After arriving in Israel and settling into our dorms and apartments in Jerusalem, everyone was excited and ready to get started on this incredible journey. Along with Nachshon programming, we had Ulpan every day for a month. We had the incredible opportunity to learn a new language and fully immerse ourselves in it. Our Ulpan classes were taught completely in Hebrew no matter what your level of Hebrew was when you landed in Israel. When all you do is learn, listen and speak Hebrew for 8 hours a day, every day, you develop a new love for the language. Although at times it was tough to focus or difficult to make it through that last hour at the end of the day, we supported each other through it all and came out with a greater understanding and appreciation for the language. I watched as my Nachshon peers gained new skills and how they lit up when they had the opportunity to share what they had learned that day in class. Coming to a country where you don’t speak the language at all can be scary, but Ulpan helped us greatly with that fear. Because we jumped right in when we got here, there was no need to be afraid. Ulpan provided everyone with the basic Hebrew we all needed to make it through that first month in Israel. Ulpan was an experience that was new for everyone and not only helped our Hebrew skills but brought us together as a cohort. We all understood the challenges and embraced the difficulties, together. After a long day of separate classes and constant learning, we were able to come together and blow off some steam. When one of us received an A on a Hebrew quiz, it almost felt as if we had all gotten that A together. Ulpan was an amazing first leap onto this rollercoaster of a semester we were about to embark on.
By Ashley Jones
It has been a pleasure to be a part of Rabbi Howard Markose’s Beit Midrash Course on Jewish Identity in Tanach. Every week, we get the opportunity to explore a new part of what makes the Jewish people distinct. We have covered topics from Shabbat to Conversion to Marriage. My favorite lesson so far has been our lesson on Kashrut. I have always struggled with what I believe about Kashrut since I am a Reform Jew. Even though I am not obligated to keep Kashrut, I was raised in a Kosher-style house. Rabbi Markose first explained to our class the difference between what the Torah says and what Rabbinic Judaism says on the topic before releasing us to work through what the Tanach says in Chevrutah. My partner was someone who does not keep kosher at all, so it made for an interesting dialogue about modern lifestyles vs. Jewish obligation. I learned that the Torah actually outlines all of the different animals that we cannot eat. I always thought that it was simply implied, similar to how we imply that we cannot mix milk and meat. This lesson impacted me because it re-affirmed that I should continue my Kosher-style lifestyle.
Aside from our lessons, I really enjoy Rabbi Markose as an educator. He really cares about the class and encourages every person to participate in the dialogue. Because there are only seven of us in the class, we are able to talk and bond at a deeper level than a larger class would be able to. Everyone gives a diverse perspective to Jewish topics because we all range in our backgrounds. I am thankful that Nachshon has given me the opportunity to participate in Beit Midrash work in a way I have never experienced. I remember in high school youth group being given a sheet of Jewish text and told to turn and talk about it. I hated how unnatural it felt to do. Now, I look forward to studying text and learning with Rabbi Markose every week. I am excited for the coming weeks of Beit Midrash and making my Jewish Identity more concrete.
By Julia Lustig
To me, Shabbat dinner has always been a time that allows me to reflect on the week with meaningful people in my life. I was somewhat nervous about what the Shabbat experience would be like in a pluralistic setting because I had never experienced Shabbat in that way prior to Nachshon. During the opening conference, we learned about the importance of feeling both comfortable and open-minded in social and academic conversations and had the opportunity to practice those skills through meaningful discussions and team-building activities. Though I felt quite comfortable with my peers in these ways, I was still unsure of how we would transition into the more traditional experiences as a group, such as Shabbat.
I think Shabbat in Herzliya was successful, though we found many things that could be improved upon, such as singing Zemirot. Because we all have not learned the same songs growing up in our differing denominational institutions, there was certainly a feeling of disparity within the group. Reflecting on the first Shabbat together, we decided to devote some time before the Jerusalem Shabbaton to learn songs from each other in order to foster a greater sense of community in a way that equally welcomes all.
Going into Shabbat in Jerusalem with a feeling of togetherness truly set the tone for the entire weekend. On Friday night, after having the opportunity to attend various types of Friday night services, Rabbi Cohen’s processing group had dinner at Rabbi Zeff’s house with his family. We all came together, ate delicious food, and shared the experiences we had at different congregations. Soon after that, we began to sing some of the tunes we had learned from each other earlier that day and even began to teach each other more songs that we hadn’t yet learned together. One, in particular, was sung in a call-and-response manner, allowing the song leader to come up with a rhyming tune about things that had happened that week. We came up with funny rhymes that kept us all laughing throughout the night and through the rest of the weekend.
Having this time with Rabbi Cohen’s processing group was so important in our comfort and trust in each other as a processing group and in our relationships with Rabbi Zeff. Although we may get more one-on-one and group time with Rabbi Cohen, it was nice to have an opportunity to get to know the Zeff family in a fun yet meaningful way.
By Esther Schlossberg
Prior to arriving in Israel, Nachshon tasked us with preparing a five-minute fun and creative presentation about ourselves to present to the rest of the cohort. When I first heard about this on our Zoom call and then received a detailed email about it, I honestly was nervous and unsure what to do to introduce myself to 32 new people, who I would be with for the next five months. However, everyone put on their creative caps and we had many interesting presentations. As a cohort, we traveled into Tel Aviv to Mindspace for this activity. Going to Mindspace provided us with a new setting to learn about each other.
These presentations allowed everyone to express who they are in whatever form in which they chose. The presentations varied from powerpoints to videos, a rap song, a BuzzFeed quiz, and a Pinterest presentation. It was so interesting to see how everyone put their own twist on the assignment. Presenting about ourselves enabled us the opportunity to learn about each other; our passions, our hobbies, our families, and our life stories thus far. From this activity, we learned that as a cohort, we come from many different states, universities, camps, and religious denominations, but our common denominator is that we are all motivated and passionate Jewish leaders.
Personally, this activity impacted me in a positive way because it allowed me to get to know everyone in our cohort in a new way. This allowed me, and others on our cohort, to make new connections with people based on our similarities of hobbies, favorite music, etc. I really enjoyed this activity because I thought it brought our cohort together in order to further understand where we come from and who we are as individuals.
By Talia Subar
When accepted into The Nachshon Project, and after receiving the different opening conference Va’dot, I knew I wanted to be involved in one with programming, and with the opportunity to allow the cohort to bond. To me, the “boats” activity seemed like a perfect fit. After getting my Va’ad assignment, the Va’ad skyped for around an hour and came up with the idea of a “Story Slam,” to have as an ice breaker for the opening conference. A “Story Slam” is when a prompt is given and the group tells stories about that prompt, allowing people to learn about them in a way they may not have had the opportunity to initially. The Va’ad chose our prompt to be “jumping in.” We thought this was fitting because we were all jumping into the Nachshon Project, and Nachshon jumped into the Red Sea during the story of the Exodus. People could tell any stories about them jumping in, both physically and mentally.
As we got closer to the opening conference we learned that due to the weather in Herzliya, we would not be going on the boats, but instead, we would be having the story slam in our hotel. Despite our excitement for the boats, we were eager to have this activity run smoothly, and still be as fun as it would be if it were on the boats.
We presented the activity to the group and fellows began to volunteer, and one by one introduced themselves and their story of them “jumping in” to the group. Stories were shared ranging from fellows going on a trapeze, following their favorite band around, going on a ropes course, and taking on a new leadership position. The fellows were all engaged, and eager to hear about the time their cohort jumped into different activities. I took this time to not only share a story of how I jumped in but also reflect on how I wanted to jump into my semester on the Nachshon Project. This activity allowed me to listen, reflect, and get to know my fellows in a deeper way, from the stories they shared.
The “Story Slam” was an amazing start to the opening conference, and the participation and engagement from the fellows allowed for such a successful activity. I loved being able to be both introspective, and get to know my fellows on a deeper level while doing this activity.
By Reena Wasserstein
One of the first Shiur Klalis was given by Ilana Kurshan, the author of “If all the Seas Were Ink”. She spoke to us about the value of learning Torah even when we forget most of it. She referenced her own experience where she completed the previous Daf Yomi cycle and now is returning to start the cycle again. She is constantly frustrated that she could not remember that which she previously learned. She brought sources like Kohelet Rabba, which compared people to a vessel which is constantly emptied in order to be refilled with Torah, ensuring that one would spend their whole life learning Torah. Shir Hashirim Raba brings a mashal of a worker who is hired to fill a basket and finds the basket has a hole and complains that there is a hole. The other worker asks why the first is complaining, his job is to fill the basket, not that the basket be full. So too, we are supposed to learn Torah all of our life, and forgetting gives the ability to sustain life long Torah learning. Another aspect of forgetting which she discussed is that material when relearned can be better than what was understood the first time.
I really appreciated the beauty Ilana found in forgetting and relearning. I have been exposed to text study before The Nachshon Project (although I am really appreciating the discussions that are stemming from the text study in the cohort) and something I always think about is how to balance learning and remembering. Ilana gave me a new way based on Jewish texts to feel comfortable with and even value forgetting. I think this also fits into general learning and how we can balance taking in all the information from this semester. Between Hebrew University classes, living life in Jerusalem and amazing Nachshon Project programming, our brains are overwhelmed with knowledge and learning. The importance is to take these lessons and incorporate them into our lives without being overwhelmed with remembering every detail because we can constantly learn and relearn. I look forward to learning both Jewish texts and the amazing lessons we can learn from The Nachson Project.
By Katherine Podolak
Walking through the Ben Gurion Airport, I was filled with anticipation and joy as I realized that not only was I back in Israel but that I would get to stay for six whole months. I arrived in Herzliya the day before the rest of the cohort, thanks to the suggestion of my father, and spent the extra day sleeping for 18+ hours; traveling can be exhausting! When the rest of the cohort arrived, I immediately felt at home. Everyone was kind and excited to meet others, and it felt as if all of our hearts were effortlessly opening up to each other and the cohort as a whole. Being from a less observant family, I was anxious that my Jewish identity and experience in the Jewish sphere wouldn’t compare to those around me. This anxiety immediately diminished as the whole cohort met together for the first time, and I realized as others introduced themselves that I was not as different as I had previously believed. In fact, connections began developing; whether it was a mutual friend, a shared interest, or even a similar Jewish background, we all found commonalities to connect with.
As the week continued on, the usual feelings of homesickness, uncertainty about the future, and missing our home universities crept up on me. Though these feelings were valid, I was initially scared to express them as I was unsure if others were feeling similarly. While these feelings were occurring, however, I was able to develop friendships with other fellows that then allowed me to express my true emotions. These feelings I expressed were met with not only validation but empathy as I was not the only one to be experiencing these emotions. Even the minimal acts of kindness from my peers, like asking how I was doing, made me feel so comfortable that I was able to present my true self, something that is not easy for me.
Although arriving in Israel I experienced fears and worries, the environment of the Dan Hotel in Herzliya and the incredible openness and kindness of my, now, great friends, helped remind me of the feeling I always have when I’m in Israel; I’m home.
By Micaela Raviv
Being given the opportunity to live in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, has been a true blessing. Ever since I was a child, I dreamed of one day being a student at Hebrew University. My mother spent her junior year semester abroad at Hebrew U. Coincidentally, at the same time, my father was completing his undergraduate years at Hebrew U. Although they did not meet until later in their lives, I like to say that my roots are here in Jerusalem and at Hebrew U more specifically.
My father is Israeli, so I grew up visiting Israel every summer. We visited family and were relatively sedentary in central Israel, floating around the suburbs between Tel Aviv and Netanya. I remember begging my father to take us for one day, each trip, to Jerusalem. I remember exploring the Muslim Quarter shuk as a young child, fascinated by the harmony of smells, sights, sounds, and tastes. I remember approaching the Kotel as a teenager and being overwhelmed with goosebumps and spontaneous tears. I remember walking up and down Ben Yehuda Street as a freshman in college, looking for tasty meals and familiar faces. Now, those experiences are no longer memories from the past. I am living them every day for five months and I am deeply appreciative.
Jerusalem is the beating heart of the Jewish people, the Jewish religion and the Jewish State. Jerusalem, possessing what is arguably the most contentious piece of real estate in the world (The Temple Mount), is at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jerusalem, filled with the devout and the secular, Jews and Muslims and Christians, tourists and locals, men and women, young and old, soldiers and civilians, is an eclectic hodge podge. Never have I felt safer and never have I felt more Jewish. The experience of living in the 3,000-year-old Jewish capital is unexplainable. Having access to the Old City at our fingertips, enjoying nightlife at the Mahane Yehuda shuk three times a week and being given the ability to live in the center of Israel and have the freedom to explore is so unique. However, what is most special about our experience is that we live daily life here. When I walk to the grocery store, I see the Temple Mount. When we want to buy fresh produce, we go to the shuk. When we need fresh air, we walk around French Hill. This is daily life for us, something that others dream about their entire lives and never actually gets to experience.
Additionally, although people often have the misconception that I only came to Jerusalem to be surrounded by Jews, never have I experienced more coexistence between neighbors. Every time I get onto the Light Rail, it is as if I am being thrown into a prototypic melting pot. Half of the people I sit next to are East Jerusalem Muslims and half of the people I sit next to are West Jerusalem Jews. Half of the people I sit next to are religious, donning a streimel, kippah or hijab and half of the people I sit next to are young teenagers just like me. There is something so special in the air of Jerusalem. It just feels holy.
Lastly, living in the dorms has been a blast. I share an apartment with four Nachshon friends. We host Shabbat dinners together, walk to class together, and hang out together every night. It is so nice living on a campus and being surrounded by a diverse set of students. On our floor alone, the apartment next to us houses five post-army Israelis and another apartment on the floor houses five pre-college Palestinian Arabs. Talk about coexistence!
By Lauren Greenberg
When I had first heard we were having a BBQ dinner in the forest; my mind went straight to my camp’s camp out dinners — scary stew with mystery meat, overly mushy vegetables and never enough food for everyone.
The catering pulls up in a truck with a kitchen attachment, and they start unloading their supplies onto the path in the woods. They set up a full industrial kitchen in the middle of a forest and started to cook away. I knew this was not going to be a camp cookout type meal.
I was so pleasantly surprised to see what our BBQ dinner consisted of. There were six buffet tables of some of the most delicious food I have had in Israel. The first table was a make-your-own salad table, with insanely fresh vegetables. The next table was the spreads and dips table with some of the best hummus I have ever tasted. The third table was the meat table. Instead of scary stew with mystery meat, you could see at least three different kinds of protein, including grilled chicken, schnitzel, and falafel. Both types of chicken were unbelievable. The next table was the sides table including rice and other grains. On the fifth table, there was hot soup, which helped warm us up in the cold December night. The final table included drinks and cookies for dessert.
The food was truly unbelievable, and I still hope that the catering company will surprise us by catering another one of our programs. As amazing as the food was, and as much of foodie as I am, the dinner was not my favorite part of the night.
After singing with Yonina and delicious food around a campfire, I did not think the night could get better, but then the Israeli music came on. Since many of us grew up in Jewish communities who used music as a way to connect us to Israel, Israeli dancing is something every camp kid experiences many times a summer. Some dances were universal to everyone who went to camp all doing the same moves and teaching those who didn’t know. Some dances were individual to certain camps, and someone would step up to lead everyone. I felt as if I were at camp and had known these people for years. At that moment I knew I was having an incredible unique abroad experience. There is no other program where a group of Jewish college students from entirely different backgrounds could come together and in two days feel completely comfortable with each other as if they had known each other for years. We were all dancing, laughing, and singing together, and that night I knew that Nachshon was the perfect program for me.
By Hannah Borow
On our first Sunday programming in Jerusalem, we had the incredible opportunity of meeting and learning from Mishi Harmon, the founder of the Israel Story podcast. Mishi started our day by telling us a little about his life, Israel Story and why he decided to start Israel Story. One thing that stuck out to me was how he believed that every society is fragmented and because of this other communities fone learn about each other. But if we all hear each other’s stories, we can be brought together. His goal with Israel Story is to connect fragmented communities through stories.
The real fun began when we took a 10-minute bus ride up to Tel Elful. A deserted construction site from Jordanian times. Tel Elful was supposed to be king Hussain’s summer house and also a glamorous hotel for the famous and royalty from around the world to come. Tel Elful has a gorgeous view of all of Jerusalem, on a clear day you can see all the way to Amman on the East and Tel Aviv on the West. This area shocked me. Not only because after the 6-day war construction was completely halted and the whole thing looked like some dystopian movie. But also because I grew up spending a lot of time in Jerusalem. My grandparents live in Jerusalem, and I thought I knew pretty much all about the city and its neighborhoods, but I had never heard of Tel Eful. This further demonstrated Mishi’s point. The Israeli society is so fragmented that I knew nothing of a deserted palace in Jerusalem! Come to think of it, I knew about nothing about East Jerusalem at all. This little excursion taught me so much about my own perspective on Jerusalem and how much more I have to learn!
The Nachshon Project is operated by Legacy Heritage Programming II LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of JLRJ, Inc., a private foundation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Legacy Heritage Programming II LLC is solely responsible for The Nachshon Project and the contents of this Website. All Rights Reserved.