By Dr. Samuel Lebens, Masa Israel Leadership Summit madrich
I recently had the honor of leading a group of post-college students from the Diaspora at the Masa Israel Leadership Summit. An increasing number of Jews from the Diaspora are coming to Israel for year-long, or months-long, programs, supported by Masa, Israeli government and Jewish Agency initiative. One of the summit’s goals was to train the most promising participants to be agents for change back in their home communities; to both be engaged in Jewish and Israel-related activities themselves, and to engage others.
One of the activities we did - as a means of promoting innovative ways of thinking about community - was to envisage the sort of communal projects they might like to lead when they leave Israel. I tasked my participants with coming up with a pitch for a community project, as if I were a prospective funder that they sought to raise money from. As each group presented their proposal, I was struck by the common themes that emerged.
Three of the groups came up with remarkably similar ideas on the notion of stories. One group planned to match Jewish high-school students with an interest in writing with local Jewish old-age home residents and task the students with writing a memoir for their elderly partner. Another group dreamed of sending college students to record interviews of their parents and grandparents to create something of an aural archive: What was it like to be a Jew in Poland? What was it like to be a Jew in Morocco, or in Turkey? The third group focused on the notion that third-generation Holocaust survivors are likely to be the last generation of direct descendants who would have heard survivors’ stories first hand. With this in mind, the group focussed on training third-generation Holocaust survivors the skills necessary for keeping their grandparents’ stories alive.
Read the rest of his reflection in Ha’aretz