2012 Foster Seminar in Israel


Recognizing the centrality of Israel in the lives of our Jewish communal professionals, the Hornstein Program has been sending students to Israel for close to 35 years. Indeed, many of you reading this participated in at least one, if not two, of these seminars. The goal has long been to expose the students to the complexities of modern Israel, helping them to shape their personal and professional relationships to the country in order to be in a position to educate others with whom they come in contact throughout their work lives.

Over the years, though, just as Israel has changed dramatically, so has our student body. Our students now come to us with better backgrounds in Hebrew and more in-country experience than ever before. Of our twelve returning students, for example, one is an Israeli and eight have spent at least four months in Israel. And, of the three remaining students, all have visited Israel at least once! This enhanced background has allowed the students to play an increasingly important role in planning the seminar itinerary and has opened up new opportunities for in-depth exploration of crucial issues. Our students have challenged us to expose them to even more thought-provoking viewpoints and to dig even deeper under the surface of Israeli life and culture.

Last year, to meet these challenges, we entered into a new partnership with the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis to offer a series of credit-bearing classes before and after the seminar. Then, in Israel, Jonathan Sarna, Hornstein Chair and the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis, continued to provide the students with an historical and contemporary context for their in-country visits and discussions.

Photo of Stav Shaffir, social justice movement leader, with Horstein students

This year's seminar took place from January 2-11 and focused on the themes of Social Justice, Issues in the South, and the Role of Minority Communities. Select highlights of the Seminar include:

Minority Communities

  • Russian: meeting with Fishka, a youth-oriented organization
  • Blind and deaf: Na Laga'at performance
  • African: site visit to African Refugee Development Center
  • Israeli-Arab: meeting with Forsan Hussein, CEO of the Jerusalem YMCA and Brandeis alumnus
  • Bedouin: visit to Abublal Community Tribe Elementary School and meeting with Rahat city mayor

Issues in the South

  • Settlement and security: meeting with resident of Susiya settlement
  • Tour of Gaza border and crossing
  • Developing the Negev: meeting with Ayalim village residents/volunteers

Social Justice in Israel

  • Meeting with Stav Shafir: leader of 2011 summer protests (photo above)
  • Torah and social justice: visit and volunteering opportunity at Bina secular yeshiva
  • Meeting at the Peres Center for Peace

Other HighlightsPhoto of Tel Aviv Graffiti Tour

Our Hornstein students' passion for Israel is infectious and heartening. In the coming years, we have no doubt that they will continue to challenge us, their teachers and colleagues, to delve deeper, to embrace the complexities of Israeli society, to help them become the kind of well-informed Jewish professionals our Jewish community needs and demands.

The Foster Seminar in Israel is funded by the Robert and Myra Kraft Israel Initiatives Fund at Brandeis University.

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