Jan 5, 2006 — For some students, winter break is a time for relaxing after a tough semester. But for many Yeshiva University students, the time will be spent helping people in the United States, Central America and Israel.
Sixteen undergraduate students from YU are traveling with the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) to Las Bendiciones in Central Honduras in January as part of the university’s first Alternative Break.
Las Bendiciones is a remote village in the province of San Jeronimo with no electricity. The YU group will stay in the village for the week and work alongside community members to build a school. While there, students will interact with the villagers and learn about issues relevant to the developing world. Upon their return, the students will initiate follow-up projects, including fundraising, raising awareness about poverty, AIDS, fair trade, and other issues affecting developing nations.
American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is an international development organization that helps thousands of people in Africa, Asia, and the Americas move beyond poverty, illiteracy, disaster, and war.
Twenty students will travel to Germany with YU’s Center for the Jewish Future to meet with Jewish leaders and community members and learn about modern Germany. As part of the German government-sponsored Bridge of Understanding program, students will have an opportunity to experience modern German society, culture and politics first hand.
Students will meet with Jewish communal leaders, rabbis, and German political leaders. They will meet with some of the German students and share programming ideas.
With the influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Germany’s Jewish population has risen from about 30,000 in 1990 to about 100,000 in 2000, making it the fastest growing Jewish community worldwide.
YU students and alumni on the Blanche Schreiber Torah Tours will be traveling to three communities to share their Jewish knowledge and enthusiasm for learning. Groups will visit Beit David Highland Lakes Synagogue and Hillel community day school in South Florida; The Westwood Kehilla, Links Kollel and the UCLA community in Los Angeles; and Brith Sholom Beth Israel in Charleston, SC.
The Torah Tours groups will develop one-on-one learning programs, lead lunch-and-learn sessions, and run other programs to enhance the Jewish learning in the communities they are visiting.
The program in Charleston is an outgrowth of past Torah Tours. The community asked The Center for the Jewish Future to create a new “Commuting Kollel,” where students from YU will visit the community twice a month to engage the community. See the related story here.
Finally, YU students who will be in Israel over winter break are encouraged to participate in “BeLevav Shalem,” a special program sponsored by The Center for the Jewish Future that focuses on the disengagement from Gaza and provides a greater understanding of contemporary Israeli society.
On the first day, students will visit communities displaced from Gush Katif to learn about their situations following the disengagement from Gaza.
That evening, students are invited to a panel discussion at the Menachem Begin Conference Center that will focus on the social, religious, and emotional aspects of the disengagement.
On the second day, students will volunteer in greenhouses and communal settings. Participants will have dinner that evening at the Renaissance Hotel with Israelis, where they will have an opportunity to discuss the current situation in Israel.
“These programs can be transformational,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future. “Such activities allow our students to realize the opportunities they have to change the world.