The Center for the Jewish Future Publishes Third Issue of Shabbat Table Discussions
The Center for the Jewish Future Publishes Third Issue of Shabbat Table Discussions
Center for the Jewish Future Mission Studies Complexities of a Dual Homeland
To be a Jew in the Diaspora is to struggle with dual loyalties. On the one hand, Jews have established homes for themselves in countries where they feel a sense of purpose and belonging. Yet they also recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland. The students of Yeshiva University face an existential dilemma. Should they build a home in Israel, their ideological birthplace, or live and build community in the Diaspora?
This is one of many dilemmas that Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) will explore with “A Place Called Home,” one of five experiential and service learning programs offered this winter. During the one-week trip, funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation in an effort to inspire a commitment to Jewish education and Jewish communal work, “A Place Called Home” participants will travel across Israel exploring what it means to create a national home for the Jewish people. They will engage the Israeli landscape of micro communities: kibbutzim, development towns, immigrant villages, towns in Judea and Samaria and religious and secular communities.
“This program will provide our students with a unique opportunity to explore these issues of how a Jewish homeland is created and protected, helping them to clarify their roles as active contributors to the development of Israel—either from the Diaspora or from within—while they consider the benefits and costs of determining a place of residence,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, The David Mitzner Dean of the CJF. “We believe that an experience such as this one will allow students to concretize their identity as proud, passionate and committed Jews.”
“Living in Israel provides opportunities, meaning and purpose to everyday life that settling in the Diaspora cannot, but it also comes at a cost,”said Kiva Rabinsky, programs director for the CJF’s Department of Service Learning and Experiential Education. “By exploring these opportunities and these costs, our students will be exposed to the complex realities that Israel faces. They will internalize these struggles and be better prepared to educate others about Israel in an effective and accurate way.”
The first, “The Cost of Living with Irresolvable Conflict,” centers on the Gush Katif disengagement, a community that—in the name of ideology and for the protection of the Jewish homeland—built and lost its residences in Israel. Students will interact with families and individuals from the settlement, including Rabbi Raffi Peretz, a former Gush Katif community rabbi who is now the chief rabbi of the Israeli Defense Force, in an effort to understand the severity of what happens when national and religious ideologies clash in the public and private arenas. This topic will be explored from multidisciplinary perspectives, focusing on the political, sociological, psychological and spiritual impacts of the disengagement.
“When it comes to dealing with our own struggles of having dual loyalties to a homeland, we have a lot to learn from the Gush Katif story,” said Rabinsky. “We need to learn how to live with conflicts that are at times impossible to resolve. This is by no means an easy task.”
Another core aspect of the program focuses on the cost of settling the land. “There is something inherent about the land of Israel that distinguishes it from any other land in the world. It lives and breathes sanctity, history, culture and tradition, and tells the story of the Jewish people,”said Shuki Taylor, the CJF’s director of service learning and experiential education. “Students will visit yishuvim and kibbutzim, shedding light on the people who maintain a sincere connection with the land through tilling soil or settling hilltops, for example. But even that comes at an exorbitant cost—including the loss of life—and the Israeli People are constantly testing the boundaries of how high a price they are willing to pay for the sake of the land.
“I do not believe that this program is going to provide the Yeshiva University students with answers—they will need to answer these questions themselves,” added Taylor. “But I do believe that exploring and internalizing these crucial complexities will lead to a catharsis, which is no less important than reaching a resolution.”
Shira Preil, who is studying psychology at Stern College for Women, wanted a deeper understanding of aliya. “I guess like any idealistic teenager, I had visions of moving to Israel after high school or college and ‘living the dream,’ ” she said. “But during seminary and college, I’ve come to understand that life is more complicated and simply moving to Israel without thinking about the ramifications is neither the easiest or most responsible thing to do. The question becomes: how do I relate to Israel when I could very possibly be building a future home in America?”
The careful consideration and analysis of such questions is at the heart of “A Place Called Home.” After the mission each student will be expected to share these experiences in various venues in their local community. This enables the mission participants to process their emotions and learn how to effectively communicate with others.
Imparting these messages will occur not only upon the students return to North America but also during the program itself. Teaching opportunities within the trip, including lessons at an Ethiopian school, an Anglo school and a school for foreign workers’ children, are designed to help participants transform their experiences into teaching moments.
For Yehuda Cohn, a Yeshiva College student whose family moved from Queens to Jerusalem at the end of his ninth-grade year, “A Place Called Home” addressed questions he had already been asking. “This is an issue that struck close to home,” he said. “I personally struggled with the issues of making Israel home and defining myself in terms of where I grew up, where I now live and where I was headed—back to YU for college.” He added: “Ultimately, I want to be able to come back with a better understanding of Israeli society and America’s connection to it and share that with the wider Jewish-American community so we can realize how close we really are and how much we stand to gain from one another.”
Dec 29, 2009 — Over 450 people were in attendance at the Young Israel of Woodmere this past Sunday to hear Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, senior scholar at Yeshiva University’s (YU) Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) discuss Asarah B’Tevet: From ancient times to the 21st Century. The lecture, part of YU’s popular Yom Rishon learning series generally held at YU’s upper Manhattan Wilf Campus, was a welcome addition to the Five Towns.
Through text-based sources, interesting insights and comments on the day’s evolution throughout history, Rabbi Schacter made Asarah B’Tevet more meaningful to the crowd. The lecture was an initiative of the YU Regional Council-Five Towns and was co-sponsored by Congregations Aish Kodesh, Anshei Chesed, Beth Sholom, Young Israel Lawrence/Cedarhurst and the Young Israel of Woodmere.
“The CJF is very excited to bring the Torah and scholarship of Yeshiva University to the Five Towns,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the David Mitzner dean of CJF. “We plan to continue bringing unique, interesting and educational programming to the community.”
YU introduced the Abraham Arbesfeld Kollel Yom Rishon for men and the Millie Arbesfeld Midreshet Yom Rishon for women as part of an initiative to strengthen Jewish communal life and learning. The program brings hundreds of men and women to YU’s Wilf Campus in Washington Heights every Sunday morning to learn Torah and hear lectures from various YU rabbis and scholars. Since its inception, the Yom Rishon series has spread to Toronto, Los Angeles and other cities across North America.
The CJF and the YU Regional Council have several upcoming events planned in the Five Towns, including another Yom Rishon in February, a special lecture series in March and a YU Connects Singles Shabbaton on May 7. To learn more about the Center for the Jewish Future visit www.yu.edu/cjf.
Center for the Jewish Future Winter Missions Take Students across the Globe
Their papers are written and the last little blue book handed in but for 170 Yeshiva University students, the learning’s just beginning. The Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) is offering seven intersession missions spanning three continents and five countries, engaging students in experiential education that will explore Judaism’s relationship to the global environment and Israel, the development of community life in cities across the United States and the historical and modern identity of Ukrainian Jewry.
“We have observed a profound impact on our students when these meaningful experiences begin with proper preparation and contain opportunities allowing the participants to serve as real change agents,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the David Mitzner Dean of the CJF. “The most important journey our students will engage in is the path of self-discovery that occurs through these programs.”
Originally from Caracas, Venezuala, Perla Maikhor, an education major at Stern College for Women, will participate in the Mexico 2011 Humanitarian Mission. “I wanted to show passion and devotion as a Latina Jew doing tikkun olam [repairing the world],” she said.
Avi Wollman, an information systems major at Sy Syms School of Business, chose Project Kharkov to deepen his understanding of Ukrainian Jewry. “It’s a unique opportunity to experience a place firsthand with such a rich Jewish historical culture,” said the Teaneck, NJ native. “I hope to leave understanding the life and mindset of Jewish peers living there.”
Read on for winter mission highlights.
Jewish Life Coast-to-Coast 2011
With support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Jewish Life Coast-to-Coast mission will take 20 YU students to Atlanta, GA; Richmond, VA; Charleston, SC; and Boca Raton, FL—four communities in different stages of development. They will engage in volunteer work and meet with educators, professionals and rabbinic and lay leadership to learn about the history, challenges and dreams that shape each community’s identity.
Project Connect: A Place Called Home
Forty YU students will explore their dual loyalties to their homes in the Diaspora and Israel in this week-long mission. Meeting with olim [immigrants] and citizens of widely diverging backgrounds, religious beliefs and political perspectives, they will immerse themselves in the complex issues at the heart of aliya and Israeli citizenship today. Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger, rosh yeshiva at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), will accompany the students on the mission, which is supported by the Jim Joseph Foundation.
Limmud NY 2011
Thirteen students will serve as ambassadors from YU to the 2011 Limmud NY Conference in upstate New York. At Limmud, a diverse community of Jews come together for a four-day convention that includes lectures, workshops, text-study sessions and discussions. Students will interact with Jews of all denominations, sharing their commitment to an Orthodox lifestyle and benefiting from the opportunity to spend a weekend with other Jews on a path of spiritual exploration.
On this two-week program, 20 YU students will delve into the rich heritage and complex post-communist identity of Ukrainian Jewry, accompanied by Rabbi Brander. In Kharkov, they will volunteer with local Jewish peers and visit shtetls outside the city. Students will also be rooted in social and historical context through discussions with Russian American Jewish Experience participants in New York and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in the Ukraine. Project Kharkov is run with support from the Eckstein Family andRepair the World and in partnership with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
Building the Negev: The Quest Leadership Mission
Quest is the CJF’s intensive two-semester training program for undergraduate leadership. To highlight Quest Fellows’ focus on the importance of their work and the values that drive meaningful and effective leadership, the Quest II experience culminates with a mission to Israel, where participants work on volunteer projects and meet with a diverse cross section of Jewish communities and their leaders.
The Quest Leadership mission focuses on the Negev, spending time in Yeruchum, Be’er Sheva, S’derot and Halutzah, an area in the Negev where still-displaced Gush Katif evacuees plan to settle. Quest participants have raised awareness and $40,000 for the Halutzha cause all semester and will deliver those funds on the trip. They will use their hands to develop the land and their minds to engage with students and leaders of the community. After a year studying and practicing leadership, this mission will expose students to leadership that has overcome great obstacles and inspire them to implement that strength and resolve in their own lives. The Quest Leadership Mission is run in partnership with the Jewish National Fund.
Mexico 2011 Humanitarian Mission: Learn, Give and Grow
In Cancun, Mexico, 16 YU students will work with Hombre Sobre La Tierra (HST), a humanitarian group that seeks to provide Mayan peasants with the means to produce their own food and integrate women into the Mexican economy. Students will be paired with individual families in the Muchucuxcah community in the municipality of Chankóm and learn agricultural techniques rooted in Mayan tradition. Class sessions addressing Jewish concepts like tzedaka [charity] and tikkun olam [repairing the world] will frame the experience in a light of self-growth and moral responsibility for humanity.
Nicaragua 2011 Humanitarian Mission: Learn, Give and Grow
Servicios Medicos Comunales, a nonprofit association that supports community-based development initiatives, will host 16 YU students in Boca de le Montana, Nicaragua. Living among locals and sharing their way of life, students will learn about issues that affect developing countries as they work together to enhance living conditions in the community. Class sessions focusing on tzedaka and tikkun olam will ground their work in the context of Jewish responsibility to improve world conditions. Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani [spiritual guidance counselor] at YU will accompany students on this mission.
The Humanitarian missions to Nicaragua and Mexico are in partnership with the American Jewish World Service.
Area High School Students Convene on Wilf Campus for Debate Tournament Sponsored by Sy Syms School of Business
“This debate is very simple,” began Shua Brick, a senior at Yeshiva University High School for Boys/Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (YUHSB). “We complicate it with percentages and numbers, but ultimately, this is a simple argument.”
[flickrslideshow acct_name="yeshivauniversity" id="72157625534239423"]
Facing his two opponents, teenagers like himself, and a pensive judge, Brick spread his hands wide. “My grandfather lives at home with us because of a stroke,” he said. “First I thought this debate was about him. Then I realized it would affect me. Not my grandchildren or my children—me. What would we do without Social Security?”
More than 116 debaters from 16 local yeshiva high schools were asking the same question. On Sunday, YUHSB hosted the 22nd Annual M.T.A. Cross-Examination Debate Tournament at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus. Sponsored by the Sy Syms School of Business and known also as the “Great Debate,” the competition drew experienced debaters from a spectrum of schools. The big issue up for discussion: Congress’s proposed legislation to privatize Social Security by allowing Americans to invest a portion of the tax in private retirement accounts.
During three rounds that each featured 25 simultaneous matches, students demonstrated their expertise, passion and self-possession, name-dropping congressional authorities and discussing the nuances of retirement ages in Sweden, Chile and France. Judges, who ran the gamut from veteran debate coaches to college students who participated in the tournament in high school, delivered oral critiques at the end of each round to point out strengths and flaws in each debater’s style.
“It’s not like speaking in a telephone booth,” said Harriet Levitt, who organized the first debate in 1988 to give yeshiva students a forum to hone their skills, since national competitions are typically held on Saturdays. Chair of the English department and debate coach at YUSHB, Levitt has mentored hundreds of students on technique and style. “You have to be sensitive to how you’re being perceived and present your case in an organized fashion,” she explained. “The skills students develop, of researching thoroughly and relating to others, are very important in today’s world of instant communication.”
They’re also skills whose value only increases as students move on to college, graduate study and professional careers. “So much of college is constructing arguments about assigned topics, the precise crafting of ideas,” said Simeon Botwinick, ’11 YC, who was a president of the YUHSB debate team and now serves as editor-in-chief of The Commentator. Rabbi Eli Cohn, a teacher at YUHSB who debated in high school and was one of the judges in Sunday’s competition, agreed. “The ability to articulate an argument, evaluate a thesis and respond to a claim are all skills that I use daily,” he said.
“Communication skills are absolutely critical to people in all areas of business,” said Michael Ginzburg, dean of Sy Syms. The business school began sponsoring the debate tournaments last year to emphasize this need to potential students. “Many people think we’re only concerned with quantitative skills, but having the best analytic or number skills without having an ability to effectively communicate the results of your analysis will not lead to success in business.”
For debate participants, the competition was a rare opportunity to gauge their abilities against other students from differing milieus and education models. “Being with all these people from different backgrounds is good practice,” said Jason Lefkovitz, a junior at North Shore Hebrew Academy. “It takes you out of your comfort zone.”
Participating schools included YUHSB, Samuel H. Wang/ Yeshiva University High School for Girls (YUHSG), the Jewish Educational Center of Elizabeth, NJ, the Yeshiva of Flatbush, Ramaz, HANC, and Maayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls among others. Michael Guggenheim and Daniel Goffstein, a YUHSB team, came in first place, with Daelin Hillman and Emma Goldberg of the Abraham Joshua Heschel High School in second.
The “Great Debate” is also responsible for many new friendships. “I think it’s good to be put together with other students who have common interests in academic settings,” said Leah Sladen, a sophomore from SAR Academy, one of the participating schools. Botwinick agreed. “In college, most interactions with other schools are through sporting events, but this is talking intelligently and conversing. I have friends in college today that I met through debate.” He added: “We definitely had something to talk about!”
The Wall Street Journal on Cardozo Alumna, Kathy Greenberg, and Her Mission to Fix the Immigration System
Kathy Greenberg wants to tap law students to fill the gaps in the country’s legal system.
The public-interest lawyer is giving $500,000 to the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to support the law school’s immigration law clinic, which provides legal representation for indigent immigrants facing deportation.
“We have a broken immigration system and a real need for qualified immigration lawyers with better training,” says Mrs. Greenberg.
“I was drawn to the school’s commitment to the concept that every student and every lawyer must play a role in achieving justice for all, that students need to learn to consider legal rules as not mere abstractions but as having tangible impact on individuals.” Read full article in The Wall Street Journal…
The New York Jewish Week on Mayor Cory Booker’s Speech at Yeshiva University’s Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation
Cory Booker seems to find himself in the right places at the right times. Two decades ago, as a 22-year-old Rhodes scholar at Oxford, he found himself one night at Shmuley Boteach’s L’Chaim Society, a Jewish cultural center on campus.
He was invited by a young woman for a Simchat Torah celebration. When he walked into Chabad House everyone froze. He looked for his date but found men with beards and skullcaps.
Disappointed on not finding his date, he turned to leave when the rabbi’s wife ran over. ”The young lady who was to meet you couldn’t make it,” she said. “Please join us.”
“This is a scene from Yentl,” he thought. Read full article in The New York Jewish Week…
Dec 22, 2009 — Yeshiva University’s (YU) Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) will bring their popular Yom Rishon series to the Five Towns community on Sunday, December 27 at 10 am at the Young Israel of Woodmere, 850 Peninsula Boulevard, Woodmere, NY. Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, senior scholar at the CJF, will discuss Asarah B’Tevet: From ancient times to the 21st Century.
The lecture, an initiative of the YU Regional Council of the Five Towns, is open to men and women and is free of charge.
Yeshiva University introduced the Abraham Arbesfeld Kollel Yom Rishon for men and the Millie Arbesfeld Midreshet Yom Rishon for women as part of an initiative to strengthen Jewish communal life and learning. The program brings hundreds of men and women to YU’s Wilf Campus in Washington Heights every Sunday morning to learn Torah and hear lectures from various YU rabbis and scholars. Since its inception, the Yom Rishon series has spread to Toronto, Los Angeles and other cities across North America.
Sponsors of Sunday’s program include congregations: Anshei Chesed, Aish Kodesh, Beth Sholom, Young Israel of Lawrence/Cedarhurst and Young Israel of Woodmere. To learn more about the Yom Rishon programs, view an upcoming schedule or to hear audio recordings of past shiurim visit www.kollelyomrishon.org and www.midreshetyomrishon.org.
Local High School Students Participate in CJF’s Torah Leadership Network Program
More than 250 students from seven local high schools joined together at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus for the first Torah Leadership Network (TLN) program of the academic year on Thursday, December 16. The theme of the evening, coordinated by YU’s Center for the Jewish Future, revolved around the nature of the Asara B’Tevet fast day.
Participating schools included Yeshiva University High School for Boys / Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy, HANC, Rambam, The Frisch School, TABC, Yeshiva of Flatbush and The Kushner Hebrew Academy. The students were joined by more than 40 madrichim [advisors] comprised of YU students.
The students interacted over dinner before making their way to The Jacob and Dreizel Glueck Center for Jewish Studies to prepare for various shiurim [lectures] with their madrichim. “The beit midrash was abuzz with the sounds of students and madrichim learning together,” noted Effie Kleinberg, director of TLN. “It was a truly an inspiring and electric atmosphere.”
The evening concluded with the students listening to shiurim from Rabbi Mayer Twersky, Leib Merkin Distinguished Professional Chair in Talmud and Jewish Philosophy at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), as well as Kollel Elyon Fellow Rabbi Yehuda Turetsky and RIETS rabbinical student, Raphi Mandelstam.