Keeping it positive, Positively Israel

JNF’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) is proud to announce that it will be hosting its largest Spring Semester session in its 43 year history with 61 students attending the 4 month, full semester.  The Spring sessions will total 314 students, including Day School and Communal partners. Never have so many students registered for a single semester (Fall or Spring!).  How wonderful it is that such a statement can be made today with all the focus on negative messaging and headlines found in main stream media.

At a time uncertainty, there is a success story inspiring the lives of people across the globe – it is Israel.

Here at AMHSI we do just that; we empower our students, our next generation, to discover their own entry point to the beautiful and inspiring, complex narrative of our people joining past, present, and future.   It is through the study of our narrative that we uncover our people’s shear resilience and perspective on life.  Innate to the Jewish DNA, we have been raised to see life and our world filled with infinite potential, with opportunity – and not tragedy.  Existing with one foot in “the world as it is” while the other in “the world as it should be” frees us from the distractions of our material world allowing us to dream of, and aspire towards, a better world.

This approach to positive perspectives leads to positive outcomes.  It’s having a winning attitude that drives us to be bold and innovative, dedicated and inspired to dream.  The same can be said for successful sports teams, corporations, and causes.   Zionism, for example, is a successful cause, perhaps the most successful in organized human history; after all, the movement ended 2,000 years of wandering reuniting a people with their homeland.

For over 100 years the Zionist manifestation has been supported by a multitude of organizations, led by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and through the JNF’s purpose driven mission we celebrate Israel’s accomplishments with an eye towards what tomorrow could bring if only we dare to dream.  JNF’s highlighted Positively Israel campaign is just an example of all there is to celebrate, and with a click of a button you too can discover all that Israel does to make our world better.

The Alexander Muss High School in Israel’s role is anchored in its pedagogical approach to teen immersion and the academic study of history.  With a proven track record servicing over 24,000 alumni throughout its 43 years of existence – AMHSI is making a tremendous impact.  As pioneer of the High School in Israel semester abroad market, AMHSI continues to dream big, planning an even greater global impact bringing Jewish youth from around the world, ensuring our next generation’s collective link to Jewish continuity and Israel connectivity.

We are a resilient people; our next generation must know this.  As JNF-AMHSI continues to get the good word out there, we look forward to celebrating and welcoming our largest session in history.  To our students, families, friends and supporters, the message is clear – Am Yisrael Chai.

For more information please visit our website: www.amhsi.org or contact info@amhsi.org

Continuous Revelation: Transforming tomorrow’s generation today

LeorAmhsiTransmission of Jewish continuity and Israel connectivity does not take place in the formal classroom setting on its own.  Israel and Jewish education must include an experiential component; it is through experientialism that our children explore and discover meaning that they can connect to.  Transmission to the recipient in a more practical – less theoretical – approach provides the individual the opportunity to explore the multi-faceted complexities of any given data, an experience rooted in intellectual, emotional and internal ties to the information that is experienced.  Israel studies are rooted in such an exploratory experience.  The explorative process of walking the land with primary sources in hand, of utilizing Israel as the classroom provides the kind of experience that reveals a level of comprehension not found in formal Jewish education.  This type of revelation is continuous if experienced properly.  Continuous revelation, discovering answers to questions, permeates throughout Israelite practice, Rabbinic Judaism as well as Zionism, all firmly rooted in taking action – experientialism.  It was only after Jacob’s wrestling with God’s presence on earth was his name changed to Isra-el, as it was explained: for you have struggled with God and with humanity and have prevailed (Genesis 32:28).  Jacob underwent a transformation, as did the Children of Israel who upon revelation at Sinai transformed to the People of Israel and later on to the Nation of Israel, all experiential, all transformative, and all-purpose driven journeys.  Today’s Zionism, part and parcel of this continuum of revelation, seeks its next exposé.  Early Zionist idealism left no room for debate for the future of Israel.  Early Zionist thought was fed by visions of utopia, of an Israel that would be perfect and once it came to be, the modern nation-state would initiate a wave of understanding and co-existence resulting in a utopic global community.  And yet our people’s desire to realize the utopian vision of our founding ancestors ought not to remain an end within itself, rather an endless means of continuous purpose, through the constant experiencing of things, which purpose is realized.  Indeed we ought not to expect anything less; we should definitely strive to build a world anchored in universal values of peace and harmony – imagining the world as it could be tomorrow – tempered in co-existence with the world as it is today.  The quagmire we the People of Israel, global Jewry, currently find themselves in is of nothing less than apathy; an apathy that is self-inflicted, but can be lifted.  Being apathetic is quite simple as indifference has no emotional or intellectual capacity; lifting the veil of apathy requires nothing more than effort and desire.  Question is: what do we as a collective, the People of Israel, desire?  At the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, transmission of Jewish memory, history, and belonging to something greater then self is an active undertaking. Through the passage of knowledge, experiential field trips, and activities, our educators encourage students to forge their link to the chain of transmission.  Extended programs in Israel provide the participant with the effective bandwidth of space and time to explore and discover their entry point visa vie identity, peoplehood and Israel whether through a historical lens, religion and philosophy, arts and culture, politics and sociology, environmentalism and more.  We know that this next generation wants to belong and wants to lead, as generations of past have.  This generation also wants to ask the difficult questions, the type of questions asked by the sages of the Talmud and commentators of the Torah who all attempt to make sense of the their world and their purpose, why should this next generation be any different?  Should they not be urged to explore, ask questions, and find answers to their understanding of identity, tradition, peoplehood and Israel?  This is a next-generation tasked with guiding the world’s greatest and fastest information systems.  They are told to dream, be creative and take initiative.  The invitation to be bold is embedded within information technology’s open-access approach to impacting and acquiring knowledge, and it is years ahead of traditional Jewish learning and pedagogy as we know it.  Yes there have been major strides to Jewish learning around the world.  The strides, in part, have to do with recognizing that long-term experiential learning is engaging, and when applied to formal study increases the chances of a lasting impact bound in the intellect of the mind and wisdom of the heart.  It is time for the People of Israel to agree on matters as they pertain to our next generation, to our collective future.  We mustn’t deny this next generation’s privilege of standing atop the shoulders of our ancestors, as we all do today, rather we must trust those who are next in line and embolden them to take the lead. To ask the difficult questions, to struggle and debate, give and take, as have those who have come before us.  It is only through this process of experiencing Israel and Jewish learning; of exploring the unknown and asking “why” will we find that we have been successful in the age old transmission from generation to generation, of transforming tomorrow’s generation today.

 

 

 

Rabbi Leor Sinai, co-Executive Director at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel.

Who is a righteous person, a tsadik?

So who is a righteous person, a tsadik? Is one born a righteous person? Or does one evolve to become – a righteous person? Was it Noah? Abraham? Two weeks ago we read about Noah, and that he was a righteous man – within his generation; well what does that tell us about Noah? After all, didn’t God destroy that generation, ‘that world’, for it was evil? So then how righteous was Noah in comparison to that society? I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but with some logic we can arrive to some conclusions. In this last week’s Torah portion, Lech L’cha – go forth for your self – Abram leaves his homeland, leaves his birthplace and leaves his father’s home.  He goes against all that he was brought up on, turns his back on his past, on his own father, the traditions and values he was brought up on, the gods of his ancestors and decides he knows better.  Sounds like quite the rebel.  What would you have to say were your son/daughter to do the same? “Mom, Dad, I disagree with everything you’ve taught me; I’m outta here!” And then there’s his treatment of his own family: 1. During a visit to Egypt he asks his wife, then named Sarai (later changes to SaraH), to introduce him to the Egyptians as her brother so as not to endanger his life for Sarai was very attractive and Abram didn’t want to be perceived as a threat to anyone who wanted her, so he lied to save himself!  Not the most righteous, eh? 2. and then there’s his treatment of his concubine Hagar and their son – Ishmael, sending them off to the wilderness in order to appease Sarai (when she in fact offered Hagar to Abram for Sarai bore no children – at the time)? His own flesh and blood, sent away.  In this week’s Torah portion, VeYera, we arrive to a new Abram, now known as AbraHam. Abraham seeks to please others.  The portion begins with him sitting at the entrance of his tent in the middle of the desert – in great pain, having had his Brit Milah, covenantal circumcision, at the end of the previous scene; he was 99 yrs old.  As he has his ‘sit down’ with God, bearing the pain, and who knows what they were discussing, Abraham sees three ‘individuals’ walking in the distance, coming his way. He puts his one-on-one with God on pause (who does that?!) and quickly jumps up to welcome these three strangers into this home.  He asks Sarah to cook up a storm, washes these strangers’ feet and provides them shelter from the desert wilderness – what a mentch!  The sages teach us that ‘Hachnasat Orchim’, welcoming guests, is one of the greatest of all Mitzvoth – one that even God is willing to be ‘second’ to in importance. So who is a righteous person? Is one born a righteous person? Or with time, does one evolve to become – a righteous person, a better person? I don’t know, but I do think that these biblical characters are human, just like you and I, and we have what to learn from them. It is never too late to be a mentch, a tsadik, a righteous person.  Let us live and learn! Shavua tov – wishing all a wonderful and productive week. Love & Light from Israel.

On this day, what would Dr. Martin Luther King say? Dream on.

In 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream that “…this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: …that all men are created equal.” Dr. King’s dream extended beyond healing African-American suffering; his vision included “…all men…” society as a whole. Seventy years earlier, in 1895, Theodor Herzl shared his vision for Jewish emancipation when he stated that “…the world will be liberated by our freedom…” (Der Judenstaat, “The Jewish State”).

 
In both movements the calls for freedom and self-determination for a specific group has the potential to extend beyond that particular group. The power of healing ourselves can extend to healing others. But how can we help ensure that dreams for a better world are realized when injustice continues in our world? When our own leadership fails to protect innocent women, men, and children in Syria, Iran and other war-torn oppressive countries for the sake of self-interests? When instead of feeding the poor, we feed the coffers of dictators and radicals who continue to spew words of hate and death – all in the name of “keeping the quiet”.
 
Martin Luther King Day should not be marked simply as a memorial day. It is a day of action; a day that inspires us to imagine and realize the collective dream of a better tomorrow.
It has been nearly half a century since Dr. King shared his dream, and over a century since Herzl shared his. Yet, the passage of time has placed the greater potential of those dreams further from our grasp. Today, sharing in Dr. King and Herzl’s visions means that we must move from merely longing for what might be in the future and rather focus on what can be in the present. Acting out Dr. King or Herzl’s dream is a continuous journey; a journey whose very purpose is in the present.
 
Paramount in both dreams is identifying the common denominator that unites a people. For the African-Americans in the 1960s, it was a common struggle against hundreds of years of slavery, oppression, and inequality based on color. For the Jews in Herzl’s time, it was a struggle to put the Jewish collective back on track following 2,000 years of wandering and persecution.
 
However, for the Jewish People of today, who cannot recall what life was like before the establishment of the state of Israel, the dream as described by Herzl may seem irrelevant. After all, the pogroms of Europe and Czarist Russia and the Shoah (Holocaust) are distant in our collective memory. Today we must face the challenges presented by the disintegration of the social fabric of Jewish Peoplehood, in Israel and around the world.
 
When citizens of the world remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his march for equality, I am inspired. I am inspired to reclaim my Zionism from those who have hijacked my identity, from those who attempt to isolate my Zionism from my Judaism.
 
What is my Zionism? My Zionism is served by “Tikun Olam”, healing the world – BUT before I go ahead and heal the world, I engage in “Tikun Israel”, a healing of Israel: Israel the geo-political nation state, Israel the spiritual struggle and wrestling with God and self, and Israel the People (Jewish Peoplehood).
It is an old concept, really. This week’s Torah portion reflects Moses’ engagement in this Tikun as he works hard to get the Israelites out of Egypt, out of the slave mindset and into the Exodus narrative; as did Herzl when he engaged in “Tikun Israel” by convincing the world and the Jewish People that the answer to the Jewish question was a return to Zion.
 
Sixty-five years after the establishment of the modern-nation state, our work is far from over, our return to Zion is incomplete.As supporters of the Civil Rights Movement stand proud in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, continuing to realize his dream for justice and equality, Zion has arrived at a fork in the road. Will Jews worldwide remember from where they came? Or will they forget and by doing not know to where they are going? Will the government of Israel serve the purpose of Zion and the Jewish State by welcoming all Jews despite their religious affiliation, or will political machinations trump Am Yisrael, Jewish Peoplehood? And finally if we do not heal ourselves, how can we ever truly heal others?
 
Today we stand atop the shoulders of past visionaries to become inspired by the potential of the journey ahead, a journey that started at Exodus, inspired Dr. King to lead his people to the “Promised Land”, and moved Herzl to declare the founding of the Jewish State fifty years prior to its establishment. This is a journey that will continue to realize its potential so long as individuals recognize the need to engage in healing.
 
When Israeli citizens go to the polls tomorrow for elections, the international community and Jews worldwide wait to see the make-up of the next government of Israel. For the sake of Zion and making this world a better place – I think of Dr. King and Herzl, and I too dream. I dream that the road to Tikun Olam leads through Tikun Israel, hopefully you do too.