Alumni Year Course 1971 Reunites 50 Years Later

By Young Judaea

By Fanny Korman, Cyndi Schoenbrun, and Steven Rubinstein Year Course 1971

On September 22, 1971, over 70 Young Judaeans boarded an El Al charter plane with one carry-on and one large piece of luggage enroute to Israel to begin their Year Course program. They landed in Ben Gurion the next day, on September 23. Their luggage, shipped by boat, took over one month to reach them at Beit Riklis their new home on Mount Scopus, Jerusalem.

Almost exactly to the date by the Hebrew Calendar and 50 years later on September 12, 2021, 59 of our chaverim and madrichim living in 8 different time zones from California to Israel connected on Zoom to kick off a joyful celebration of this very special anniversary! Then and now, Young Judaea Year Course program is one of the top gap-year programs in Israel, run by the oldest Zionist youth movement in the United States.

The 1971-72 group was to be the last single track Year Course.  It was a relatively peaceful and unique year, only four years since the 6-Day War and two years before the Yom Kippur War. Located on Mt Scopus, Beit Riklis was located across the road from the new campus being built for Hebrew University. Members of that Year Course had access to numerous locations that are only visited these days by a select few and under heavy guard. They were able to freely travel to and from Beit Riklis to the Old City through East Jerusalem; the trek by foot to the Kotel through the Arab quarter was a popular activity on Shabbat. For example, this lucky group was able to visit the Dome of the Rock and explore the site and visit the mosque without any concerns for their safety.

The celebration began with a message from Joe Wernick, who just celebrated his 80th birthday and was Year Course director at that time. He was followed by Adina Frydman, CEO of Young Judaea Global, who shared some warm remarks. Year Course participants were fortunate to be joined by madrichim Buzzy Gordon, Bonne Reiser and Alan Hoffman.

The event started with a slide show compiled from photos taken by and sent in by Year Course chevrei; roommates, friends, classmates, involved in educational activities, tiyulim, working on kibbutz and moshav, holiday celebrations and of course chofesh – life as it happened – during the 10-month period when this group resided in Israel, not as tourists but as students and members of a community.

A special commemorative segment paid tribute to the six chaverim that passed away sometime within the past 40 years. The connection to each other and the deceased chaverim was felt deeply as was demonstrated by the moving comments made following the tribute.

Everyone took part in breakout rooms, taking the opportunity to figure out where the last 50 years has gone and more importantly recalling the impact Year Course had on their lives then and now. The opportunity to schmooze informally was truly a highlight. It left this group of Judaeans clamoring for more time to reminisce, remember and reconnect.

It took many volunteers and a big effort to make this event happen successfully. All who participated in the planning and creation of the various aspects for the celebration gave of their time with love and gratitude for the privilege of having attended Year Course 1971-72. Plans are now being made for follow up events to continue celebrating the 50th anniversary year throughout the next few months!

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