The HUC-JIR School of Jewish Nonprofit Management (SJNM) hosted 16 HUC-JIR and USC students from diverse fields of study for the bi-annual Israel Seminar at the end of December. The 13-day lecture, discussion, and field intensive was centered in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, with a one day trip to Haifa.
Over the course of the two weeks, students explored various dimensions of contemporary Israeli society with an emphasis on the increasingly important Israeli third sector. Attention was given to both the macro and micro perspectives of nonprofit organizations inside modern Israeli society. Students also had the opportunity to examine the “Peoplehood Paradigm” and changing dynamics of Israel-Diaspora relations.
During their time in Israel, students interacted with several nonprofit leaders and organizations that work with marginal populations in Israel including asylum seekers, children of Russian immigrants, Ethiopians, Arab women, and Haredim in the workforce. They also met with an array of intellectual, cultural, religious, and political leaders, in order to cultivate personal networks with their counterparts in nonprofit management and leadership in Israel. Social service agencies, municipalities, and educational and cultural institutions participated in the program.
Richard Siegel, Director, SJNM, led the program and provided context and connection with other components of the SJNM educational agenda. Siegel stated, “Students came away with a better appreciation of Israeli nonprofits, particularly at a time when the government is moving away from a position of social democracy. Most important was for the students to understand the role of Israel in their future professional careers.” Rabbi Laura Geller, Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, CA, accompanied the group as a specialist on Progressive Judaism in Israel.
Attendee Becca Ross noted, “It was during this seminar that I was finally able to understand how both my views of Israel could meld into one. I was finally able to visualize and understand the complexities of the third sector, or the nonprofit world in Israel. I was able to see the creativity and strengths of the different non-profits and see how integral they are to the landscape of Israel.”
The bi-annual Israel Seminar is a core component of the education curriculum of the HUC-JIR SJNM, which is designed to give future Jewish professional leaders a deeper understanding of the social, political, and cultural dynamics of contemporary Israel.