By Dr. David Mendelsson, Director of the Year-In-Israel Program
This year’s Year-In-Israel cohort numbers 51 students of whom 38 are rabbinical (two more are starting temporarily stateside, making the total incoming rabbinical class 40), ten cantorial, and three education students. This is the second largest Year-In-Israel class in a decade, and there hasn’t been a larger incoming class in over a decade. The class is more diverse than in previous years. Age is one example. We have fifteen students aged 30 and over with a similar number with post-graduate degrees! 33 students identify as female, 17 as male, and two non-conforming. Diversity also expresses itself in the origins of the student body: We have two students from Canada, one from England, one from the Ukraine, and for the first time ever, one student from Uganda. The rest of the class is indeed from the USA! Another dimension of the diversity is in the denominational affiliation with some thirty percent of students previously affiliated to streams of Judaism other than Reform.
Ten students attended the pre-ulpan which is a month-long study program aimed at getting them to the required level to begin the mandatory summer ulpan.
We made changes to the summer course of study this year. We have moved the Biblical history classes into a week intensive class in the early Spring thus avoiding the intense heat of July-August. Instead we are offering classes in Parashat HaShavua, Foundations of Synagogue Practice and the History of Zionism.
The first week of the program was Orientation, aimed at getting students familiar with their immediate environment in and around the campus. Students also had the opportunity to visit the homes of some members of faculty and staff. We were delighted to have visit the campus at that time a slew of stateside faculty including the new Provost, Rabbi Andrea Weiss, Ph.D.; Rabbi Lisa Grant, Ph.D.; Rabbi Jan Katzew, Ph.D.; and Dr. Wendy Zeirler.
The events surrounding security issues in the north and on the Gaza border have not been experienced directly but of course they are the subject of discussion along with the Jewish Nation-State law and the recent law that denies surrogate rights to homosexuals. Students have shown considerable initiative in planning discussion groups, holding traditional tefillah, and hosting each other for Shabbat.
Rabbi Michael Marmur, Ph.D., has returned to the campus as faculty following his nine years as Provost of the College-Institute. We are excited for his integration into the faculty here. Rivki Rosner, our beloved teacher of Hebrew, will be returning to the college after a two-year leave of absence working on her doctorate the subject of which is the literary works of Etgar Keret. We are also delighted to have secured the services of Rabbi Josh Herman '14 who will be rabbi to the program.
During the summer students enjoyed the support of three rabbinical interns, Shira Gluck from our New York campus, Zoe McCoon from our Cincinnati campus, and Rodrigo Baumworcel from the Israel Rabbinical Program. They have acted as excellent role models illustrating to the incoming class how students grow through the College-Institute experience.
The incoming class seems to be adjusting well and the faculty and staff are excited to be continuing this sacred work.