Helyn B. Reich Scholarship Recipients, Spring 2014

Meet the Recipients

The American Zionist Movement is pleased to announce the winners of the Spring 2014 Helyn B. Reich Memorial Scholarship Fund Award. All the winners are dedicated to Israel and are proud to spend time living and working there, strengthening their commitment to Zionism.

 

Amy AlbertsonThis fall, Amy Albertson will attend Israel Way – Tel Aviv Internship Experience, gaining valuable professional experience at her internship and exploring Israeli culture in the volunteer element of her program. While in college at the University of Portland, Amy was extremely vocal about her support of Israel. She spoke up against anti-Israel groups on campus, even when she was verbally attacked.

Amy started a pro-Israel group, Cultural and Historical Association for Israel (CHAI), which advocated for a more positive image of Israel and encouraged engagement with Israel education and programming. The group also worked with Hillel, StandWithUs, and the Jewish Student Union to plan pro-Israel events and rallies on campus. As Zionists, Amy says, we should not only carry on the legacy of great Zionist leaders but should also “remind the world that the Jewish people have the same right to self‐determination as all other people and spread the truth that the State of Israel remains a beacon of light among the nations.”

Keep up with Amy’s experiences in Israel on her blog, http://www.4monthsatsea.com/.

 

JacobKahana_PhotoGrowing up, Jacob Kahane visited Israel almost every summer to spend time with family, including his grandmother, who was a fifth-generation Jerusalemite, and his grandfather, who had moved to Palestine in the 1930s to escape persecution in Ukraine. Jacob wants to continue to focus on community, and hopes the experiences he has and the relationships he forges in Israel will help him define his Jewish identity.

Jacob will be attending Israel Career Experience, where he will work at a technology start up. Though his professional background is in art direction and graphic design, he is currently learning computer code, and believes that Tel Aviv, with its strong startup and technological markets, will be the ideal place to perfect his new skill.

“Zionism will always be about building, cultivating and protecting the state of Israel. But for me, over the last decade, the definition has expanded to included building, cultivating and protecting a Jewish community, wherever I go,” said Jacob.

 

PhotoDespite being raised in an increasingly Catholic home, over the past few years Elise Kowan has embraced her father’s Judaism. While on a Birthright trip, she immediately felt a connection with Israel and has learned more about Judaism and Hebrew ever since, looking forward to her return to the country.

Elise will be attending Career Israel in Tel Aviv, working with a fashion designer. “I believe that being Zionist today means that you feel Israel is the Holy Land and is your home as a Jew…it is [crucial] to preserve Israel so that future generations can feel the same [connection] that each Jew is destined to experience,” she said.

 

photo croppedFor Avishai Schlesinger, anything related to Israel ignites a spark in him. In high school, he visited Israel with a B’nei Akiva trip and later attended a yeshiva in Israel as well. This passion pushed him to participate in myriad Israel-related organizations at the University of Maryland, including a Jewish a capella group, religious services, and numerous advocacy-related events on campus.

Avishai’s professional goals are to work in production and digital media. He will be interning at a production company in Tel Aviv through Israel Experience, and hopes to grow professionally as well as better understand Israeli culture. Ultimately, Avishai would like to move to Israel, and believes this program will help him with professional, social, and religious opportunities.

“I believe that the State of Israel has been the foundation for the continued existence of the Jewish people for the past 65 years, and that promoting Zionism should be an essential goal of every Jewish community around the world,” he said.

 

photoNaomi Weisz’s parents raised her to be very active in the Jewish community and to appreciate the importance of the State of Israel. She knows that, growing up in the Former Soviet Union, both her parents did not have the opportunity to learn about Judaism; moving forward, Naomi wants to help those with similar ethnic backgrounds engage in Judaism and Israel.

Naomi will be attending Career Israel in Tel Aviv, and is excited to improve her Hebrew. “Zionism cannot be separated from both cultural and religious identity. Being a Zionist today does not merely mean to believe in a Jewish state, it means having the ability to protect the significance and legitimacy of a Jewish State,” she said.

 

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Cafe Ivrit Yoga Edition – Alef Bet Yoga!

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Join the American Zionist Movement for Cafe Ivrit Yoga Edition. A Professional Yoga instructor will give a yoga class in Hebrew. All levels of Hebrew welcome. No special knowledge of Hebrew or Yoga is required.

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NYers Socialize in Hebrew at Cafe Ivrit…Pub Edition!

On Tuesday, August 20, more than 30 Israelis and Americans networked b’ivrit at Café Ivrit…Pub Edition!, the first event for ViZionYLD’s Hebrew immersion-based series for young professionals. At this Hebrew-only zone, guests mingled over beera, chummus, and the always-popular Bamba in a private room at Hudson Station, discussing everything from their favorite TV shows to their latest travels in Hebrew.

Participants played sheshbesh (backgammon), the Hebrew-version Bananagrams and even “lechu dag,” the literal translation of the card game “Go Fish.” Native Hebrew speakers guided conversations, encouraging guests with all levels of fluency to use Hebrew for even mundane communications such as introducing themselves and asking for directions. Even beginners sung along with the Israeli music playing in the background and appreciated the historical posters of pre-State Israel.

Many participants had spent time in Israel on programs run by Masa Israel Journey, which co-sponsored this event. Since their return to New York, some missed Israel and its culture; they were thrilled to be in an environment filled with Hebrew and Israeli-themed activities and to feel like they were back in Israel for an evening.

To see more photos of this fantastic event, please visit our Facebook page.

 

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Learn Hebrew with ViZionYLD and Masa Israel Journey

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Join ViZionYLD & Masa Israel for an evening of informal Hebrew networking. Practice your Hebrew-speaking skills over beera and chummus with other young professionals. Chat with young Israelis, and schmooze b’ivrit at the bar! Café Ivrit is a new initiative that uses the Hebrew language to further connect young professionals to their Jewish identity & the State of Israel.
The series uses a holistic approach of immersion and experiential learning to engage and inspire.

All levels are welcome. Yallah, Nu!!
Light Israeli refreshments will be served.

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AZM Brings Layla Lavan to New York City

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The first New York  Layla Lavan took place on Wednesday evening, July 17th in the midst of one of the worst heat waves in years.  An annual event in Tel Aviv, Layla Lavan was first instituted there as an all-night cultural festival in 2003 to mark UNESCO’s awarding it World Heritage status.  The record-breaking hot and humid weather was no deterrent for the Manhattan revelers who flocked to the west side for “a taste of Israel”  in New York.

From young professionals and local Israelis to BirthRight and Masa returnees, more than 200 New Yorkers made their way to Hudson Station on West 35th Street to enjoy felafel, sabich, bourekas and limonana with blue and white drinks while listening to contemporary Israeli music, speaking Hebrew at the Cafe Ivrit, walking the indoor “shuk” and getting henna tatoos .  A very unique part of the program was a beer tasting table, where participants had the opportunity to test “Lost Tribes Beer”, micro-brews based on  ancient Middle Eastern recipes. Awesome!

AZM organizers described the first annual Layla Lavan as a pilot project that they hope will grow into an annual Israeli cultural summertime party and festival in New York.  As they see it, Layla Lavan  will eventually expand into different venues and flow onto the streets, reflecting a variety of Israeli cultural expressions and the vibrancy of Tel Aviv, the White City,  at night.  Meanwhile, one of those who attended this year summed it up for a lot of people when he wrote on the FaceBook event page “To the organizers of this event: This was one of the best events I have attended in a long time. Thank you for putting it all together!”

View pictures from the event here!

 

 

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Helyn B. Reich Scholarship Recipients, Fall 2013

Meet the Recipients

The American Zionist Movement is pleased to announce the winners of the Fall 2013 Helyn B. Reich Memorial Scholarship Fund Award. All the winners are passionate about Israel and the committee is proud to help them maintain a strong connection with Zionism and with Judaism.

StephanieBabcockStephanie Babcock became passionate about Israel in college, and was an active member of Hillel as well as a co-founder of the first pro-Israel group on campus. To strengthen her connection with Israel, Stephanie visited Israel on a Birthright trip, learning about the country’s history and culture in a whirlwind tour.

Stephanie will be attending Israel Teaching Fellows for the upcoming year, where she will teach English to Israeli students.

In the future, Stephanie plans to remain engaged with Israel and pro-Israel advocacy through a career in government. She vows to continue her fight for social justice and to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations. “Branching out in this way, to me, is the embodiment of what Zionism means today: not only knowing what Zionism was and is, but being a part of what it can become,” she said.

 

Chantelchantel Braley’s passion for Israel was ignited on her first visit there, for her Bat Mitzvah. Overwhelmed by the kindness and inclusiveness of the Jewish community, she vowed to give back to it. And she has kept that promise, studying religion and Jewish studies in university, working and volunteering for local Jewish organizations, and taking Hebrew classes at an Israeli ulpan. This fall, Chantel will be attending the World Union for Jewish Students (WUJS) Arts Tel Aviv program, where she will have an arts-related internship as well as studio time to further develop her portfolio.

Chantel is a talented artist, and has written and illustrated several children’s books. Her goal is to create children’s literature in both Hebrew and English to foster positive relationships between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, focusing on tolerance, multiculturalism, and diversity. “My personal connection with Zionism is one of political, spiritual, and personal passion, and because I am operating from an American perspective, I see my main means of Zionist expression tied to the diaspora responsibility of Israel advocacy and protection,” she said.

Chantel is an advocate of upholding Zionism’s vision of universal values, social justice, and equality, and believes that Palestinian Arabs should also have a right to national sovereignty. She contends that “contemporary Zionism must embrace and work toward the democratic concept that all citizens have a right to life, liberty, and happiness,” and hopes she can contribute to that goal.

 

Pele photo Pele IrgangLaden is the director of Habonim Dror year-round programming in Philadelphia.  He  has been a strong supporter of Israel for many years in both a social and professional capacity. He has attended numerous programs in Israel, including his gap year, which he spent living and working on Kibbutz Ein Dor, volunteering in schools and after-school programs in the town of Carmiel, and taking classes about Zionism, Jewish history, and Hebrew.

Pele  is involved in many local Jewish events and wants to continue his commitment to Judaism by making Aliyah and working in education in Israel. Pele plans to attend the University of Haifa for a semester, and is excited to improve his Hebrew and to take advantage of the diversity of religions and cultures in Haifa.

“Theodor Herzl said that ‘Zionism is a constant revolution,’ and the next goals of Zionism are to realize the injustices within Israel and the world. We must work tirelessly towards justice, equality, and peace to actualize the modern dream of Zionism,” says Pele.

 

Sarah photoSarah Marasco’s relationship with Judaism is what some would call unique. Raised in an interfaith family, she attended Catholic school and was not connected to her Jewish roots. When offered the opportunity to attend a high school program in Israel, Sarah embraced the opportunity and, once there, felt a strong and immediate connection to Judaism, even celebrating her Bat Mitzvah at the age of 17.

Sarah will be attending Tel Aviv University as undergraduate student. She is excited to learn more about Judaism and the State of Israel and hopes to use her experiences to teach others about Judaism’s rich history and culture. Though Sarah has not yet decided on her exact career path, she knows she will spend her life defending Israel and dispelling the lies and slander that are spread about the country. She plans to work towards ensuring peace and understanding and to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel. “I believe that peace comes through knowledge and understanding, and that by simply spreading the truth about Israel and its practice, hate can be defeated and peace achieved,” she said.

 

sethmarkinThough Seth Markin’s first trip to Israel was when he was in his twenties, he had heard about it since he was a child. His grandparents, who had helped found Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva University and had been visiting Israel during the Six Day War, had felt very strongly about Israel and told him stories that remained with him. So when Seth arrived in Israel on a Birthright trip, he immediately felt at home.

Seth will be returning to Israel as an Israeli Government Fellow and is excited to learn more about Judaism and Zionism. His program includes both an internship at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he will review United Nations memoranda, and an educational component comprised of seminars and day trips.

Seth hopes that his internship will teach him learn how to deal with conflict effectively and will help him reach his professional goals when he returns to the United States and begins law school. “Zionism is more than just advocating the Jewish sovereign state, it’s actively supporting it – it is making Israel a place where those who have been dispersed and displaced for most of history have a place to go and call home,” he said.

 

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AZM Organizations March in the 2013 Celebrate Israel Parade

DSCN0100With banners waving and signs held high, hundreds of people proudly marched with the American Zionist Movement and the World Zionist Organization at the 2013 Celebrate Israel Parade on June 2. Every year, more than thirty thousand people march in the parade to show their support of and love for Israel, and hundreds of thousands of spectators crowd sidewalks to cheer for their communities.

This year, AZM and WZO brought many of their constituents together as a “cluster,” with representatives from member organizations Amit, Ameinu, Mercaz, Hashomer Hatzair, and Habonim Dror as well as area synagogues Or Shalom, Hebrew Tabernacle, and Congregation Habonim. Hadassah, Young Judaea, ARZA and B’nei Akiva followed, making a delegation of upwards of 1,000 Israel supporters. In keeping with the Parade theme of “Picture Israel,” AZM members carried signs in the theme of “Visualizing Israel,” each featuring elements of how Israel has contributed to the Jewish community and to the world at large. Phrases included “Realizing Jewish Values,” “The Zionist Dream – Now a Reality,” “Using Science to Benefit All Humankind,” “Developing High-Tech Education” and more, visually unifying the group and underscoring the message.

While waiting to march on the parade route, the AZM contingent and passersby were treated to several performances by the Tzofim Friendship Caravan, a summer delegation of Israeli teenagers who travel around North America and promote Israeli culture through music and dance.

 

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Voices Fellowship Program in Philadephia and New York

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Progressive Jewish communities in North America are often concerned about certain phenomena occurring in the Jewish State that they recognize as counter their conceptions of Jewish social justice.

It is time for us to come together and build an open and safe space for learning, questioning, and discussing the conflicts that arise in our commitments when we attempt to actualize various ideologies and values.

Four partners (AZM, Ameninu, World Zionist Organization and Binah) have joined together to bring these issues to the table. We believe in the importance of voicing opinions and listening to others’ opinions through learning ancient and modern text, meeting with academic speakers and organizational leaders, and engaging in respectful provocative conversation.  Through the process, we will find new and meaningful ways to grapple with the problematic realities facing world Jewry and the Jewish State.

The Voices Fellowship is a pilot program being launched in New York and Philadelphia this spring. The program is designed to engage its selected participants in a deep discussion about Judaism, Zionism, social justice and Israel. The questions raised will include issues of religious tolerance, human rights and democracy, as well as relations between Israel and Diaspora, Jewish values and collective responsibility.

If you  would like to see a program like this in your organization or community please contact AZM to explore the question.

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Dr. Ruth Calderon, MK, on Building Bridges Among Jews

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TO RESERVE A SEAT, PLEASE EMAIL ZOE JICK at zoej @ wzo.org.il

Space is limited.

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ViZionYLD Discusses Media Portrayal of Israel

How do the media portray Israel? On February 7, ViZion YLD, the Young Leadership of the American Zionist Movement, set to find out. At an intimate dinner sponsored by AZM, Aryeh Green, Director of MediaCentral, led a provocative discussion about the challenges the region faces today and what we can to do improve Israel’s image. Green is a frequent speaker on Israel, media issues, human rights in the Middle East and current affairs.

Sometimes, Green said, it’s not about advocacy but simply about honest and accurate reporting. He went on to add that it’s our responsibility to demand honest journalism from our main news sources and that we have the power to influence production. At the Q&A session, attendees explored the most credible news sources, why the media inaccurately reports, and the repercussions of those inaccuracies.

Of course, everyone left wanting more discussion…and more falafel!

To get more involved in ViZionYLD, please follow us on facebook: www.facebook.com/vizionyld

 

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