This month, 80 YU students will embark on service missions to Ukraine, Southern Israel, and several American cities including Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Detroit as participants in the Center for the Jewish Future’s (CJF) winter missions.
The missions, designed to offer students the opportunity to engage in meaningful work in Jewish communities outside the New York area and their home towns, exposes them to the broader concept of Jewish community in the US and around the world.
In the Ukraine, students will visit the Jewish community of Kharkov, where they will learn, teach, and interact with Ukrainian young adults, many of whom are only beginning to learn about their rich heritage. Students will also participate in meaningful service work, including working with elderly members of the community. They will have a rare opportunity to show Ukrainian Jews a truly positive and powerful image of Orthodox Jews.
Rivka Kaminetsky ’15S participated in the Ukraine mission last year, and said, “It was an eye-opening and inspiring experience where we were reminded of how fortunate we are and how much we have to teach other Jews from our experiences that we’ve been so privileged to have.”
In Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi in Dimona, Israel, 36 students will spend one week interacting with over 400 Israeli at-risk teens, many of them from disadvantaged backgrounds. YU students will foster creativity and self-exploration among the teens through various workshops, while developing meaningful relationships with them and working to improve their English. Each of the teen’s connections to family, the Jewish heritage and Israel will be explored through the construction of personal narratives. This mission presents a unique opportunity to explore different perspectives with two groups of Jews against a framework of present-day Israel-Diaspora relations.
The Jewish Life Coast to Coast mission will enable students to visit Jewish communities in the midwest, where they will meet with local rabbis, educators, and communal leaders to understand and appreciate the dynamic of Jewish communities outside the tri-state area and the challenges the communities face. They will also conduct educational programs in schools, synagogues and community centers, and make a difference to those in need by volunteering in the Jewish and broader communities.
Aliza Abrams, Director of the Department of Jewish Service Learning for the CJF, said, “Each winter we receive hundreds of applications from students who are interested in spending their winter break volunteering around the world. The students are actively choosing to spend their free time engaged in meaningful service work in communities outside of their own. At the conclusion of the Jewish Life Coast to Coast program last year, one student remarked to me that it had been the most productive ten days of his life. It’s truly humbling and inspiring all at the same time.”