tel-Aviv neighborhood of Neve Zedek, is a young organization dedicated to creating a space for Jews from all walks of life to come together over a shared passion for arts, culture, and Jewish learning. Wandering into the courtyard of the beautiful building following lunch in hectic, central Tel-Aviv, it was clear from the moment we entered that the community we were visiting was created with particular intentionality. As a cohort of Jewish leaders from vastly diverse backgrounds joined by a passion for active Jewish life, it was especially interesting to visit a center devoted to creating a similar type of bond.
We began our time at Neve Schechter by playing some warm-up acting games, a type of activity that comes as almost second nature to all of us with counselor backgrounds. However, it was enlightening to see how each one of us approaches participation versus leadership differently in group settings, as we all took a step back to let someone else lead the activity. After finishing our ice breaker, we launched into a text-based conversation focusing on the concept of making choices concerning the rigidity of law and forgiveness. As we went around the circle and read the Talmudic story, I couldn’t help but think how applicable the ideas we were discussing were to the community that we were attempting to build as new “Nachshonites”. Continue reading →
By Aaron Berner
“More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.”
It is one of the oldest Jewish cliches in the book, but it is nevertheless a useful window into the unique importance of the seventh day for the Jewish people. Shabbat is undeniably a crucial aspect of Judaism around the world. In Israel, and in Jerusalem especially, the concept of Shabbat transcends the spiritual and collides with the practical world of “real” life.
At 3pm on a Friday afternoon, Jerusalem is an overwhelmingly chaotic center of hustle and bustle. Israelis are not on their way home from work, however–most do not work on Friday at all. Instead, many Israelis can be seen hustling through the shuk, frantically counting tomatoes, snatching challot, tugging on children and rushing to catch the last train or bus home before Shabbat begins and the bustling city grinds to a halt. While Friday is the day many Israelis take to prepare for Shabbat, Shabbat often seems like the culmination of the entire week. It is a transition point, a barrier in time, a span of 25 hours that is equal parts spiritual and earthly, communal and personal, holy and normal. Shabbat in Israel is a phenomenon that simply cannot be found elsewhere.
On our first Shabbat in Israel with the Nachshon Project (and my first Shabbat in Israel ever), Rabbi Cohen ran a program in which we explored what we each personally want from the 20 Shabbatot we have available to us this semester in Israel. Continue reading →
By Leah Spellberg
When I decided to come on the Nachshon project, I knew that I would be joining a group of people just like me who in some way wanted to become leaders in their Jewish communities. What I didn’t know before I came was how we would learn to become those leaders.
Within the first twenty-four hours of being in Israel, we had a session with Rabbi Cohen talking about the difference between a leader and a manager. A leader is someone who has passion and drive for what they are doing and will do whatever it takes to see their vision come true, and while a manager may also have this passion they are working towards someone else’s vision. As a group we wrote down words that we associated with being a good and bad manager or leader. The qualities of a good manager and leader that stuck out to me during this discussion were having good communication and enthusiasm for your work. While doing this activity I began to think about my roles at camp in the past few years and how I could use my experiences to answer what it meant to be a leader or a manager. Continue reading →
By Jonathan Marx
After a night of reflection, prayer, and delicious food, we concluded our first Shabbat evening together in Israel with an enlightening session of text study. Rather than focusing on the week’s Torah portion, we looked at different English translations of the Prayer for the State of Israel from Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist siddurim. Working in small groups, we looked through the different texts, analyzing similarities and differences in the structure and wording of the prayers. In the process, each person had the opportunity to think about which prayer spoke most to them and, more broadly, about the nature of his/her individual relationship with Israel.
Given how easy it can be for American Jews with little knowledge of Hebrew to simply recite prayers during services without knowing what exactly we’re saying, this exercise provided a valuable opportunity to more thoughtfully consider our feelings about Israel, both politically and religiously. For some people, one of the prayers stuck out especially as aligning with their personal views. For most of us, though, pieces of each text were appealing while other sections left us feeling uneasy.Continue reading →
Mindspace, located in the middle of high tech Tel Aviv, is a co-working space that houses companies of all sizes, with individual meeting rooms, communal kitchens, and open spaces that encourage collaboration and inspiration. While Mindspace is aesthetically the coolest office building I’ve ever been inside of, what’s happening inside of Mindspace is even cooler. From entrepreneurs to small businesses to startups, Mindspace is home to many of the people who make Israel the “startup nation.”
We were in Mindspace on the day of our high tech tour of Tel Aviv. Along with companies in Mindpace, we heard from a number of huge high-tech companies like PayPal, Waze and Google. But despite hearing from all of these high profile companies, I was most inspired by a small startup we learned about in Mindspace called Keepod. Keepod has created a cheap device that places a computer operating system on a USB drive, allowing people even in the poorest countries in the world access to a personal computer for a relatively low price. With programs in Costa Rica, Kenya, Malawi, Cambodia, Zambia, Cameroon, the Philippines, Tanzania, Liberia, and with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Keepod is helping to bridge the digital divide and provide technology to 70% of the world’s population (that’s 5 billion people), giving them access to personal computing and in turn the modern working world.Continue reading →
By Didi Poliak
On Friday afternoon of the opening conference, after almost a week of being at Shefayim, we sat down in our own spaces to write, and reflect, about our goals for the upcoming semester. When I was in the process of learning about and applying for The Nachshon Project, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of such a program, and I thought I knew exactly why I was even considering it. However, after spending almost a week in this new place, with 22 new people, and looking down at my blank piece of paper, I was the most confused that I had ever been about my future. Becoming a Jewish professional was always something that was in the back of my mind, especially since I had grown up at camp, and being Jewish was always something that I was really passionate about. Now, in this moment, I was forced to truly think about my future and think about all that I wanted to accomplish in the next five months.Continue reading →
By Jazzie Morgan
In the Torah, we read about Nachshon being forced to step out of his comfort zone in order to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt. Similarly, the first week of The Nachshon Project forced each of us as fellows to step outside of our comfort zone. For me, the moment I felt the most out of my element was during our outdoor training session with Enigma. Enigma is a series of life size brain teasers that challenged our ability to both think outside of the box and work as a team. As leaders, it is hard to balance our desire to both step forward and step back at once. During Enigma, many of us found it difficult to balance speaking up and letting other people take the lead. Throughout our two hours with Enigma, I watched the group transform from just a few people having their voice heard to the entire group working together as a well oiled machine.
Beyond learning to work as a team of leaders, Enigma also showed us that no matter how difficult a task seems, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. This point truly hit home for me during our lifesize game of Jenga. The team I was on quickly realized there was nearly no chance that we could win. At the point of “no return” we decided to bite the bullet and just pull out the last block. I offered to be the one to “rip off the bandaid.” I stood up and grabbed the block. I then shut my eyes and pulled the block out as fast as I could. When I opened my eyes I looked at the group and everyone was laughing, I had managed to somehow not drop a single ball. We realized that in that moment where we had completely given up we actually found the solution. Sometimes, it isn’t complicated. Sometimes, the solution to the problem is simple; try.Continue reading →
By Jake Levine
On our third full day in Israel, we were lucky enough to tour Tel Aviv through the lens of “the first Hebrew city in two thousand years”, a remarkable feat when considering it was founded before the State of Israel was anywhere near a reality. Led by our in-house tour guide Jamie Salter, we trekked across the city – from old Jaffa, overlooking what was nothing but sand prior to 1909, to the Azrieli tower, Tel Aviv’s icon of modernity built exactly ninety years later. The contrast between the two views, along with stops in between, was emblematic of the rapid rise of the city Israel now touts as the 21st century global center of innovation, an impressive feat when considering it was quite literally raised from the ground in just over a hundred years.
However, the sheer force of man required to accomplish such a task was not at the core of our tour, nor should it have been. Rather, we were forced to tackle the same questions the sixty-six families that founded the city faced: how do you build something from the ground up with nothing but a blank slate? What does the ideal, new Jewish city look like? Perhaps more relevant to our own purposes as the next generation of Jewish leaders: how do you make something from nothing? Admittedly, we have not yet reached an answer. That is not, however, a failure by any means. By beginning to ask the question, we have been able to more concretely consider our own futures, along with beginning to shape our own vision for the Jewish people. At least to me, much like the view from the top of Azrieli overlooking the city of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean to the west, it is quite the view. Continue reading →
By Lara Rodin
The week so far had been a whirlwind of excitement: new friends, new experiences, and most importantly new ways of looking at things. After having begun our Shabbat with exciting mind puzzles and team building games, our minds had been stretched nicely before Shabbat afternoon. After a warm and restful day under the sun, Rabbi Zeff ran a session on the variance between ideologies and practice within North American Jewish movements. He used the ideological example of each movement’s belief in the author of the Bible in order to illustrate a very interesting dichotomy between theology and practice within North American Jewish denominations.
Rabbi Zeff posted statements about the Torah’s author throughout the room, and each of us stood near the statement we believe to be most true. We reconvened in a discussion group, and Rabbi Zeff worked with us to figure out which statement belonged to which denomination. At the end of the conversation, Rabbi Zeff told us how surprised he was that for many of us, the statements we stood beside did not correspond with those of the theological beliefs of the summer camps we belonged to. Throughout the conversation and thereafter, it was very interesting and meaningful to note the difference between theology and practice. This dichotomy is often something that I struggle with myself. As an educated and Jewishly involved young adult, I often question the gap between what I believe and how I act, in a religious sense. I find myself constantly questioning, if I believe one way and act another, how do I define myself as a Jew?Continue reading →
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