From August 14-21, over 100 participants set sail on the YU Cruise to Alaska with Lasko Kosher Cruises. Aboard was Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the David Mitzner Dean, Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) and special assistant to the president on undergraduate admissions. The week-long trip featured the scenic natural beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, stimulating lectures, and unique day trips, such as a glacier walk, dog sledding, and salmon fishing.

Alaska wasn’t the only place where there was a YU presence this summer. Counterpoint Israel, the CJF’s popular summer program, sent 34 students to Dimona and Arad in Israel and eight to Brazil. Through the program, YU students teach and instill Jewish values to local children and teens, helping them to strengthen their Jewish identities and improve their English language skills. Though it is the YU students who serve as role models, many say they often learn just as much from the children and teens.

Ben Scheiner ’13YC said, “Although I know that running a camp in Dimona gave so much to the kids who live there, it cannot compare to what that the children and the CJF experience gave me. Reaching out and celebrating life with Jewish children of peripheral communities in Israel really makes you understand why the CJF has its name.”

Eliana Wolf ’13S spent the summer in Arad and said, “What I loved about the program was how much confidence it gave me to reach out and open up to people who come from totally different backgrounds than mine. The program kept emphasizing what an impact we were going to have on the children of Arad but they didn’t tell us what a huge impact those kids were going to have on us.”

The CJF also had various summer programs in Denver, Los Angeles, Teaneck, Atlanta, Chicago, Stamford, and Kansas City. “While our students travel all over the world to small communities and exotic cities, the most important journey that they take is the journey of self-discovery,” said Rabbi Brander. “I view these travel programs as incubator opportunities in which we not only transform the communities we visit, but transform the outlook of our students in a tangible way. For instance, in Kansas City, it wasn’t only a service-learning mission but a chance for students to participate in professional internships and see what it means to be a Torah Jew and a professional. For students who worked with disadvantaged Jewish teens in Counterpoint programs, it is a chance for them to think about and strengthen their own religious identities.”

 

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