During the opening conference, Cohort 6 had the opportunity to participate in a Beit Midrash with past Nachshon Fellows and it opened my eyes to the possibilities and network that The Nachshon Project provides. During the session I took part in, I learned that G-d created life on earth but leaves us with the question of who is responsible for the creation? G-d? The people? The owner of the creation? I guess the better question to ask is who is the owner of G-d’s creation? The group argued back and forth a bit , but as my group further discussed we agreed on the fact that we must act as helpers to G-d when our world is in need. The example of climate change came up in conversation—we know that science and human made initiatives will help save the planet in addition to G-d’s supports. Without the joint effort from both G-d and people our world would fall apart.
I think that learning from a current Hebrew Union College Rabbinical student that is a past Nachshon fellow reaffirmed my longing to follow the rabbinical path. I am so thankful that The Nachshon Project acts as the key to my future and will help me achieve my goals like it did for the rabbinical student that led my beit midrash. It is incredibly amazing to me that I had the opportunity to learn from people that were in my shoes just a couple of years ago. Not only did I learn from past Nachshon Fellows, but I also learned from my own cohort members. In this Beit Midrash we helped each other see different view points on how one could view G-d and G-d’s relationship with people. This deep, thought-provoking discussion served as a great icebreaker because we support each other’s thoughts and ideas but also challenged each other to think differently. The cohort is made up of Fellows that come from a variety of different Jewish backgrounds. Having the opportunity to be in a setting where I got to learn from everyone opened my eyes to new ways of practicing Judaism that I have not ever been exposed to first hand. I am extremely excited to continue learning from everyone in the current cohort as well as Nachshon Fellows from the past.
By Haylee Mevorah
Over the past few years, tikun olam has become a significantly more integral part of my Jewish identity. This past May, I volunteered at Save a Child’s Heart and witnessed firsthand the power of nonprofit organizations in Israel. Hence, when I received the Nachshon Project schedule, I was instantly excited to visit Shalva and expand my knowledge of the nonprofit field in Israel. I feel particularly connected to Shalva’s mission as I am a disability studies minor and believe there is a significant lack of opportunities for those with disabilities. Shalva really opened my eyes to the power that one person and one organization can have.
Our cohort learned about the history of Shalva as it was started by Malki and Kalman Samuels when their son Yossi received a faulty vaccine. Realizing there was a lack of services, they took it upon themselves to take action. This is a very powerful concept that our cohort can take home with us. When we recognize a gap in society, it is very easy to view it as daunting and run in the other direction. Yet, if we shift our mindset just like the Samuels did and view it as an opportunity, we can make the world that much of a better place and create something bigger than ourselves.
One concept that I learned back at my university was that the number of resources significantly dwindle once students with disabilities finish high school. Ranging from job opportunities to housing options, people with disabilities often feel like they are at a dead end. During our session, I asked about the various opportunities that they have for young adults once they finish school. Unsurprisingly, Shalva had an answer. Every year, the Israeli government chooses one organization to help create a Yom Hazikaron package for families affected by terror. This year, Shalva was chosen and individuals are packaging tea bags that will be distributed to these families. Not only is this an employment opportunity for people with disabilities but it is also fulfilling a real mitzvah and putting Shalva in a positive light. In addition to the employment aspect, Shalva has begun a new initiative for adult housing that will hopefully continue to expand over the coming years.
Shalva has impacted a tremendous number of children and families over the past 28 years. Seeing and hearing narratives about the number of people that have been positively affected by the organization is truly astonishing. From the the beautiful new facility to the Shalva band to the overall variety of programming, I look forward to continuing to follow the beautiful work that Shalva accomplishes and be an advocate for such a meaningful cause.
By Tziona Kamara
We all sang together, arm in arm, as the sun set over Jerusalem after a beautiful Shabbat spent
exploring Jewish identity. Beginning the previous Thursday, we had been exposed to leaders of
various movements and had the opportunity to hear from them about their personal journeys in Judaism. Never in my life had I heard from such a diverse group of thinkers as part of a cohort so diverse in background and personal experience. The programming began with Rav Shmuel Klitsner, who spoke about “Dynamics of Halacha” and the Modern Orthodox movement. Next, Rabbi Joel Roth of the Conservative movement spoke about “Conservative Ideologies and Practice.” After a brief, and delicious, break for a cholent, kugel, and challah dinner, we made our way to the Mea Shearim/Geula area. There, we were warmly welcomed by Rav Yechezkel, a Belzer Chassid, who gave us a tour of the immense and beautiful Belz Yeshiva and spoke to us about Ultra-Orthodoxy. The next morning, after an abundant lunch of sushi, we heard from Rabbi Tamara Schagas about “Reform Ideologies and Practices.”
Our Shabbat meals, filled with good food and lively singing, were also complete with thoughtful
conversations as we all processed the Shabbaton’s programming. For some, the conversations
were a continuation of journeys that had begun long ago, for others the conversations were the
start of a journey to discover how they truly define their Jewish identity as matters that they had
never previously thought about were raised.
Coming from an Orthodox background, it was very eye-opening to learn about the theology and
values of other streams of Judaism. I had learned about the history and basic theology of other
Jewish movements but this was the first time that I was lucky to hear the personal journeys of
members of those movements- it made it personal and gave a face to a list of beliefs. It was so
wonderful to be a part of so many conversations and to give voice to my beliefs and Jewish
identity, as well as to listen. Just as Rabbi Zeff and Rabbi Cohen warned us about, many of us
did not feel that the speaker from “our” movement properly represented “our” Judaism.
Ultimately, whether it was the start of a journey or the continuation of one, the Jewish Identity
Shabbaton was an excellent way to start a conversation about how we are different and, most
importantly, how we are the same, and how we can use those shared goals and values to
bridge gaps and begin working towards improving the Jewish world.
By Brianah Caplan
One of the real treats of our Opening Conference this year was getting to sing in a kumzitz with Yonina. Being a Jewish musician myself, I was so excited to get to spend Motzei Shabbat singing together with them, as well as all my newly formed friends in the cohort.
We started around a campfire outside, but after it began raining, we quickly moved to an indoor space inside the hotel. After we finally got settled there is when the magic really started to happen. Yoni and Nina (the two individuals that make up Yonina) began singing with huge smiles on their face, and they spread to everyone who was sitting in the room.
Truth be told, I’ve been a huge Yonina fan since they first became popular on Facebook and YouTube. I would wait every week for them to post a new video, and always used to save it to watch as I was getting ready for Shabbat on Friday Afternoons.
While getting to hear Yonina was such a blessing, the bigger blessing to me was getting to experience how I best connect to Judaism with all of my friends. Seeing everyone sing, clap, and tap their feet in harmony put such a big smile on my face. For me, it was the first moment where I really felt a strong sense of really felt a strong sense of community with Cohort 6 – most of whom I had met just four days prior.
On a personal level, having this wonderful musical experience to end Shabbat really filled my neshama with so much joy. My favorite things in life are those that blend Judaism and Music together, and having the opportunity to sing with Yonina was truly a special form of that.
By Elana Weberman
During our Jerusalem Shabbaton, were so fortunate to be visited by Avital Hochstein, President of Hadar in Israel. Avital is the former rosh kollel at the Pardes Institute, a research fellow at Mechon Shalom Hartman, a graduate of Hebrew University with a BA in Talmud, the co-author of The Place of Women in Midrash, and a founder of Kehilat Shirah Hadashah in Jerusalem.
Our session focused on foods that are אסור ומותר, forbidden and allowed, in both a modern and historic context. Avital launched our time together with an activity, discussing foods we believe may be labeled as “bad” for us, but we still enjoy consuming them. From Marzipan to avocado, we reflected on the idea of how certain foods hold labels and cultural perceptions that influence our behaviors and beliefs over their consumption.
We discussed certain foods that are perceived to be good, but may have implications causing them to be problematic or forbidden. Participants shared their thoughts on the actual forbidden fruit from גן עדן,The Garden of Eden, and what different Rabbinic thinkers consider the artistic portrayal of the fruit to be. Perhaps the forbidden fruit is an apple; through the symbolism of the electronics brand, Apple, we face the dichotomy of good and bad through the use and misuse of technology. Another example is the grape; while they are sweet and can be used to make wine, an important symbol in Judaism, too much wine can be dangerous. Additional possibilities of the forbidden fruit include a fig tree, berry bush, or wheat. Thus, how can we know where to draw the line between allowed and forbidden foods? We must distinguish that differentiation for ourselves.
The most special learning from this session arose from our text study. Genesis Raba 19:3 teaches “And from the tree with the garden” this is what they say: “don’t add on His words lest you will be disproven and found faulty” (Proverbs 30:6). R Hiyya taught: don’t make the fence more than the central, lest the planted will be cut.
In other words, do not take more than you need, or the resources will be wasted. We as a United people must aim for sustainability. Sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of today without sacrificing the resources of the future. Regarding the context of food, this teaching is of utmost importance. We must recognize the role we play in our food system, and in the creation and consumption of our food. In order to sustain our future, L’Dor V’Dor, it is imperative to understand how our actions, and inactions, elicit a chain response that directly correlates to our lives and the Jewish chain we continue to grow. Our (food) choices have effects and if we choose to take more than we need, we will end up wasting, which creates consequences for our environment and for our future.
Therefore, as we progress, and especially as we continue to grow during our time on The Nachshon Project, I wish for us all to take the initiative to learn how our actions impact our future. My wish is for each one of us to recognize the value of our (food) choices, and choose to consume in a way that inspires a brighter future for all.
By Michal Mizrahi
“Look around the room, these are the people who are going to be at your wedding.” Rabbi Cohen said this the first day of the opening conference. I did as he said and I looked around the room. It was odd to hear that a group of people I had never seen before would become so dear to me that they would ‘be at my wedding’. Everyone was so different; different backgrounds, different practices, different beliefs. At first it seemed hard to relate and connect. Just a few days later, however, I thought back to what Rabbi Cohen said and it did not seem odd at all. Over a short period of time the group bonded so fast and so closely. The opening conference and further programming had facilitated an environment for us to connect in both a fun and light spirited way as well as on a much deeper level. Some days we were out experiencing the land of Israel, like jeeping together and the Iron Chef dinner competition, while other times we were sitting in on seminars which encouraged us to introspect and challenge our beliefs in order to strengthen them. Even in our free time our connections and conversations are impacted by our programming. When we sit around our apartment it is an open and safe place where we are able to reflect and process with each other on a deeper level. The conversations we have individually and collectively as a cohort are meaningful, thought provoking, and insightful.The connections we made and continue to strengthen are so impactful. Everyone truly feels like family and is here to support each other through this process of growth and exploration.
By Allison Bloomberg
Over the course of the semester, we have the privilege of attending various Shabbatonim in which we discuss the main themes of the Nachshon Project Fellowship. The first Shabbaton in Jerusalem was geared towards Jewish identity, and how we as individuals should attempt to understand what it means to possess such an identity, and if the value of a Jewish “label” is at all important. I had the privilege of introducing Rabbi Joel Roth of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York as one of our speakers during the Shabbaton. Rabbi Roth focused his lecture on the main ideologies of Conservative Judaism. He opened with a brief discussion on how the denomination itself was formed and how it has since evolved from its original foundation.
Rabbi Roth’s primary focus was the concept that the Conservative Movement is a Halachic movement. He categorized the organization into four pillars which outline the structure of the movement. In short, the four pillars are 1. Mitzvot as commands (meaning they’re mandatory); 2. the particulars of the mitzvot are only to be determined by the authorities of Jewish law; 3. Jewish law is not undisputed but is subject to controversy among Jewish authorities; and 4. Jewish law is evolving but must only evolve from within the Jewish legal system.
As someone who was raised within the guidelines of Conservative Judaism, hearing Rabbi Roth share these thoughts came as a bit of a shock to me. First, I was unaware of how committed to Halacha one must be, especially from someone like myself who was involved in USY (The Conservative Movement’s Youth Movement) and is still a committed Ramahnick, where we hardly discuss Halacha while at conventions and at camp. Additionally, Rabbi Roth was willingly open to sharing that he felt that the Conservative Movement was failing. I think my heart dropped when I heard him express those words: “The Conservative Movement is FAILING”, he repeated over and over again. For months my friends and I have been talking about how the numbers within the movement are in a constant decline, but hearing that to be true from someone so heavily invested in the movement was devastating, but also empowering.
Although it may appear as though this talk was difficult, I think it sheds major light on the work that needs to be done within the Movement. I feel as though this was a call to action in a sense, as I, and many others, don’t want to see the Movement we grew up in dissolve. Rabbi Roth’s lecture was so important to the members of our cohort who identify this way and has since made us think more deeply about how we’re going to face the Movement when we get back to the United States at the end of the semester.
By Leora Lindenbaum
Upon arriving in Israel, I had no clue what was to come for me as I studied abroad and participated in the Nachshon Project. I think many of us (Cohort 6), and personally myself, came in with hopes of discovery of new foods, adventures, careers, and even ourselves. Little did I know how early in this program, I would be given the chance to understand more about myself in ways I had never been able to before. Through discussions with our cohort members, we helped each other click down to our core values through an incredible program led by Rabbi Cohen.
This program was such an amazing way to start off my experience here in Israel, during the opening conference in Zichron Ya’akov. In this program, we were given 3 questions to focus on. We were partnered up with another cohort member, and together we helped each other unravel deeper values of our own than what’s on the surface. To do this, one partner was the listener, while the other would begin to answer one of the three questions revolving around their thoughts about their Jewish community (camp, Hillel, Chabad, etc.). The listening partner would then focus on a word that the duo could dive into deeper and help discover a core value of that word through this discussion about their Jewish Community.
I was skeptical at first, but it was amazing how well we were able to break down our thoughts, especially with someone I had met just two days before this program. It wasn’t just the discovery or path to discovery of our core values, but the understanding me and my partner had for one another, even though we came from different backgrounds; we were able to help each other unravel our thoughts and support one another. Because of this program, I was not only able to walk away with a stronger understanding of my core values, but I also gained a stronger relationship with my cohort and a stronger understanding of each fellow in the group. The program allowed us to gain insight about ourselves, which only helped us build on our beliefs in the incredible programs and activities that followed.
By Rachel Klein
During the opening conference, Rabbi Zeff led a program about the ideologies of different Jewish movements. We started the program by standing near a post-it that had a statement about beliefs in Judaism. We did not yet know which belief was associated with which movement, we just all had to stand near the one we believed. What was the most interesting to me in this moment was how our entire cohort was mixed up, with people identifying as Orthodox standing next to people identifying as Reform. It re emphasized the idea that, despite all of our differences in background, we all have a lot in common and a lot to learn from each other.
After the post-its, we learned about the ideologies of many of the major Jewish movements. What was interesting for me was that I, a very proud Reform Jew, had been standing next to a post-it that was associated with the more traditional of the Conservative movement. In this situation, many would be upset that they did not have a real Jewish identity as they did not have beliefs in line with their identity. I, on the other hand, found this fact empowering. I felt so strongly connected to my identity as a Reform Jew being given the choice to believe whatever I like and still be a proud Reform Jew. I also felt so strongly connected to all of the other people in the room with me, even though we all identify as Jewish in a different way, we all identify as Jewish and have that in common.
By Ira Kohler
The Jerusalem Shabbaton was a very special and unique experience. Being able to spend a Shabbat in a rich and lively area of Jerusalem, seperate from our University dorms, was an incredible experience. My favorite part of the Shabbaton was most definitely Friday night and Saturday morning services, where we as a cohort had an abundance of options to choose from.
The Rabbi’s provided the cohort with a list of service options all throughout the area that each had a unique aspect to them. There were orthodox minyans that were both lively and upbeat and some that were more traditional. We had the option to go to Masorti, partnership, or reform Minyans that all provided a different yet special experience. And, we were able to go to any Synagogue of our choice, even ones that they didn’t recommend.
On Friday night I went to Mizmor L’David which is an upbeat and lively Orthodox Minyan in Talpiot. Kabbalat Shabbat was as energetic and lively as I have ever seen, and the room was packed with hundreds of people singing together with passion and Kavanah. This experience meant a lot to me because I was a part of a congregation of passion and love for Judaism and for our prayers.
On Saturday morning I went to Shira Chadasha which is a partnership Minyan on Emek Refaim. This synagogue was unique in that it mixed some progressive values with traditional Jewish values. While there was a clear and transparent Mechitza separating the genders, both were allowed to participate and be a part of making the service happen. Going to services on the Jerusalem Shabbaton was very meaningful in many ways, and taught me a lot about the diversity of Judaism within Jerusalem.
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.