She started with a simple story; one that we all could relate to, even if some of the details were a bit different than we were used to. Tamar was a young child, no more than 7 years old, and was enjoying one of the most special family celebrations in Jewish practice, the Passover Seder. As little Tamar sat waiting for the meal, listening to her grandfather tell the long-winded version of story of the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt, however, something didn’t seem right. Even as a small child, Tamar noticed something strange about the fact that all the men in the family sat comfortably at the table enjoying her grandfather’s retelling of this crucial story in the Jewish collective memory, while all of the female members of the family hurriedly prepared the Seder feast in the kitchen. There was a disconnect in young Tamar’s mind: the story of the Exodus from Egypt is one of the strongest stories of Jewish survival, faith and redemption, and it concerns all Jews, for it is as if all of us were there when God took us out of Egypt. But the women in Tamar’s family, she could see, were being deprived of the retelling of this story.
So, rather than sit quietly and let this continue, young Tamar did something that would encapsulate her unique power, vision and ability to make change: Tamar stood up at the table in the middle of the story, looked her grandfather in the eye, and told him that the women in the family should hear the story as well. After the initial shock of this confrontation wore off, Tamar’s grandfather, to everyone’s surprise, apologized and agreed. The women would come sit and listen to the story like the men, and the family would all make the final preparations for the meal together, after everyone heard the Passover story.
With this first step, Tamar Elad Applebaum, the founder of Tzion, a uniquely-inclusive egalitarian prayer community in Jerusalem, began her personal journey to righting some of the wrongs she saw in a religious community she was always completely devoted to. Tamar’s story is a story of change through devotion. Or maybe it was change because of devotion.Continue reading →
By Ari Friedman
Early on in the semester we had the opportunity to learn with Zeev Ben Shachar. Zeev is incredibly well versed in Israeli history and the regional conflict. Zeev provided us with balanced information on the what’s and why’s of Israeli history. Zeev teaches a year long course on Israeli history that he consolidated into two small sessions specifically for the Nachshon Project.
We touched on security related issues such as the security wall that separates Jewish and Arab towns in Israel proper and the West Bank. We spoke about the different rights held by Palestinians and Jews such as rights to water, rights to legal documents, and freedom of travel. Zeev went on to show us propaganda released by popular Palestinian media outlets prompting hatred and violence. It seems that education is the key to understanding why Jews in Israel think one way and Palestinians another way. It was extremely interesting to speak about security at a time in Israel when there were almost daily stabbings or car ramming attacks. We learned that these tragic events happen in the same places over and over again simply because those are the locations where Jews and Palestinians physically meet. These events happen in the overlapping locations such as Damascus Gate where West and East Jerusalem meet, where the Jewish and Muslim worlds meet to visit their most holy locations. Continue reading →
By Peter Young
When I found out we were going to a basketball game here in Jerusalem I was very excited. I love to watch the game (I’m a big Lakers fan as a native to Los Angeles) and I had been to a game in Tel Aviv before. The atmosphere of Israeli professional sports is very different than in the states. The fans are crazy. They are loud and proud with huge drums, flags and cheers that never cease. I knew what to expect going in to the basketball game, but then I was told we were going to meet Tamir Goodman. Who is Tamir Goodman? “The Jewish Jordan”? Was he really that good at basketball? Is he religious or more of a secular Jew? What could he have to talk to us about? I had no Idea what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised.
We arrived at the arena early, about an hour before the game. We were greeted by a man about the same height as me with red hair and a kippah on. He did not look overwhelmingly athletic or big, not what I would expect from “The Jewish Jordan.” We were escorted through the basement of the arena past the locker rooms and into the press room. Several of the fellows (including myself) got a cheap thrill from the thought of sitting where the players and coaches sit after a big game. We sat down and before long we were enthralled with Tamir Goodman. Tamir did something very simple for us, he told us his story. Continue reading →
By Jake Levine
As part of our Tzfat Shabbaton, we were lucky enough to participate in a workshop with Rabbi Noah Greenberg during which we learned about the significance of Tefillin in Jewish life: how they’re made, what goes in them, where in the text we are commanded to wear them, etc. However, rather just discussing the concept, we actually made them. From start to finish, we were active participants in the process, starting with plain parchment and leather all the way through tying the knots of the retzu’ot (leather straps). Never before had I seen such a physical application of Jewish text to our everyday ritual. Of course it was always there, and on some level I was aware of the textual basis for much of our practice, but it is quite a different thing to go through each step myself.
This speaks to a larger educational concept that I am becoming attached to: authentic, hands-on programming – exploring Judaism by doing Judaism. If there is anything to be learned from the challenges facing Jewish education today, it is that Jews as a whole (and especially in North America) do not feel an ownership over our practice and theology. Continue reading →
By Ben Hersch
Every spring at my high school, we would host one or two student teachers from Pardes. Often to my surprise, I would recognize the student teacher as someone who attended or had worked at my camp. Moreover, when I heard they came from Pardes, I asked if they knew my uncle who had been teaching there for years until his recent retirement. They answered yes every time. Having recently had the opportunity to visit and learn for an afternoon at Pardes, a non-denominational institution for Jewish study, I am no longer surprised by these coincidences. Everyone we met there spoke fondly of their time spent at Pardes and it was clear that the students are there for the sake of learning and expanding their own Jewish identities.
Coincidentally, the day we visited Pardes was the same day my Uncle came in to substitute teach since he had retired. While I really enjoyed seeing him in his element, we were also treated like students, going through the motions of a class during our visit. We had the opportunity to sit in on classes, learn in chevrutah, and tie jewish texts, which belong to all Jews, to current events and modern day issues. Continue reading →
By Jazzie Morgan
“There is nothing funny about the Holocaust, there is everything funny in surviving it.”
This quote easily embodies everything that Molly Livingstone hopes to teach people through her work. Coming to Israel, Molly never expected to be surrounded by light hearted and happy Israelis making jokes about terror attacks that had happened just days before. To her, that was crazy, the civil war had happened hundreds of years ago and yet it was still too soon to make joke about it. But in Israel, when a war is going on, they’re already joking about it two minutes after it starts. And that is just Israel.
We can all learn a little from this mentality. If we spend our lives resenting the bad things that have happened to us, we will never be able to find the joy in our days. If we take everything bad that happens with a grain of salt and figure out what is funny about it, then we will all be much happier. Wherever we are in life, whether it is camp, school, or our home we use humor as a way to cope. This relates very well to the life Nachshon members know all too well, those moments at camp where you just want to scream. We all get overwhelmed and annoyed, but if we find the humor is those little things that our campers do everyday and even in how bad the meal might be, we will find ourselves much less stressed and much more at ease.Continue reading →
By Jake Levine
What will be the defining question of the next era of Judaism? The unification of a diversified people, so says Avraham Infeld. We met with Avraham to hear his perspective on how we, as Nachshon Fellows and as emerging Jewish adults, should be approaching our shared identity – a worthwhile perspective to hear, considering his extensive background in Jewish communal service. The takeaways were clear: We have entered a new realm of Jewish existence, one in which anti-Semitism is in many ways losing its power to unite the Jewish people in opposition to outside attacks. We are now tasked with selling (for lack of a better term) values-driven Judaism to the Jews of the world. In other words, Jewish engagement in the 21st century must reframe itself as appealing because of its unique set of values, rather than relying on the world to push Jews together by rejecting us from everywhere else.
Further complicating the future of Judaism, Infeld argues, are the realities of two thousand years of diaspora life: the Jewish people is fragmented. Jewish communities around the world exist in totally different environments, and therefore face totally different challenges. He best exemplifies this through the different answers given by Jewish college students to the question: Fill in the blanks – “Jewish, ______, ______.” In America, we answer “Muslim, Christian”. In Israel, they answer “Arab, Russian”. In Russia, they answer with different ethnic groups. The idea that Judaism is a religion, an ethnicity, a race, etc. is not a new one. However, we are just now beginning to face the real consequences of such a complex identity – the Jewish people needs a commonality between us. Continue reading →
By Ari Friedman
Before our studies began in Jerusalem we had the pleasure of participating in an egalitarian and non-denominational learning experience called Alma in the center of the bustling Tel Aviv. Alma defines itself as a “home for Hebrew culture,” where any person can indulge in text study in a uniquely progressive environment.
We had the opportunity to meet with one of the heads of Alma- Shira- who spoke to us about the value she sees in sitting and discussing Jewish texts as opposed to simply following the rule of law. She noted that this practice teaches us how to not only hear, but to listen in an engaging and productive manner. She emphasized the necessity of dialogue and how it can enhance the communal learning experience that tends to be absent in “traditional” studying.
Over the course of our afternoon in the building, we had the chance to learn in rooms filled with books hosting a variety of different world views, opinions and languages written by authors of a multitude of races, religions and generations. Alma pushes its students to argue, ask questions and talk about topics that are not limited to any specific subject. Continue reading →
By Sophie Stillman
Despite the diverse backgrounds of this cohort of the Nachshon Project, one thing that binds us together– that transcends our religious, educational, or political upbringings– is our love for camp, and the small people we spend our summers with… kids!
A few weeks ago we were fortunate enough to visit an organization in Israel that is doing incredible things for some amazing kids and their families. Shalva Children’s Center, located right here in Jerusalem, provides free, non-denominational programs for children with special needs. From infancy through adulthood, Shalva offers care to the individual child, support for their families, and inspires advocacy and inclusion in the larger Israeli society.
During our visit to Shalva, we were able to learn about the work they do every day, tour their current facility (which they will soon vacate for a larger building in order to accommodate more children), as well as do an art project with a group of the center’s children and volunteers. One of the biggest things I took away from the visit at Shalva was the story of how the center was founded, and it’s relation to a common theme I see throughout Israeli society– resilience. Continue reading →
By Alex Rubin
During our weekend in Tzfat, Jamie took us on a tour of the city where we got to see its sites and discuss how just like Jerusalem, Tzfat is a city built on ancient history but that thrives with modern meaning.
Just outside the old city, Jamie brought us to the Cave of Shem and Ever, which tradition tells us is the beit midrash of Jacob and his children. We discussed the way ancient sites are turned into modern places of study and noticed the synagogue just across the path built into the side of a mountain.
On the other side of the mountain, we stopped to explore a fortress from the time of the crusaders at Metzuda. We walked through a dark tunnel until we made it to the inside of the fortress where we could see a plaza on top through a skylight. A short while later, we were looking down into the fortress from the top of the mountain where a memorial for Israeli soldiers who died in Tzfat in the 1948 War for Independence stands. It was another example of turning an old site into one with modern meaning, and one that offered spectacular views of the Galilee.
Our tour wandered through the Old City, as its inhabitants were enjoying Shabbat afternoon. We paused outside the Yosef Caro Synagogue, where its namesake, the famous rabbi studied. Caro is best known for writing the Shulhan Aruch, the codification of Jewish law. It was really special to hear from the Shulhan Aruch in the place that it was actually written and again brought the historic landmark into modern relevance. Continue reading →
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