Young Judaea opened its Year Course program on Thursday night with shofars
blasting, welcoming young men and women to “the best year of your lives” at an
opening ceremony in the capital.
Year Course, a nine-month program for
Jewish high school graduates from America, Britain, Canada, Sweden, Denmark,
Belgium and France, is one of the largest gap year programs in Israel. This is
its biggest year yet, with 320 participants.
“You are the elite of the
Jewish people,” said Barbara Goldstein, the deputy director of Hadassah’s Israel
office, in her remarks to the crowd. “You will go forth and be the ambassadors
on every college campus, you will be the ambassadors of the Jewish
Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is Young
Judaea’s parent organization.
The group will rotate between apartments in
Jerusalem, Arad and Bat Yam, participating in community service and
about the different facets of Israeli society.
In addition to university
classes in Judaism, Zionism and Hebrew, they can choose from specialized
focusing on medicine, cooking, business and sports.
For the first time,
16 specially trained participants will spend February volunteering at
Agahozo Shalom Youth Village for orphans in Rwanda, which is modeled
Israeli youth villages.
“You come from different homes and backgrounds,
and you each have a different voice,” former deputy minister of social
Diaspora affairs Rabbi Michael Melchior told the enthusiastic
“What I want you to do this year is two things: listen to the
voices... You’re coming to a new country, here there are a lot of
voices. Then make up your own mind, make up your own Torah, make up your
And go out and create you part... and we need your voice today
in our beautiful, young, frustrating, challenging society.”
Year Course program coincides with the 100th anniversary of
“This year there has been a lot of initiative to contribute to
Israeli society,” Dan Krakow, Young Judaea’s Israel director, told The
Participants will join volunteer groups dedicated to refugees from
Darfur and victims of environmental disasters or terrorism. Many of them
research on their groups before they arrived in Israel.
“You hear it in
the conversations and the speeches, this emphasis on activism,” Krakow
“We’re a Zionist movement, we’re about changing the world, strengthening
strengthening the Jewish people, and dealing with challenges.”
participants arrived on Tuesday, the day terrorists killed four people
on Route 60.
“It was shocking,” said Harry Mandeles, a Year Course
participant from Washington, DC.
“It was terrible to hear about, and we
had a long discussion about it. It opening my eyes to the fact that the
always goes through hard times and we have to work for a better
With parents watching a live broadcast of the opening ceremony,
the group sang, danced and mugged for the camera, ecstatic to be
year in Israel.
“I’m looking forward to gaining an understanding and
appreciation of my people, an ancient nation and a new state,” said Gabi
from Newton, Massachusetts. “And I’m also looking forward to finding a