Oct 7, 2010 — At the invitation of the local Jewish community, seven Yeshiva University students traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil over their sukkot vacation as part of the Center for the Jewish Future’s first-ever Counterpoint Brazil program. Built on the successes of previous Counterpoint models in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and Turkey, Counterpoint Brazil was designed specifically to serve Colegio Iavne—a Jewish day school in Sao Paulo—and its neighboring community.
“The Iavne school works to develop students with a strong commitment to religious life, as well as excellence and responsibility in professional and social enterprises,” explained Rabbi Kenneth Brander, The David Mitzner Dean of the CJF. “Instead of talking about this ideal, they decided to invite YU students who model this philosophy into their everyday life.”
Over the course of two weeks—Sept. 19 through Oct. 2—the Counterpoint team conducted interactive and stimulating Jewish identity seminars and ran a state-of-the-art experiential Jewish educational camp, Camp Otzmah [strength], for local high school students. The camp’s specially designed curriculum included engaging breakout sessions on a variety of topics, Torah learning and workshops involving the arts, music and sports.
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“This program was a milestone for our community,” said Rabbi Shmuel Paves, principal of Jewish studies at Colegio Iavne. “I wanted our students to meet young people who are proud and committed to their Jewish identity and, at the same time, people who are graduating and will engage in the secular world with the spiritual strength of Torah study and values.”
The group also met with local college students, rabbis and lay leaders and celebrated Sukkot and Simchat Torah with local teens—instilling Torah values and Jewish pride in the community.
“Being in a community like Sao Paulo and having the opportunity to share the Torah of Yeshiva University showed me the importance of programs like Counterpoint,” said Aliza Abrams, program director in CJF’s department of experiential education and service learning. “We had the unique opportunity to share educational programming with both the students and the teachers of Iavne and developed relationships that will last a very long time.”
Led by Abrams, the Counterpoint team included Stern College for Women’s Rebecca Herskovitz, Adina Minkowitz and Ilana Wilner; Yeshiva College’s Noah Jacobson, Yaniv Lautman and Benti Rabinovitch; and Yechiel Shaffer, a semikha [rabbinic ordination] student at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. The group participated in a month-long training program in preparation for their trip.
“This trip challenged me to question what my own tafkid [purpose] is in the Jewish community at large and how I can make a difference,” said Herskovitz of Queens, New York. “Counterpoint has given me the opportunity to learn so many skills: to think on my feet, to listen closely when others talk and to learn to respect other people that are not identical to myself.”
Lautman, of Cleveland, Ohio, credited YU for giving him “the background knowledge and the opportunity to go out into the world” and make a difference.
Counterpoint Brazil is the first of 12 international Experiential Education and Service Learning initiatives planned by the Center for the Jewish Future for the upcoming year. To learn more about the CJF visit www.yu.edu/cjf.