Siyur Series Post #2: Mt. Herzl and the Herzl Museum by Ariel Freed

In early January our class went on a siyur to Mt. Herzl, Israel’s official state cemetery. I have been to Mt. Herzl many times, both with my family and Young Judaea’s Machon, and had very defined expectations. What I remember from my past experiences is going to see the graves of pioneers, prime ministers and paratroopers. I remember discussing Herzl’s vision of a Jewish State to shelter us from European hatred, and feeling warm and fuzzy about the whole thing. I was quite surprised when Rabbi Rob, our teacher, began discussing Ahad Ha’am, the as-of-yet unfamiliar (to me) stalwart of Cultural Zionism. We talked about modern Israel’s cultural, political, and religious aspects, debating how the current state embodied Herzl’s vision, Ahad Ha’am’s vision, and things that neither had anticipated.


After our discussion, we headed to the Herzl museum, which I found more engaging, although it certainly generated some cognitive dissonance. Looking back on the other times I had been to this museum, I don’t think I ever really paid much attention. However, this time I looked at the exhibits critically and was surprised to find that I already knew much of what I heard and saw. I found myself thinking that the information had been oversimplified and had skipped over important nuances. What I found disappointing is that I couldn’t learn any more from the material. It was too watered down.

In our discussion afterwards, Rabbi Rob told us that the museum was targeted at Israeli high schoolers that don’t know much aMuseumbout Israel’s history. I found it odd that my classmates and I, who grew up in the diaspora, knew more about the history of Israel than those living here. It saddened me that they needed such a simplified narrative that only scratches the surface to learn about their history, even if the narrative is important. I realized that I need to look to other venues to deepen my knowledge. I guess my Jewish education worked.

Teaching Tel Aviv: an Article by Benji Lovitt

Young Judaea and Year Course alumnus Benji Lovitt made Aliyah in 2006 and has been working both as a comedian/writer and as a Jewish educator.  Beni has had a continued connection with Young Judaea since his childhood in many capacities.  His latest article – of a more serious bent than his usual work highlights the need to teach about Tel Aviv as a relevant centre of modern Zionist and Jewish culture.

YJ alumnus Benji Lovitt: comedian, writer, and educator

Here is a link to the full article

Israel Programs: The Case for Tel Aviv


Below are some blurbs from the piece:

“From synagogue and organization missions to Masa programs, and from high school trips to Birthright, we do a horrendous job of exposing Diaspora Jews to Tel Aviv and everything it stands for: modern Israel, the “start-up nation”, religious pluralism, and Jewish peoplehood.”


“when I came on a Federation mission and extended my stay, did I finally discover this “secret community”, still mostly unknown to English-speakers in 2003. In just a few days, I managed to lie on the beach, go dancing till 5 AM, walk around staring at Israelis with my tongue hanging out of my mouth, and ask, “HOW AM I ONLY DISCOVERING THIS NOW?????” This wasn’t about bars and sand. This was about connecting to modern Israel and my Israeli peers in a way that I had not done before.”


“Does Masada make a bigger impact on Jewish identity than time in Tel Aviv? I would argue that it does not. Is Masada more likely to make thousands of young Jews excited to possibly return to Israel for a long-term program, date other Jews, get an internship at an Israeli start-up, or discover a connection to Jewish peoplehood which they never had before? In my opinion? Absolutely not. Now repeat this exercise for many possible sites in place of “Masada”.”


“This is not a suggestion of “fun” over “education”. This is focusing on exploring membership as part of the Jewish nation, a nation and people that young Jews are often “reborn” to feel part of after meeting Israelis who are like them.

Lastly, this isn’t only about the “White City”. This is about evaluating Israel programs and figuring out not only what will turn on our participants to Israel and Jewish identity but also what will not. Israel has changed over 66 years. Our programs should reflect those changes.”


– See more at:

and of course a little clip of Benji’s comedy

Benji Shmoozes a Taxi Driver


Final Project Video by Ariel Navarro

_DSC1409Check out the amazing video created by Ariel Navarro – a current WUJS participant – on how her WUJS experience and the 5 months she spent living in Israel influenced her life!

Make sure to check out the rest of the Artwork that was on display at the recent WUJS Art Exhibition as well.

_DSC1426If you want to know more about WUJS and how you can sign up visit the page or email Yonit Shachar at








Siyur Series Post #1: A Tour Through Jerusalem’s Crypts and Tombs By Evan Dolgow

Over the next few months we will be posting occasional blogs written by students in Rabbi Rob Kahn’s classes “City of Faith” and “Ideology.”  In our first installment, Evan Dolgow writes about a class tour to numerous burial sites in Jerusalem that represent the diversity and power of the city.


What can I say? Starting from the foundation of Jerusalem to exploring Jewish history through archaeology was phenomenal. Our group, led by Rabbi Rob Kahn, began the exploration at a fountain on the edge of Yemin Moshe. Even though I have ignorantly passed that fountain over a dozen times in my life, little did I know the meaning was so significant.

(The fountain at Yemin Moshe.)


(Oskar Schindlers grave. We all added rocks as respect and spoke about how he became a recognized righteous gentile.)

The fountain structure is composed of three main water spouts. The spouts are stacked three levels high, which slowly point to a dove at the top of the structure. The three spouts represent the three main religions of Jerusalem: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The spouts point to a brass dove portraying the coexistence and that efforts towards peace should persist. What a way to start the day! We then made our way to a number of other sites in Jerusalem including a centuries old first-temple burial cave, Oskar Schindler‘s grave, David’s tomb, the room of the last supper, and finally, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Virgin Mary’s burial crypt.

Sounds exhausting but with enough energy we kept on moving! We discussed how the sites represented something bigger than the physical aspects, something bigger than all of us. These sites represent the magnificence of coexisting religions, especially in the holy land of Israel. While we paused for a few moments overlooking a view covering the Jewish section of Jerusalem to the Muslim section of East Jerusalem, I realized something very important; politics play a key role in the land feud to the deep seeded hatred amongst all the religions. Removing the political factor, I saw three peaceful sections living in each others presence. Although not always the friendliest towards one another, this was no pre-1967! I glanced back at history and tried to imagine the battle ground and guaranteed, what I saw yesterday was no battleground! Remember, at the end of the day Israel is only 65 years old. In any book, that’s a country just starting to walk.


Walking through Jerusalem’s streets of history really proves that peace is underway. Whether land is given up or unilateral actions are taken, people are people and everyone is innately attracted to peace. From the old Jewish cemeteries to watching an Ethiopian Christian ceremony in front of Mary’s tomb, I truly believe that peace is possible. After all, Jerusalem is no longer a war zone.

Virgin Mary's Tomb(Ethiopian ceremony at Virgin Mary’s tomb. They were very nice and loved to talk once a few of us began to speak with them.)

How Privileged Am I…?

From Alternative Winter Break participant Aodhan Lyons of Tuscon, AZ

awb_la5As wonderful and profound as it is to see a child’s smile, it is nothing compared to seeing the second part of the trip today. Going through the wealthy and simply rich portions of L.A. was stunning, beautiful, and absolutely downright painful. Every street corner had someone on it, who was homeless, or simply needed help of some kind. I wish I could have given to all of them, but there was only one of me, with just two 20’s in my pocket. My brother had been asking for change for one of his 20’s two days prior, and was laughed at by one of the men at PATH, People Assisting The Homeless, for having a twenty on him in the first place. How privileged am I to have that much money on my person?

One man had a cardboard sign in front of him that said something along the lines of: “imagine if you were in my shoes; you would want help too.” It struck my heart. How was it that people who could be so wealthy, and absolutely full of their own money, could ignore the pleas of the helpless surrounding them. There was no other way to describe this striking experience aside from just using one single word: hurtful.

There were people littering the streets of that gilded walk down the road of stars, with costumes of many kinds depicting famous figures. People laughed, and took pictures with them. It would be a lie to say I didn’t cry a little bit. They merely needed the money, and were probably degraded to costumes of people I’m sure they wanted to be; superheroes, movie stars, and the general rich public. There were at least six Spidermen along the way, blowing animal balloons, or just standing there. As my group walked by, imitating some web-slinging along the way, I couldn’t help but feel one thing: hurt. The work that AWB has been doing so far has been just a start to helping the people in need, almost hidden between the “land of fame and music” and “the happiest place on earth”.

With that one sentence, my life was changed.

Help Us Meet Our $100K Challenge Grant By 12/31

EOY 2013 Ungar

Shalom Chaverim,

My name is Naomi Solkowitz, I’m from Bethesda, Maryland and I hold the great privilege of serving as Young Judaea’s National Mazkira (president) this year.  I’m also a senior at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, and am looking forward to being a part of Year Course 2014-2015.

As National Mazkira, I do more than just participate in Young Judaea… I live it. As Young Judaea begins to rise on its own two feet, independent from Hadassah and blooming with new life and new blood, I’m writing to you, Judaeans of past and present, friends, and family for your help in ensuring that others like me can continue to see the world through the Young Judaea lens that has shaped me into a the leader I am.

Young Judaea has brought me around the world and around the United States.  I have worked in the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans and traveled to conventions and events all over the country; I have been a camper, and I’ve participated on Machon in Israel.

Through these programs, Young Judaea has taught me the difference between passive care and active change, and because of Young Judaea I refuse to do any less than the most I can do.

When I was 12 years old, my madricha at Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake stood me in front of a mirror and said, “See there?  Meet an incredible Zionist.” With that one sentence, my life was changed. 

Because of my experiences with Young Judaea, I am an activist and a conduit of change.  My presence and being are committed to the values I learned at Young Judaea and Young Judaea has consistently been committed to me.  I’m looking forward to Year Course, and to becoming a madricha at Camp Tel Yehudah and I’m looking forward to continue giving back to the movement that has given me so much.

I’m sure you are, too.

Thank you for your support,

Naomi Picture 2 cropped

Naomi Solkowitz
National Mazkira, Young Judaea


If you’ve already donated, thank you very much!

PS. As an independent organization for the first time in more than 50 years, we rely on your generosity. Please consider a gift of $180 or more to support a Judaean in need at camp or in Israel.

PPS. This is the year we need ALL our alumni, families and friends to step in. No one else will. You can give online at or contact Director of Development and Alumni Relations Jeffrey Cahn at or (646) 292-2394 with your offer of support or to volunteer.

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