Yom Iyyun for Mel Reisfield

On Sunday, February 21st, nearly 400 Judaeans from around the world joing together for a special Yom Iyyun – Day of Learning – in memory of our teacher and friend, Mel Reisfield z”l, as we marked the end of shloshim

Welcome and D’var Torah (click to watch)
with Scott Copeland, Rabbi Leora Frankel, and Young Judaea CEO Adina Frydman

Mel’s challenge of being inward and outward facing: Panel featuring today’s Young Judaea leaders and staff (click to watch)
Mel Reisfield z”l, Allegra Wertheim, David Weinstein, Danny Tuchman,
Rabbi Adam Drucker, Cantor Adina Frydman. Music with Bill Slott.

Breakout Session 1

Ilan Wagner
The Changing Nature of the Relationship between American Jews and Israel

A brief historical review of different states in the relationship and a discussion of models to understand today’s relationships.

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Andrew Fretwell
Murder and Memory: Tom Quick and Tel Yehudah

The story of Tel Yehudah’s corner of the Delaware Valley is haunted by more than campfire ghosts. We will learn about TY’s unique placement in the story of Native American persecution, and explore what our responsibilities are as Tel Yehudans.

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Professor David Ruderman
The Study of Jewish History, Tel Yehudah, and Mel

The place of history in the shaping of Jewish identity at TY. A special look at a few of Mel’s well-known sichot through the eyes of a Jewish historian and close friend. l’s favorite sichot through the eyes of a Jewish historian and old friend.


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Professor Gil Troy
Mel’s Educational Mona Lisa? How the Jesus Sicha was Mel Reisfield’s Zionist Sermon on the Mount (as in Tel) 

Using some video clips of Mel’s Jesus Sicha we will explore what made him a master Zionist and Young Judaea’s Zionist Jesus – as in a teller of parables that brought ideas alive.

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Rabbi Sara Cohen
Religion and State in Israel: My Journey to becoming  a non-orthodox,  government-funded rabbi

Discussion about religious freedom and lack of religious freedom in Israel.


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Rabbi Pinchas Giller
From the Zohar to your last Tivul, The Recovery of the Land of Israel from the Kabbalah to Zionism

The Zohar, a work of the imagination, posited a mystical Galilee that was then appropriated by the kabbalists of Tzfat, the Hasidic movement, the first Zionist and latter day Edot ha-Mizrach.

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Breakout Session 2

Professor Emeritus Fred Lazin
Jews in American Politics at Ben Gurion University: A Zionist Perspective
Teaching Israeli students about American Jews. Is the American Jewish experience exceptional? Does it clash with a Zionist perspective?
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Steve Greenberg
Navigating the Pop Culture Minefield at Mel’s TY—and Israel

A discussion of the tensions between western popular culture and fostering a zionist environment at Tel Yehudah–and the State of Israel.

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Sharon Schoenfeld
Kachol v’Lavan: Expressions of Love for a new language

Mel loved to introduce the song Kachol V’Lavan, and we all know the story of the refusnik who wrote it, despite his poor command of the languague. We’ll listen and chat and share our love for Hebrew song.

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Don Futterman
Mel Reisfield, Resh Lakish & the Great Hairy Man – Why We Tell Stories & Why We Tell Stories About Mel

Why do we love to tell stories and listen to stories? And why have we been telling stories about Mel for these past 65 years?


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Laurie Ruskin, Esq. 
Pursuing Justice: Takin’ it to the Courts

 Showing solidarity with the civil rights movement marked Young Judaea’s enduring commitment to (beyond Jewish) social activism. But there are many creative ways to fight for social justice. 

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Dr. Steve Copeland
10 Very Short Texts I’ve Pasted Into My Siddur That Strike Me Hard Right There, Yes Right There, Here in my Upper Shoulder Upper Spirit Where Mel Stuck Us All

Please click on this link prior to the session to access our texts


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Breakout Session 3

Dr. Avi Mendelowitz
The Transformation of Israel and Zionism Since 1948

Mel Reisfield began his lifetime vocation as a Jewish and Zionist educator during the era of the founding of the State of Israel. We will review how the Zionist world has evolved since then and how Mel was able to continue to be relevant and inspiring.

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Professor Sharon (Reiss) Avni
Hakshivu, Hakshivu Na!
Hebrew at Tel Yehudah

This session focuses on the historical and contemporary role of Hebrew use at Tel Yehudah, including Hebrew announcements, cheers, signs, and songs.

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Cindy Greenberg
Tikkun Olam and The Parable of Rescuing the Babies in the River

Dr. Andi Meiseles
Shevet Achim Gam Yachad: Americans are from Mars, Israelis are from Venus?

What actual theory lies behind those funny stories we all tell about our experiences in Israel – or Shlichim experiencies at camp?

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Dr. Ian Stern
Mel Reisfield: The Ultimate Holistic Jewish Educator
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Dr. Eilon Schwartz
F**k!, ז**ן!:  Profanity, the Rebirth of the Hebrew Language, and Zionist Education

Mel famously ran the Ulpan at Tel Yehudah. And he had a foul mouth. These things are inextricably linked. We will look at how the rebirth of Hebrew was part of a desacralization of Jewish life, from the holy to the vernacular (with a few choice Mel stories mixed in), and reflect on tensions in that journey.

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Donate to the Mel Reisfield Memorial Fund

To further honor Mel’s memory, consider making a donation today in honor or memory of a teacher, madrich(a), merkez(et), shaliach(shlicha), or any YJ educator who had an influence on your life

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