As the end of Cohort 3’s journey together in Israel grows near we had the opportunity to spend the day immersed in Israel and with each other through a hike at Nachal Peres. Prior to the hike, every time we discussed the itinerary for the upcoming weeks, I did not quite understand why we were designating a full day to traveling to the Negev and spending hours hiking. As we almost mark the end of our Israel experience together shouldn’t we be spending one of our last days learning or hearing from another inspiring speaker?
Yet within the first few minutes of our arrival I understood why we were here. Being physically and completely emerged in the land of Israel in Nachal Peres is a value that is ingrained in Israeli culture and brings you back to the roots of the Jewish people. The scenery and environment is incomparable to anywhere else in the world and you are constantly reminded how saturated the country is in history, the meaning of where you, and how far we have come as a people. As our hike began my thoughts brought me back to the beginning of our Nachshon journey when I was told that the country is now our classroom. Although we were not spending one of our last days with a speaker learning about how to be a great Jewish leader as I anticipated, I was reminded why I want to be. Our hike at Nachal Peres was essential in reaffirming our connection to the land and the rich history it offers as our time in Israel comes to an end. As the hike proceeded, my mind flooded with thoughts of the ways that I want to bring my love for Israel back to America and my motivation hit its maximum as I reflected on all of the experiences that Nachshon has provided me and leading up to spending one of our last days at Nachal Peres.
The environment in which we were absorbed in played a special role in this experience yet one of the most powerful aspects of our time spent in Nachal Peres was being completely together as one united Cohort. We spent the day with just us- a cohort of Jewish leaders who were brought together from different strands of America who once did not know each other and now play a leading role in each others life. Continue reading →
By Ariel Weinstein
A few weeks ago, we visited Kishorit, a kibbutz in the North of Israel that still functions as a truly egalitarian, socialist communal village like the original kibbutzim in Israel. The individuals who live at Kishorit, all of whom are adults with special needs, work in various sectors of the kibbutz such as a dog breeding kennel, a winery, a cheese factory, and more. Staffed at a nearly 1:1 ratio of professional staff and volunteers to residents, Kishorit fosters independent living and working skills for its kibbutznikim, who take on jobs that benefit the kibbutz as a whole alongside setting (and, davka, achieving) personal goals. The kibbutz houses around 175 individuals at a time, who have the opportunity to live at Kishorit for the duration of their lives.
I thought a lot about the Jewish teaching “חנוך לנער על פי דרכו” (chanoch l’naar al pi darko, or “teach every young person according to their own path”) during and after our visit. Though the residents of Kishorit are not נערים (naarim, young people), the core philosophy of the teaching advocates for specialized and individualized educations for people with varying abilities and academic strengths. Up front, I had the impression that Kishorit’s methods contradicted such an educational outlook on specialized education in that it contrasted with methods of special education I’ve encountered before. Generally, I’ve seen at public school and at camp a situation in which people with disabilities receive educations and experiences tailored to them, at the cost of being conspicuously separated from their peers. In a sense, Kishorit operates under a premise of separatism as well, in that the integration of neurotypical and disabled individuals functions on the basis of staff-to-resident, not peer-to-peer, relationships. To this end, Kishorit functions as a special education system that finds an altogether separate דרך (derech, pathway) for its residents a bit away from Israeli society at large.
On the other hand, the educational דרך (pathway) that Kishorit implements for its residents assumes that adults with disabilities should have the opportunity to learn, work, and live on a “pathway” that is more or less the same as their neurotypical peers. The adults who live at Kishorit have important responsibilities integral to the day-to-day functioning of the kibbutz and its production of products for export. On top of that, they are encouraged to develop personal and interpersonal skills, such as cooking, self-care skills like laundry or cleaning, and exploring healthy romantic and sexual relationships. Continue reading →
By Shayna Roth
Our session with Dr. Lena Kushnir, who has served over the past 20 years as a teacher, head of education, and principal at Solomon Schechter Day School in Chicago, and is presently an educational consultant, coach, and mindfulness trainer, was incredibly informative, engaging, and motivational. She spoke with our cohort about the logistics of and most personally meaningful/challenging aspects of her roles and extensive experiences as a leader in Jewish Day Schools. She helped us internalize the information by presenting relevant case studies that entered us into a problem-solving mindset. Dr. Kushnir generously continued these conversations through lunch with a small group of us further interested in her field of expertise as well.
As a product of a New York suburb public school system and student teacher in the West Philadelphia public school system, I found Dr. Kushnir’s insight on leadership in this field particularly thought provoking. She offered a perspective on education administration I feel I have been shielded from in my experiences in and study of public schools. I have been extremely fortunate to have all of the opportunities I have had to learn and grow within that system, yet hearing about Jewish Day School administration from an active player in it helped me to reconsider my educational goals in many new ways. Dr. Kushnir spoke to us in a way that simultaneously conveyed important information about her job(s) as well as guided us along our individual ideological and pedagogical journeys through questioning our goals. She encouraged us to consider our skills and missions in ways applicable to any professional context, and emphasized the importance of understanding how we can put our own desires and priorities in practice. Continue reading →
By Raya Seidman
On the beautiful Saturday spent in Alon Shvut, our cohort had three guest speakers. Due to it being Shabbat, I was unable to take notes (in my deeply cherished Nachshon notebook) during our speakers. Although the best Shabbatot are spent with Nachshon, I felt burdened by the restriction on note taking. “How will I remember the important details presented from our guest speakers if I cannot write them down? And at that rate, I’m probably doomed to remembering my personal thoughts on the matter as well!” It is only right to acknowledge my dependence on taking notes in order to remember the “importance” was ill considered.
I am thankful to have heard from Rabbi Alan Haber on Shabbat, when I was pressed to just listen. Rabbi Haber is originally from Brooklyn, NY, and now lives in Alon Shvut with his wife and five children. Additionally, Rabbi Haber was one of the founders of Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY), and currently works on the faculty of Midreshet and Yeshivat Torah V’Avodah and of Matan in Jerusalem. He spoke to us about “Indigenous Land Rights” through conveyed knowledge of Jewish history and text, in addition to his pronounced love and commitment to the Jewish people and The Land of Israel. This dialogue of Jewish knowledge and expression is by no means unique to our pool of Nachshon speakers; so what made Rabbi Alan Haber significant enough to voluntarily write a blog post on without even referring to my nonexistent notes? I’m glad you asked.
He was honest. Rabbi Haber spoke honestly regarding his opinions on the Jewish right to The Land of Israel. He shared an example of his view regarding safety; if there were to be an Arab being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance driving through Jewish territory, he feels the ambulance should stopped and searched for any possible threat or danger, and if that meant the Arab in the ambulance did not survive, it would be worth it knowing in the chance there is real threat, more Jewish lives would have been saved. Continue reading →
By Simon Luxemburg
On May 10th, as part of our Nachshon project programming, we had the distinct honor of meeting with Natan Sharanksy, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. For many of us, our only previous interactions with the Jewish Agency have been through the many shlichim they send to our respective summer camps, or through the Agency’s fellows that work in Hillels at college campuses worldwide. We had the privilege of meeting with Sharanksy in the Jewish Agency’s headquarters located on King George Street in Jerusalem. As we learned, this was the first meeting point of the Knesset, and the very office where Sharanksy works today was the former office of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Thus, it is easy to say that the meeting was both an amazing and informative experience from the beginning to the end for all of the fellows.
As Nachshon fellows, many of us have distinct interests in topics revolving around Jewish identity and religion, Zionism and connection to the State of Israel, and world Jewry in the Diaspora. Accordingly, Sharansky is arguably the best speaker in the world to cover these topics from a wide array of angles, as he pulls upon experiences and practical insights from throughout his life. During the beginning part of Mr. Sharansky’s talk, he discussed the operations of the Agency including the many programs that they help run within Israel and throughout the world. This effectively reminded us all that since studying abroad on the Nachshon Project at Hebrew University is considered a MASA program, we could in part thank the Agency for helping us come to Israel this semester.
The topic that seemed to interest us fellows the most during our talk was when Mr. Sharansky discussed his time in the Soviet Union as a prisoner. Sharansky is considered to be one of the most famous refuseniks, and at the time, world Jewry united behind calls for his release. Continue reading →
By Syd Holt
Before a long Sunday of Nachshon learning about our camp and campus projects, we were lucky to hear Shalom Orzach speak about experiential education. Although we have talked about this topic often during several Nachshon sessions, Shalom provided a different perspective on the experiential education, and truly made me feel more prepared when we began talking about our camp and campus projects.
Shalom illustrated the importance of knowing what you’re doing in education and why you’re doing it. He stated that if you don’t know what you’re doing, you need to stop immediately and always hold yourself accountable, or else the education will not be successful or beneficial to the audience. He stressed the importance of what we’re doing, and how crucial it is for there to be intention behind it.
Shalom provided us with a Hebrew phrase: “תנוך לנער על פי דרכו” which means “teach according to this way.” He displayed that successful education is about looking deeply into the personality of the audience/person who you are encountering and creating something accordingly. Then, thinking about “על פי דרכו” or where is the path they are going to go? What is their reality? By organizing an educational program with this in mind, the audience is able to truly gain something from what is being taught. Continue reading →
By Sydney Holt
Avraham Infeld was by far one of my favorite speakers that Nachshon has had all semester. With his thick South African accent and powerful voice, he was able to capture the full attention of every single person in the room for the entire ninety minutes. He provided an interesting and different approach to the idea of Jewish leadership that left me thinking about his speech for several days after. As a junior in college looking to become a better Jewish leader now as a camp counselor and in the future as a Jewish professional, I was blown away by Avraham Infield’s various perspectives on Jewish leadership and guidance on how to be a great and successful Jewish leader.
He began with connecting leadership to the Bible and asking an interesting question: If God wanted to move the Jews to Egypt to Israel, why didn’t he create one single person to do it all? Infield pointed out that this was because God knew that the Jews needed a team of people to lead all of the Jews: Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and Joshua. Although I was aware that being a great leader means that you need others to help you, I had never thought about it in the context of the Bible. Avraham Infeld then told us that, “If you want to become a Jewish leader, don’t try to lead alone, if it was possible, God would have created one person- leave room for others to lead with you.” He explained how there are copious amounts of other examples in Jewish texts of how to become a great leader. Through this Infeld displayed how crucial it is to have a background on Jewish texts in order to become an impactful Jewish leader today.
Avraham Infeld continued by powerfully stating that “Judaism is not a religion.” He explained that the current mess among the Jewish people today is that they don’t know who they are anymore: a tribe? a nation? a religion? a people? With the growing separation between different sects of Judaism and the inability to realize there is more than one “right” idea, Infeld showed that Jews have forgotten that they are a people, and he believes it is the biggest problem facing them today. This powerful statement really made me think about Judaism as a whole and the troubles it’s f Continue reading →
By Joey Barr
Rabbi Morris came to speak to the Nachshon fellows about his work as a pulpit rabbi, but in reality, what I got out of his presentation was so much more than that.
A little background about myself. I came into the Nachshon Project at a bit of a Jewish crossroads. Feeling unfulfilled in terms of knowledge and experiences, I was eager to experience the myriad of different ways the other Fellows in my cohort experienced Judaism. I went into this with tremendous optimism. Judaism is a never ending journey, and to question things and discover new things about Judaism are some of its greatest values. But oftentimes discussions would leave me feeling both discouraged and hungry for more. Discouraged because I felt that I hadn’t been given the tools to participate in conversations the way I truly wanted to, and hungry to learn more, to gain as much knowledge as I possibly could. Additionally, another challenge surfaced that had mostly been bubbling quietly within me. I grew up staunchly rooted in the Reform Movement. So much of who I am today, I owe to my camp and my youth group for giving me warm, inviting, and passionately Jewish spaces to develop my own identity. But in college, I felt myself slowly drifting away from it in certain aspects, as I searched for new Jewish experiences. How could I reconcile my roots in the Reform Movement and the values I had gained from it, with the new experiences and practices and feelings I was having? It seemed a daunting task, and frankly it felt confusing at times to have a foot or hand in multiple places.
Enter the talk with Rabbi Morris. Rabbi Morris grew up as one of a handful of Jews in his community, and this led him to seek things out in order to be able to explain them to those around him. And involvement in NFTY nurtured this interest further. In his talk, he said that as he grew older, he began to become more observant and change his practice. In his own words, Rabbi Morris defined himself as a sort of “Reform Ba’al Tshuva”. This instantly pricked my interest. In front of me, I saw not an end goal, but a role model and a teacher. Continue reading →
By Madeline Budman
“So early next morning, Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He split the wood for the burnt offering, and he set out for the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place from afar” (Genesis 22:3-4). This passage in Genesis describes the journey from Abraham’s home in Beersheba to Mount Moriah, where the sacrifice of Isaac is set to take place. Outlining the mundane details of the journey, this three-sentence passage easily gets lost in the larger saga of the binding of Isaac. However, at the beginning of our Shabbaton in Alon Shvut, the Nachshon Fellows zoomed in on these sentences. The sun beat down on us on a dusty mountain trail as we each read from our own Tanakh. As we sat next to an ancient mikveh, Jamie and Rabbi Zeff passionately argued to us that Genesis 22:3-4 could only be describing one thing: the path on which we were at that very moment.
The walk along Derech Ha’Avot was the most powerful hike that we’ve taken, among all of our hikes from this semester. Based on Biblical passages like the one quoted above, historians have come to understand that this spine of road in the West Bank along the top of a mountain has to be the path described in several different stories from the Tanakh. Abraham walked here to take his son to Mount Moriah, and Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel, and Leah used this path to travel between Beit El and Hebron and Shechem. This Biblical speculation is confirmed by the existence of an ancient mikveh, where pilgrims would have cleansed themselves before arriving at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and the Roman mile markers along the trail, because Romans would have erected them on a pre-existing road system. As the 33 Nachshon fellows hiked towards Alon Shvut in the Gush Etzion, we trampled the same rocks that Abraham walked, and took in the same breathtaking views of the valley that Isaac saw. Continue reading →
By Gabby Deutch
At some point in high school, I think it was junior year, I decided to stage a rebellion. I didn’t run away from home, nor did I decide to suddenly stay out past curfew or not do my homework. Instead, I decided not to read Like Dreamers, Yossi Klein HaLevi’s best-selling book about Israel in the wake of 1967’s Six Day War.
I know, I know. This seems less like an act of rebellion than a normal decision not to read a book because of any number of reasons—I didn’t have time, I wasn’t interested in the topic, I was reading a different book, etc. And if it was a rebellion, it was a pathetic one. Actually, though, the book sounded exactly like something I would enjoy (and when I did read it after my raucous rebellion came to an end, I loved it). But I grew up with two lovers of the Jewish literary tradition as parents, so for once in my life I thought I should take a chance to say: “A-ha! Jewish books aren’t the only ones that matter!” (Yes, that was how I rebelled: reading a different genre of books.) Good-bye to bedtime stories set in Chelm and Exodus by Leon Uris and Holocaust memoirs.
Like everything else in the world, my parents ended up being right. Jewish books are still my favorite, and HaLevi’s Like Dreamers sits near the top of that list.
When I received a copy of the book in the mail from Nachshon, I laughed; my family already owned two copies. But when I set off to Israel in January, I packed my new copy and knew I’d read it at some point during the semester. Continue reading →
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