Mar 21, 2005 — Yeshiva high school students from around the United States gathered March 13-15 in Houston, TX, for “If We are for Ourselves, Who are We?”, a student leadership development conference. One in a series sponsored by Eimatai, an initiative of Yeshiva University (YU), it addressed balancing responsibilities related to world humanitarian issues and Jewish communal needs.
“Anyone who has kept up with tragic events worldwide cannot help but feel the need to give in some way,” said Judy Goldgrab, coordinator of educational leadership projects at YU through its Max Stern Division of Communal Services. “This conference addressed how Jewish communities can effectively respond to important world crises while simultaneously tending to local and communal needs.”
At the conference, students learned about various issues of concern in the world today, including World Poverty and Hunger, AIDS, Women’s Rights, genocide in Darfur and the Falon Gong movement. Following discussions on Jewish communal and humanitarian needs, as well as on approaches taken in the past by Jewish thinkers, participants offered opinions on how the Jewish community must balance its own wants versus those of others.
Following panel discussions, workshops, and group activities dealing with student leadership, conference participants heard from Ben Fine, a senior at Yavneh Academy of Dallas, TX, and co-founder of Students Against Terrorism (S.A.T.). S.A.T. was founded by Fine and other Yavneh students following their participation in a March 2002 Eimatai conference that focused on Israeli citizens affected by terrorism. Fine spoke on the basics of beginning and running a student-led organization, the challenges of effecting leadership from abroad, and the importance of supporting “our brothers and sisters in Israel at this crucial time.”
“The Eimatai conference is important because it unifies many high school programs around the one goal of helping others,” said Fine. “It was a great honor for Yeshiva University to recognize us as student leaders who are inspirational to other teens.”
Eimatai Yeshiva High School Leadership Conferences are an outgrowth of Torah Leadership Seminars, a popular YU program in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s that identified and developed future leaders from among Jewish teens at public high schools. In 1999, a group of YU college students suggested a revised model of leadership development programming that would provide an open forum for student leaders to encounter complex communal issues and empower students to realize their visions. Since then, Eimatai Leadership Conferences have tapped scores of student leaders.
Past conferences have focused on relevant issues of the day, such as interaction with non-Orthodox Jews and learning about Jews from around the world. Conferences also motivate students to create initiatives at their schools, synagogues, and communities. Recent projects include letter-writing campaigns and a student-led rally—attended by some 4,000 high school students—to support Israel.
For more information, please contact Ms. Goldgrab at 212-960-5400 ext. 6015.