Students to Visit West Coast Jewish Communities on CJF Coast to Coast Program
Twenty Yeshiva University students will explore Jewish life in one of the world’s most technologically advanced regions as they participate in the Center for the Jewish Future’s (CJF) fifth Jewish Life Coast to Coast program.
The 10-day program, run with support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, kicks off January 12 in Palo Alto and will take undergraduates across the West Coast to meet with Jewish entrepreneurs, interact with diverse communities and lead educational programs in schools, synagogues and college campuses. Their itinerary includes a tour of Palo Alto’s Googleplex and visit to Stanford University as well as the Jim Joseph Foundation in San Francisco and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle. Discussions will reflect the unique challenges and inspirations of being Jewish in a highly creative and forward-thinking environment, with topics like “Life as a Jewgler,” led by Google employee Eleanor Carmeli; “What is Innovation in the Jewish Community?” by Rabbi Joey Felsen, of the Jewish Studies Network; and “The Modern Jewish Family,” a community panel at San Francisco’s Congregation Adath Israel.
“I think these experiences are invaluable for the students,” said Josh Strulowitz ’00YC, ’04R, rabbi of Adath Israel. “My hope is that it opens their eyes to the value of other communities and the possibility that one day they might be able to be a part of growing such a community. YU’s greatest resource is its tremendously impressive student body. The more YU students spread out throughout the country, the stronger it will make the national Modern Orthodox community and YU as well.”
Students will get a wide range of perspectives about Jewish experience on the West Coast during conversations with community members, including San Francisco author Arye Coopersmith and Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt, who leads Congregation Schara Tzedek in Vancouver. As they work their way through Palo Alto, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle and Vancouver, the group will also spend time learning about community day schools, synagogues and foundations, and volunteering at local organizations. They will return to New York on January 22.
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, David Mitzner Dean of the CJF, will join participants on the trip, serving as a mentor. “Programs like this offer our students a unique opportunity to explore the inner workings of Jewish life outside the Tri-state area,” said Brander. “As future religious and lay leaders of the Jewish people, it is important for our students to be exposed to, and engaged with, smaller communities.”
Since its launch in 2007, Jewish Life Coast to Coast has traveled down the East coast, through the Midwest and across the South. This will be the program’s second visit to the West, with a new focus on the effects of the area’s creativity-infused atmosphere on Jewish life there.
“We’re going to communities that are very innovative, modern and open-minded, and with that you get unique challenges,” said participant Mindy Sojcher, a Jewish education senior at Stern College for Women. “I think what’s interesting is that these changes may start on the West coast but eventually they will probably be present in communities across America. We need to learn from each other.”