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Ongoing Updates From The Joint Council of Mechinot

Jewish Peoplehood: The Joint Council and Jewish Agency sum up a special collaboration

This year, 700 students and staff from 11 Orthodox, secular, and traditional mechinot participated in Jewish Peoplehood, a special collaboration of the Jewish Agency and the Joint Council of Mechinot that seeks to connect mechina students to fundamental Jewish issues in Israel and the Diaspora

10/09/2020 - 23:35
Mechina students in discussion circles in Kiryat Moriya Mechina students in discussion circles in Kiryat Moriya

Collaboration between the Joint Council and the Jewish Agency continued in the 2019–2020 academic year with the AmiUnity initiative. The project’s goal is to increase mechina students’ sense of belonging to the Jewish people and engagement with fundamental Jewish issues in Israel and the Diaspora, thus inspiring them to be agents of change in those areas too. This year, the program used two components to produce an enriching learning experience. First was a preparatory lesson, delivered at mechina, in which mechina staff delivered structured content on the subject of Jewish peoplehood. Then, each participating mechina took part in at least one of a series of seminars.

The seminars focused on the three layers of peoplehood: a sense of belonging, knowledge, and active engagement. The first seminar was entitled The Jewish People: Brothers? Family? During it, participants talked about their sense of belonging to the Jewish people. A second seminar was titled The Jewish People: Who Are They and Who Are We? and featured an analysis of Israeli and Diaspora Jews and trends within each group. For a third seminar, The Jewish People: What’s Our Job?, participants went on a tour that focused on core issues in Israeli society and introduced the students to existing platforms for engagement.

עמיות יהודיתMechina students at a lecture in Kiryat Moriya

Adi Bin-Nun, a student at the Mechina of the Upper Galilee, described her experience at the first seminar: “We came together in Jerusalem that day from a number of mechinot, at the Jewish Agency’s buildings in Kiryat Moriya. We participated in discussions and talked about familiarity with Diaspora Jewry and strengthening the connection between Israel and the Diaspora. At the beginning of the day there was an excellent lecture about Avraham Infeld’s approach from which we learned about the five legs of the Jewish people and also Jewish peoplehood. After the lecture, we split up into small, diverse groups of students from all the mechinot that participated in the seminar, and there were a number of discussions and activities about the character of the Jewish people. Later in the day, we met with students from Jewish communities all over the world who are at Mechinat Kol Ami. They told us about their experience being in the educational program in Israel, together with Israeli teens. The day ended with an interesting lecture on demographic data about Diaspora Jews. The preparation we did at mechina for the day helped make it meaningful for us. The insights I took home from the day are that even a Jew who doesn’t live here is part of the Jewish people, and Israel is at the center, but you can feel a deep connection to it and live a Jewish life even if you aren’t here. The day motivated me to want to get to know my “family” (and made me sad because I don’t)—people who are geographically far from me, but share memories, a story, and an identity that are similar or identical to mine.”

More than 700 students and staff from 11 secular, traditional, and Orthodox mechinot took part in the joint project this year. Six of the seven planned seminars were held, but the last was canceled because of coronavirus-era restrictions on gatherings. The collaboration with the Jewish Agency plays a significant role in the creation of professional-grade content tailored to the mechinot, and in helping the students connect to Jewish peoplehood as a relevant and developing field of learning. Seminar participants expressed appreciation for the level of the content and the way the seminars influenced students. The eye-opening events successfully shone light on the Jews of the Diaspora and helped Israeli students look for the first time at Diaspora Jewry as a relevant topic that’s close to home.

Many thanks to all project staff at the Jewish Agency who helped make this year’s partnership a success.

עמיות יהודית 3Mechina students at a lecture in Kiryat Moriya

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