Issue 1, July 2009, Tammuz 5769
A Message from the Bogrei Nativ Association Coordinator
Welcome to the first e-newsletter of the Bogrei Nativ Association! I am thrilled to be part of the initiative to get this much overdue group off the ground. As an alumnus of Nativ 20, I know the amazing impact that Nativ had on my life, and I hope that you will write articles, send in news and updates on your life, pictures, and join us for events. Don't forget to update your contact information on the new Nativ website. To contact me, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, and always feel free to stop in at the office on Rehov Agron!
Yael Weinstock, Nativ 20
In this Issue:
Is Twitter an Obstacle?
By David Keren, Nativ Director 9-24
In the early '90s during my first years as Nativ director, the communication between the Nativ students and their family and friends back in North America was different. It was mostly done my letters or by the public phone on the corner of Gad Street in Baka. E-mails, Facebook, Twitter, ICQ messages, and blogs, were still a science fiction. The time students spent in front of a computer screen was very limited and was devoted only to school work. Today, most Nativ students bring their own laptops and iPods. They Skype, blog, twitter, and constantly communicate with family and friends. Information is shared every minute of the day. Thoughts, emotions, and photos are being shared on an ongoing basis. I often ask myself, "Have these changes affected the experience of students on Nativ?" Are these technological tools advantageous, or are they becoming obstacles taking away from full engagement in the Israel experience?
As we know, the great advantage of summer camps is the ability to isolate the kids and move them away from their computer screens, play stations, and cell phones. For a few weeks during the summer they are placed in a different environment, where they have the opportunity to enhance their interpersonal relationships, and spend an intensive period communicating verbally with their friends. They develop friendships and relationships, learning to relate to friends and how to live in a group setting. Conversations are not disrupted by blackberry messages, by cell phone calls, or instant messages. We create the same environment on our short summer programs like Wheels and Pilgrimage, but it is almost impossible to create such space on a long-term program like Nativ.
Surprisingly, despite all of the potential distractions, Nativ students have proven over the years that while using this advanced communication to their advantage, they are simultaneously able to fully engage in all of the experiences that the year has to offer. The relationships they develop within the group are as strong as they were in the past. They find opportunities throughout the year to enhance friendships and to form a kehillah. They cultivate strong relations with Israeli kids and families in Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva, Yerucham, and kibbutz. This is what makes the Nativ experience so meaningful.
Nativ is different from many other gap-year programs with its emphasis on building a kehillah, and developing responsibilities to friends in a group setting. Nativ is among the very few gap-year programs where students are part of one cohesive group throughout the 9 months of the program. Building a kehillah is a vital tool in reinforcing the concept of "kol Yisrael arevim zeh la'zeh." The focus of the year is not solely based on individual personal growth, but also developing the sense of responsibility towards the "real" community around him. The fact that 85% of the USY summer staff are bogrei Nativ and so many others choose to serve as staff at the different Ramah camps, is the best example of the commitment of bogrim to the Jewish community. The last few years have proven that technology has served to the advantage of Nativers, and has enhanced their experience in Israel.
Nativ – Building Community
By Yossi Garr, Nativ Director
On the final Shabbat of Nativ 28, this past May, the group came together for Friday night services at the Kotel Hamesorati, (the part of the western wall that was allocated for Masorti groups to conducted services uninterrupted). Tefillot at the Kotel are always special however there was something in the air that was different during this Kabbalat Shabbat. As I looked around at the 109 Nativers that were praying together I noticed a few things. First, the different siddurim they were holding. At the beginning of the year we gave each Nativer a Sim Shalom Siddur as we always do. By this last Shabbat, nine months later, each Nativer had found for themselves the siddur that they felt most comfortable using. Many still with the Sim Shalom and others with a variety of siddurim that they have become comfortable with over the year. The second thing that stood out was the way in which the service took place. There was a flow in the prayers that was a natural one. It is hard to describe that flow. Many times when attending services in North American synagogues you feel like people are just going through the motions. Here you felt that people became one with the prayers and melodies. This is something that I do not take for granted. It is a process of growth and learning both from within the Nativ community as well as from outside of it. The beauty was seeing Nativers over the course of the year reach out to different communities to learn and take in what those communities have to offer, spiritually, customs wise etc. and then bring those things back to the Nativ community. We often think that we hold all the wisdom and are afraid to open ourselves up to outside elements, yet we fail to see that our strength is by learning from others in order to build and strengthen ourselves.
Watching the tefilot on that last Shabbat of Nativ I understood something with new clarity. We have the strength and ability to create strong vibrant communities. We have all the tools, and we must use them. During the 9 months of Nativ we learn how to leave our bubble and be a part of the larger Jewish community around us, however we always know that our home base is the Nativ community. The Nativ community as a place of spiritual growth ends on the last day of Nativ, however, the tools that each Nativer is given and picks up during the course of the year are theirs to keep for the rest of their lives. As the numbers of our alumni grow from year to year there are many out there who can be a part of that community. On Nativ we learn how to build a community. It is after Nativ that we must actually use what we have learned so that special tefilot like the last one on Nativ are not only a good memory but become a part of our way of life.
They Didn't Think It Was Possible
By Rabbi Paul and Nina
Twenty-Eight. In gematria this stands for "Koach," strength. NATIV, USY's Year Program in Israel has just completed its twenty-eighth year. From an initial number of just twelve, it capped this past year with one hundred and six.
"Koach," strength. The basic purpose of this program was to take young Conservative Jews to Israel, in order to strengthen their commitment to Judaism and to Israel. In this, the directors and staff have succeeded brilliantly.
An additional goal was to build a body of USY advisors who were trained to teach, to lead to bring their own commitment to USYers. The quality of USY advisors, of Wheels staff, of Pilgrimage staff, has improved dramatically. The presence of NATIV alumni at International Convention, at regional Kinnusim, sends a message to USYers. The dream of connecting USY more strongly with Israel has become a reality.
They told us we were crazy to dream of a pre-college year in Israel. We would have been crazy to give up on the dream.
Don't give up on your dreams, either.
L'Shana HaBa'ah B'Yerushalayim.
Oh-just in case you forgot our phone number- 02-62566205, or our email@example.com
Fulfilling My Second Grade Dream
By Eryn Trauben, Nativ 28
Sitting in my basement towards the end of the summer of 2008, not long before I left for Nativ, I was going through some very old school projects in an attempt to help purge the house of many of the unnecessary papers it stored. I came across a cereal box I decorated in second grade. One side of the cereal box listed what I enjoyed doing at the time and another side listed what I one day wanted to accomplish. Listed right underneath my second grade life goal of becoming a clown in a circus, it said “travel to Israel and learn Hebrew.” As opposed to my clown dream, I guess the latter dream didn’t die. From a young age I was interested in Judaism, and in high school I became active in my synagogue and in USY. I read the English translations of prayers in shul so I would know what I was saying, but I really enjoyed praying out loud in Hebrew. What I really wanted was to know what I was saying in Hebrew while I was saying it. Additionally, after visiting Israel for the first time on USY Poland/Israel Pilgrimage in 2007, I was not entirely satisfied. I had heard many stories about Jews who traveled to Israel and immediately felt right at home. For me that was not the case, and I believed it greatly had to do with my feeling uncomfortable with the language. Though there are many English speakers in Israel and most of the signs have Hebrew, English, and Arabic, I still often felt confused or out of place because I couldn’t fully understand what was going on around me. To really understand the culture of a place, I believe you have to be able to speak the language that is spoken there.
The new addition of the Ulpan track to the first semester of Nativ was half the reason I decided I wanted to go on the program. When I decided I wanted to take a gap year, it was to have a year free from the stress of classes and papers. Therefore, Hebrew University did not seem like the right option for me. Furthermore, as I already mentioned,
learning Hebrew was one of my major goals, and what better time in my life or place in the world was there to devote the majority of my focus to achieving that goal? About Nativ’s Ulpan track. For the month of minimester we were split into two groups of Nativers—beginners and more advanced. During both minimester and the regular semester, classes were three to four hours a day, four days a week. As part of the track, we were also expected to attend the Jerusalem course at Hebrew University during minimester, and to volunteer in Jerusalem two or three times a week for the whole first semester. Most of our volunteer work involved working with kids, from tutoring for school to helping coach basketball. I volunteered at Yad L’kashish once a week with a friend, and tutored a boy twice a week in English. Some of my best and most rewarding memories on Nativ come from first semester volunteering.
When Ulpan classes officially began we were split up into the different level classes of Aleph, Bet, and Gimmel. Most of us were mixed in with many other Jerusalem residents looking to learn Hebrew. Our teachers made class more fun by allowing us to veer from the curriculum and discuss anything in our mix of Hebrew and English. We used a course book, had homework, and graded tests to check our progress, though we did not obtain college credits. One advantage of taking the course in Israel, was made even clearer to me after reading a passage about Beit Ticho. We read about Beit Ticho in our book, and the next day instead of having class in the Ulpan building off of Rehov Hillel, we took a field trip and walked to Beit Ticho to see it ourselves.
As we went through the semester, living in Israel felt somewhat like living in the movie Pleasantville. Instead of beginning to see color, I began to understand the Hebrew words I saw, whether it be on the side of a truck driving down Agron or the label of a shampoo bottle. I was ecstatic. I am not yet able to comprehend as much as I would one day like to, but participating in the Ulpan track of Nativ helped me appreciate the culture of Israel and the rest of the year in this beautiful country.
My Journey Home
By Rachel Goldberg Nativ 7/ Nativ 13 Staff
Today is exactly one year, to the day, that my family and I left America and made aliyah. I have often been asked this past year what caused us to do this. Our life in America was great. Both my husband and I had good jobs, our kids were in wonderful Jewish day schools, we were active members in our synagogue, we had an amazing JCC that we were involved in daily, and we had a sterotypical big nice house. So what was the deal? Why leave all that ease and certainty to come here, to Israel, where going to run a simple errand can turn into an anger management challenge?
My relationship with Israel first began when I had my bat mitzvah here when I was 12. It was only 10 days, but it was enough to start the process of creating a connection. Six years later I decided that even though I had not been involved with USY I would like to go on Nativ. My year on Nativ helped continue and deepen my relationship with Israel. It made me feel more at home here since I got used to how to get around, how to order felafel the way I liked it, and it helped my hebrew. But at the end of my year on Nativ I was not one of those Nativers who say, "I'm definitely coming back here on aliyah one day."
Seven years later I was back in Israel for the summer to study at Pardes. At the end of my six week program I was feeling weird and sad. I wanted to stay in Israel longer, but didn't know how to do that. I was in a graduate program back in New York. All my stuff was in storage awaiting my return. And then an old Nativ friend called me to say that David Keren was still looking for the Madricha for Nativ 13 that was coming in September. I went and met with David and the Madrich, who David had already hired, a guy just out of the army, named JJ Jonah.
Being the Madricha for Nativ 13 gave me a second chance at my Nativ experience. I loved that year. I studied at Pardes while the Nativers were at Hebrew University in the mornings and then I was with the Nativers when they returned to the base. When we moved down to Kibbutz Saad then it was me with the Nativers 24/7.
The base back in those days was on Rechov Gad. We had no TVs, no cell phones (not even the madrichim), no computers, and no airconditioning. What we did have was ONE pay phone (that took asimonim) that all of us shared and we had ONE email account at Hebrew University that all of us shared. Those were the days!
Fast forward to the summer two years ago... I was in Chicago visiting my family with 2 of my kids. One night I was out for a walk by myself and I was thinking about my life. It was all good. I felt like I was so lucky and blessed, but I also knew that life is like a dream and it can whiz by quickly. I started realizing that my husband's deepest dream was to live in Israel and give our kids a life here that Jews have been dreaming about since those dastardly Romans came and exiled us almost 2000 years ago! And I started thinking, "Could I actually do this?" I didn't tell my husband about these ideas until I was sure I could do it. I thought about it everyday for 3 months and then I told him that I didn't want to wake up one day and be 85 and have us say to eachother " I can't believe we never really tried to make our life in Israel." After I picked him up off the floor we started planning.
From Naomi Freedman - Shlichat Aliyah for the Conservative Movement
Sometimes I stop and think, "How did I get here?" And I remember myself getting on the plane back in 1987 wearing a red t-shirt and army pants to go on Nativ. I remember the friends I made that first day. I remember landing here and going straight to the Taiyelet in Jerusalem (which I now live five minutes from and take my 3 kids to). And I know that the relationship I have now with Israel started all those years ago without me even realizing it, when I came on Nativ and then came back to staff Nativ.
I am just finishing my first year of Shlichut in NYC with the Jewish Agency and the Conservative Movement. It has been an exciting year and I have enjoyed the pleasure of meeting many Nativ Alumni over the course of this past year! I am looking forward to working with you all and meeting new faces over the course of the next year!!
The gatherings for the upcoming year will be:
1. Thanksgiving dinner at the Fuchsberg center in Jerusalem Thursday, Nov 26, 2009
2. Winter break reunion at the Fuchsberg center (Date TBA).
3. Reunion During USY International convention Chicago. Dec 26-27, 2009
4. Reunion During the Koach Kallah March 4-7, 2010 at Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center in Reisterstown, MD
In addition, I’d like to share this site with you: http://linktoisrael.org/
I would like to integrate personal stories into the site from Bogrei Nativ, so if there is any content that you would like to see on the site, send it to me!
Lastly I have been making movies featuring our Olim! You can see their personal stories at the following links: http://linktoisrael.org/link.html or on youtube
Feel free to be in touch with me, looking forward to hearing from you!
firstname.lastname@example.org tel: 212-339-6079 cell: 917-587-2923
Leanna (Bass) Blacher (Nativ 16) and her husband Abie had a beautiful baby boy named Noah Samuel on June 17th, 2009… Reina (Cohen) Lavi (Nativ 18) was married in May and made aliyah soon after…Dara (Feldman) Grossman (staff, Nativ 16) gave birth to a baby boy…Ari Greenberg became engaged to Tamar Kornblum…Beth Greenberg (Nativ 17) married Alexander Steiner in 2007. They live in Baltimore, Maryland…Jackie Grunwald Zarkower (Nativ 14) made Aliyah over 10 years ago and had her first child, Sienna, 2 weeks ago in Tel Aviv…Naomi Kassoff Griffin (Nativ 14)had a 3rd child, Riordan Shane in October 2008…Ali Kaufman Yares (Nativ 19) and her husband Ari gave birth to a baby girl, Elianna, in March 2008…Eytan Kenter (Nativ 18, staff, Nativ 23) became engaged to Staci Zemlack…Deborah Leibsohn Turobiner (Nativ 14) had a 3rd child, Levie Zippora Turobiner on June 18th, 2008… Wendi Portman (Nativ 15) had a son in June…
Ben Abramson (Nativ 23) got engaged…Talia Andron (Nativ 20) and Michael Kushnick (Staff, Nativ 26) will be married on August 30th…Naama Applebaum (staff, Nativ 23) gave birth to twin boys… Elana Brownstein (Nativ 23) became engaged… Iris Feinberg (Nativ 23) is making aliyah in August… Rebecca Feldman (Nativ 23) became engaged… Will Flashner (Nativ 23) became engaged…Gabi Gershowitz (Nativ 20) recently graduated Columbia Law School and will serve this fall as a foreign law clerk for President Dorit Beinisch of the Supreme Court of Israel…Ben Greene (Nativ 20) became engaged to Leora Kimmel (Nativ 23)…Batya Gutin (Nativ 20) married Ami Kinsberg in May 2009. She is a 6th grade science teacher at the Moriah School. They live in Tenafly, NJ… Emily Hausman (Nativ 25) was recently married to Joseph Robinson… Jaime Hecht Horowitz (Nativ 20) and Eliot Horowitz were married June 2007 and welcomed their first baby, Sara Madeleine, on Dec 15, 2008… Avi Herring (Nativ 25) and Shaina Siegel (Nativ 25) got engaged… Rachel Hindel (Nativ 23) became engaged…Doron Kenter (Nativ 20) became engaged to Jennifer Pavane… Stephanie Mazer (Nativ 21) became engaged to Itzik Avital… Noah Mencow (Nativ 23) became engaged to Shira Hichenberg… Ben Salovitz (Nativ 23) got married last summer…Emily Scharfman (Nativ 20) became engaged…Aliza Silk Ma'or (Nativ 21) was married… Emily Singer (Nativ 25) made aliyah on July 7, 2009…Hillel Skolnick (Nativ 21) and his wife had a baby girl named Daphna…Elana Slutsky (Nativ 21) married Levi Smith in Jerusalem in August 2008…Yael Weinstock (Nativ 20) became engaged to Michael Mashbaum…
The Nativ Alumni Association is a joint project of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, MERCAZ USA and the Jewish Agency's Aliyah Department