Source: eJewish Philanthropy
Birthright is an amazing, eye-opening adventure. What is also true, is that a well-designed extension program which gives participants time to reflect on their initial tour, deepening their connection to Jewish spirituality and community, will result in an even greater impact. After all the effort and resources invested in bringing the participants to Israel, it is worth our while to ensure that the experience is maximized.
Israel is a paradigmatic entry point to a path of Jewish exploration and discovery. However, we have to ask ourselves: are we sending participants home with sufficient tools and resources, to help them stay connected after the experience?
After being one of the original Birthright trip providers for the first nine years, Livnot U’Lehibanot began offering extension programs instead. These programs have run for the past six years, without a major sponsor, due to the determination of a team of dedicated educators and staff, with support from alumni and long-time friends of Livnot. We are grateful that the Jim Joseph Foundation has now awarded a grant to help support our one-week Northern Exposure extension, that enriches the Birthright experience.
Livnot is a Jewish supermarket of ideas and resources. Participants are encouraged to take an item ‘off the shelf,’ read the ingredients, ask questions, taste and smell, then put it in their cart, or not, and try something else. Jewish heritage, culture, religion, and spirituality can speak to anyone’s soul if presented in the right setting. Our message is simply to ‘do Jewish;’ there are many ways, and it’s not ‘all or nothing.’ And, with the pressure off, and no religious agenda, real growth and connection can begin. No one leaves with an empty cart. Livnot alumni carve their own Jewish path, and we’re proud of them, wherever it leads to. It doesn’t have to look the same … I would even say that it shouldn’t look the same. It’s pluralism at its best.
Meaningful service projects create a special bond to the Land and People of Israel. Jewish values, relevant to today, are ‘harvested’ from nature while trekking through waterfalls and 1,500 year-old synagogues. The climax of transmitted Jewish content is found in a unique and authentic Shabbat experience. At Livnot, Shabbat is not a spectator event where you watch someone else go through the routine. Even though, for most, this is the first traditional Shabbat of their lives, they are active participants in creating its celebration. Some are preparing physical food, while a few are cooking up ‘food for thought,’ and others are gearing up to lead the songs, etc. We welcome any of you who would like to view the programs ‘in action’ to visit our Tzfat campus and join the activities.
Read the entire article at eJewish Philanthropy.