Jan 5, 2009 — Yeshiva University students will show their unwavering support for Israel during this difficult time of conflict in Gaza when 35 students from YU and other select U.S. universities travel to the country for a seven-day Jewish service learning program. “Project Connect: Israel Winter Mission,” under the auspices of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, will run from Jan. 11-18. The mission will expose the students to cultural groups that have immigrated to Israel since the establishment of the State in 1948.
The service learning program, funded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, will include students from YU, Columbia, New York University and the University of Maryland, among other top-ranked institutions. Participants will meet with families and individuals of every age group from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union to learn about the historical and cultural heritages of these immigrant communities.
“Our unique program incorporates daily service projects and sessions with public figures and immigration experts that will help the students explore the halachik [Jewish law-related] and socio-economic absorption challenges faced by these communities, as well as open their eyes to the public policy aspects of integration,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of the Center for the Jewish Future.
However, the program is as much about promoting Jewish leadership as it is about examining the integration process.
“One of our many goals is to motivate those on the mission to make a difference in the Jewish community and the world at large,” explained Rabbi Brander. “We hope that after meeting individuals who overcame great challenges to transform society and better their communities, these students will be inspired to do the same.”
Five students from Jerusalem’s Ma’ale School of Television, Film, and the Arts will join the group to document their interactions with the different communities. The footage will be edited into a film that will be screened for the students on the final night of the program. The film will also be shown in a February assembly for students at YU in New York.
Now in its third year, the Israel Winter Mission has seen a dramatic increase in registration for this year’s program, as more than 150 students from 17 universities applied to fill the 35 available slots. Though the service learning program had focused on other topics in previous years, organizers believe that the theme of integration into Israeli society is broad enough to revisit for years to come.