Arie Hasit: Keeping the Jewish flame alive, even from afar

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Arie Hasit: Keeping the Jewish flame alive, even from afar

Students who participate in programs in Israel return home impassioned and engaged; the challenge is for Jewish communities abroad to reach these excited, newly captivated students to maintain their level of interest in their Jewish roots and Israel.

Source: Haaretz, 10-27-11

Like most Israelis, I spent Tuesday, October 18 glued to the television. I listened to the radio incessantly and checked my phone for news updates every few minutes. I wanted to keep as up to date about Gilad Shalit’s return to Israel as possible, and I wanted to share it with as many people as I could.

But more than anything, I wanted to share my excitement about the news with my friends and loved ones abroad.

Of course, I was not the only one excited about this historical event – my Facebook newsfeed was loaded with status updates and shared articles on the prisoner exchange. However, I was particularly pleased to see how many of my former students and campers from Jewish programs that I have worked with over the years were eager to share the news as well.

Over the last number of years, I have been involved with different programs that give Jewish high school students the opportunity to come to Israel from anywhere from six weeks to four months. Once in Israel, these students undergo a transformative experience.

As Jewish educators in Israel we have unique opportunities that our North American counterparts lack. For many participants, being abroad without parental supervision is an adventure, and a new culture and language give the experience added appeal. More importantly, we have students excited to be in Israel not for the beach, but to become more intimately acquainted with their Jewish roots….

I am proud of my students who have made aliyah, as well as those who volunteer in underprivileged communities and even become educators themselves. These individuals have been inspired by their time in Israel and wish to impart their values on another generation.

Although knowing that I, along with other educators in Israel, have had a role in these achievements, it is up to the Jewish community in North America to give these teenagers and others like them the opportunity to stay involved with Israel even after their return home.

birthright - Erez Ozir - February 11 2011 Birthright participants at the organization’s ‘Mega Event’ in Jerusalem, February 2011.
Photo by: Erez Ozir

It is inspirational events like the return of Shalit that remind us of the lasting impression that positive experiences in Israel can have on Diaspora youth, and maintaining their impassioned relationship with Judaism and Israel for years to come.

Arie Hasit is an educator at Ramah Programs in Israel and is beginning the Israeli bet midrash program at the Schechter institute.

 

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