Year-In-Israel Orientation at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Year-In-Israel Program brings our rabbinical, cantorial, and full-time education students to our Jerusalem campus for their first year of study at HUC-JIR.  Surrounded by biblical and contemporary Israel, students begin their academic journey immersed in Hebrew language and text studies, as they get to know the land, culture, and people of Israel.  In no other place on earth will students find the rich and complex diversity of Jewish ethnic and religious identities, music, worship, ritual, and spirituality that have evolved across centuries and continents.  

During the Year-In-Israel Program, students are introduced to the intellectual, cultural, religious, and political leaders of Israeli society and define their role in the complex search for solidarity and mutual responsibility among Jews living in both Israel and the Diaspora.  Students forge relationships with Israeli peers leading the Reform congregations, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations shaping a pluralistic state.

Orientation for the Year-In-Israel Program was held from July 8-13, 2013. On Monday, July 8, a reception was held at the Murstein Synagogue for our incoming students. Dr. David Mendelsson, Director of the Year-In-Israel Program, and Nancy Lewitt, Head of Student Life for the Year-In-Israel Program, welcomed students to the Jerusalem campus.  The opening evening concluded on Mt. Zion, a ten minute walk from the Jerusalem campus, with niggunim, a presentation by Dr. Mendelsson on "Out of Zion in Contemporary Terms."

"One of the most meaningful programs was held on Monday evening when the students walked to Mount Zion and faced the new city," notes Dr. Mendelsson.  "Unlike their usual experience sitting in the Diaspora and facing Jerusalem, they were now looking outwards from the edge of the Old City and were asked to contemplate the prophetic call that 'From out of Zion would go forth Torah and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.'  I was joined by recently ordained Rabbis Leora Frankel, Daniel Bogard, Laila Hass, and Molly Kane, who each gave their own interpretation of the pasuk. The orientation thus not only marked the beginning of their sojourn in Jerusalem, but also the beginning of their journey to become rabbis, cantors, and educators." 

On Tuesday, July 9, Jack H. Skirball Campus rabbinical student Bess Wohlner and New York campus rabbinical student Brandon Bernstein, Year-In-Israel student interns, led Shacharit services at the Murstein Synagogue, followed by words of welcome from Rabbi Michael Marmur, Ph.D., Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost.  Dr. Mendelsson led a seminar on “Defining Expectations In and out of the Classroom.” Following lunch and a time to get to know one another, Year-In-Israel student interns Wohlner and Bernstein led a conversation that asked: What are our expectations of ourselves as students? What are our expectations of our classmates?  What are our expectations of the program, of the faculty and staff of the College-Institute?

Students and significant others enjoyed afternoon walks throughout different neighborhoods in Jerusalem on Wednesday, July 10. Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, toured Rehavia; and Jeremy Leigh, Head of Israel Studies at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, and Rabbi Moshe Silbershein, Lecturer on Rabbinics, toured Talpiot Mizrach.

On Thursday, July 11, Shacharit and Torah services were led by Cantor Tamar Havilio, Head of Cantorial Studies and the Prayer Workshop at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, and Rabbi Kelman presented the D’var Torah. Students were introduced to Zohara Pardes Feinstein, Summer Ulpan Coodinator and Hebrew and Rabbinic Text Study Teacher, and Dr. Joel Duman, who teaches Biblical Archeology in the summer and Bible teacher during the fall and spring semesters. Jeremy Leigh and Dr. Mendelsson presented “Better, Worse, Different?” followed by a wrap up and a time for questions with Dr. Mendelsson, Nancy Lewitt, and Helen Linden, Administrative Assistant to the Year-In-Israel Program.  Yossi Klein Halevi, Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, presented the keynote lecture on “How to Frame Your Year-In-Israel.”  That evening, Year-In-Israel students participated in a program ירושלים שלי - My Jerusalem, led by students in our Israeli Rabbinical Program and students from Hebrew University.

On Friday evening, July 12, Year-In-Israel student interns Wohlner and Bernstein led a pre-Kabbalat Shabbat program and Kabbalat Shabbat, and Rabbi Marmur presented the D’var Torah. Following services, students, faculty, staff, and significant others gathered together for dinner followed by Z’mirot.  On Motzei Shabbat, a meaningful closing ceremony and Havdallah were led by the student interns, concluding the orientation program for the Year-In-Israel Program.

Our students invite you to read their blogs and follow their journeys in the Year-In-Israel Program:

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HUC-JIR is the academic leader in placing Israel at the center of Jewish studies:  the first seminary to inaugurate the required Year-In-Israel Program for all rabbinical and cantorial students – a model that has since been adopted by all other accredited liberal Jewish seminaries, and the first institution to require the Year-In-Israel for full-time students in our M.A. in Jewish Education/Religious Education programs.

VIDEO: To learn more about our Jerusalem campus, and to hear from our students and faculty, click here.

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All photos courtesy of Jesse Paikin, first-year rabbinical student, Year-In-Israel Program, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu