Monday, September 15, 2014

Summer on Israel Pilgrimage

Unagh Frank '15 (EPA)

This summer I had the most amazing adventure through Poland and Israel on USY's summer pilgrimage. It was eye opening, inspirational, actually the greatest thing I have ever done. Here is a compilation of G4's venture to the holy land. I love and miss you G4 so much!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why It Was Important to Go to Israel this Summer

Sam Zack '15 (CRUSY)

As you all should know, there has been a recent escalation in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist organization that runs the Gaza Strip. The tensions began to rise when the three missing Israeli teenagers were found dead in the West Bank in late June. To make it worse, the amount of rockets being shot at Israel significantly increased. Soon after, the IDF launched Operation Protective Edge and began striking terror targets and eventually entered the Strip with foot soldiers and tanks. As a result of the conflict, dozens of mission trips and other group trips were cancelled or ended early. My trip, however, was not. 

This past summer I traveled to Israel and Poland through Ramah Seminar, and I believe that it was important for groups to still travel to Israel this year. As a North American Jew, it was important for me to support the IDF and stimulate the economy by being in Israel in a time like that. Besides the amazing benefits of going to Israel not in a time of conflict - experiencing the food, culture, strong sense of Zionism and religion, etc. - I was able to experience things that I otherwise would not have. For example, there was a day in which we walked to a busy street and took various types of photos representing how the war was affecting Israeli society. After that, we learned more in-depth details about the situation and how to advocate for Israel, both in high school and college. 

My love for Israel grew more than it would have if there was no current conflict. I felt that it was part of my duty, even more than usual, to advocate and inform others about the importance of Israel. Israel is an incredible place where any Jew feels at home, and I would recommend to anyone to travel there, whether it’s during a time of conflict or not.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Israel Day Parade with USY

Noa Gurvis '15 (METNY)

I've watched the Israel Day Parade from afar, and finally being able to participate was like a dream come true. It's such an empowering feeling, walking step-in-step with more than one hundred of your best friends; you feel like you can accomplish anything.

Being at the parade with everyone made me feel so proud of our country. There were so many people there that I didn't know, but it was incredible and almost unfathomable that we were all connected by our strong love for Israel. Seeing everyone there with the same goal in mind - to celebrate our country - was the best feeling in the world.

We had so much spirit, singing ruach songs at the top of our lungs and going crazy every time we passed by a camera. Everyone was into it. It turned from just a march into something I'll never forget.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Samantha Engelmyer '16 (Tzafon)

131 hours ago I returned to my small town in upstate New York after spending 10 days in the beautiful land of Israel, which I visited for the first time. When we boarded the bus at 5:45 AM on Thursday, we only recognized a face or two in the early morning light. The look of being terrified and excited because of heading half way across the world with 31 new faces, was wide spread.  

By the time the four-hour bus ride to Newark Airport was over, we were all so close already. We may not have thought about talking to each other in school, but we all had bonded over the fact that we were departing on a journey to such a special place. Some of the members of the group had already visited Israel five or six times in the past, while others had only read about it, but the moment we walked out of Ben-Gurion Airport, each and everyone of us was awe-struck.

We spent our first two days in Jerusalem, which was picture perfect. We walked through mazes of stone walls and ran up hillsides to view the stunning ancient city. After spending the weekend in Jerusalem, when we thought nothing could be better, we traveled two hours south by bus to Eshkol. There we met even more new friends and our host families for the week.

The time in Eshkol was one of the most moving things I have ever experienced. We lived lives of Israeli teenagers, so similar to us, each and every day surrounded by pure beauty. There were fields of bright red flowers in the middle of the desert, whose names I probably will never remember, and there wasn't a place the eye reached that wasn't breathtaking.

After you return from a trip as special as this, finding words powerful enough to describe the beauty and experience seems impossible. I never understood the phenomenon before, but now I do, and there is no way to describe it. One day you'll just have to go to understand for yourself too.

H2 Woah Reflections

Jacob Seidel '14 (NERUSY)

H2 was a very close, somewhat informal kinnus for USYers with a particular interest in Israel and Judaism. Between the amazing staff, thought provoking programming, and super fun company, it was one of the best kinnusim that I have ever had the pleasure of attending. There were wonderful USYers in attendance from all over the U.S. (and some from Canada) all of whom added an extra layer of enjoyment to the weekend. I highly recommend attending next year!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Nathan Bishop '16 (SWUSY)

My love for Israel started during the summer after my seventh grade year. I had the option to go to Israel with my family, or have a Bar Mitzvah party with my family and friends. It took my no time to make up my mind. As soon as I arrived into Israel I felt as if I had been in the wrong place for my whole life, and I had finally arrived home. To me, home is a place where wearing my Judaism is a norm. Home is a place where I can feel safe to express anything that I believe in. To me home is burning both of your feet to the bone on the mud of the Dead Sea.

Since this trip, I have wanted nothing less than to return home. My love and interest for Israel has grown immensely. My trip has caused me to strive to get all of my friends, and all of my friends of SWUSY to become as educated as possible on Israel’s situation. My love has guided me from AIPAC in DC, all the way to the opportunity of becoming SWUSY’s Israel Affairs Vice President 14-15. Now all I want to do is help the Southwest by educating each and every one of my friends, SWUSY or not, on the beauty and the overall importance of Israel’s impact on Judaism and the world.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mila: a Word from your Shaliach

by Central Shaliach: Carmiel Frutkoff

Adam Hertzog, NOAM’s national chairperson (parallel to USY’s International President) spoke last week at a rally that took place by the Prime Ministers house in Jerusalem.  The rally organized by ‘Tag Meir’ (Translates: A badge of light) came to protest the growing number of religious based violent acts that Israelis have witnessed in the last few years. These crimes, committed by radical fundamentalist Jews, self-titled - Tag Mechir (Price tag) included the destruction and vandalization of many Muslim and Christian holy sites, allegedly as retribution for violent acts committed by these minorities against Jews. These vigilante claims hold no ground as recent attacks on Conservative and Reform synagogues have made clear to the few who still held on to this notion.

NOAM, the youth movement of the Masorti (Conservative) movement is not new to religious political activism. While they have always been careful in staying non-partisan regarding Israeli-Palestinian issues, NOAM’s voice was always heard loud and clear when it came to issues of religion and state. Taking an active stance, challenging Israel’s monolithic approach and the stronghold of Orthodox Judaism over other streams and religions. In recent years NOAM’s youth could be seen on the front, fighting for the freedom of marriage, LGBTQ rights and the attempts of various Orthodox parties to censor and segregate women while bringing a fresh pluralistic liberal religious world view to the Israeli public.

In his speech Adam (17 from NOAM’s  Zichron Ya’akov branch ) quoted the declaration of Independence and called for the youth to take action in realization of the values it puts forth.  “The State of Israel will be built upon the foundations of freedom, justice and peace as envisioned by the prophets of Israel… and protect the holy sites of all religions. As youth we must see forth and do all in our power to bring into practice the words of our Prophets that come to light in our State's declaration – Equality and mutual respect for all.”

He called out for all youth movements to not just teach tolerance but to join NOAM and be pro-active in creating high profiled Inter-faith dialog so that the perpetrators of these hideous crimes will see that they stand alone.  “We can’t ignore it… We must confront the violence and hatred that comes from within our midst as we would expect others to do… those who teach hatred in the name of the Torah distorts it’s entire essence. ‘Derachha Darchei  NOAM’, Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”

Adam plans to reach out to USY and to NOAM chapters worldwide in a call of support and encourage them to join NOAM Israel in the effort of creating interfaith dialog.
NOAM teens at the rally.

Swastika’s drawn on the welcome sign of Moreshet Yisrael (Fuchesburg center/Beit Nativ) in Jerusalem.

NOAM chair, Adam Hertzog speaking at the rally last week.