The objective of the mission, which was held from January 9 to 16, was to explore the complex dual-loyalty felt by Diaspora Jews for their homes outside of Israel and the Homeland itself.
Mission participants met with a host of Israeli personalities from widely diverse backgrounds, religious beliefs and political perspectives, such as longtime citizens, new olim (immigrants to Israel), Gush Katif evacuees, foreign workers, settlers and farmers, to learn about the issues surrounding establishing a life in Israel.
“We believe it is essential that these future leaders experience the realities of Israeli life and politics through the lens of individuals and communities who are trying to build – and rebuild – their homes in Israel,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the David Mitzner Dean of the Center for the Jewish Future (CJF).
“In this way, they will develop a deeper appreciation for what it means to be a citizen of the Jewish State and gain a better understanding of how they – and other Diaspora Jews – should relate to Israel.”
The seminar, which will be run with support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, will focus on several hot-button issues, including what it means to build a home and a life in Israel, the price of unity and how our ideologies shape and divide us, balancing Jewish values with humanism and democracy; the importance of settling and developing an authentic connection with the land, and the costs and benefits of establishing a life in Israel versus the Diaspora.
“Like every other CJF initiative, an underlying goal of this program is to inspire our students to become agents of change in their communities and the world-at-large,” added Brander. “We hope that this experience encourages them to consider how they might approach issues like tolerance between religious and secular Jews and the disparity between Jewish law and democratic values in their own Jewish communities.”
In addition to its Israel mission, the CJF will be running six other winter missions concurrently: "QUEST II," a student leadership program run in partnership with the Jewish National Fund focused on helping former Gush Katif residents rebuild their lives in the desert community of Halutza; "Jewish Life Coast to Coast," an initiative that will analyze how individuals can become active and make a difference in North America’s diverse Jewish communities, operating this year in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida; "Project Kharkov," a two-week program aimed at gaining a firsthand understanding of the welfare challenges and identity crises facing Ukrainian Jewry; and humanitarian missions to Mexico and Nicaragua.
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