Jewish peoplehood and Jewish identity were front and center on the Prozdor “Pirke Dorot” trip to Israel last week.  While I joked over the course of the experience that Prozdor “Puts the ‘hood’ in Jewish peoplehood,” in reality the trip participants got an intense education in pluralism, Israeli society, and the differences between their lives and the lives of their peers in Haifa.

On Sunday afternoon, our twenty-one 9th graders, three counselors, and four staff members all sat together in a hall at the Reali School’s Beit Biram campus.  After some processing of the trip and the activities, Prozdor Director Margie Berkowitz asked the students to share some of their observations about the differences between American and Israeli Judaism.

To say that I was floored by their responses is an understatement.  With no prompting or prodding, our kids came up with some real gems.

A young man offered up the following comment:

“There are easy things they could do to experience Judaism like we do.  They could go to temple or keep kosher.  I think that they are good ambassadors for Israel, and we are good ambassadors for Judaism.”

One of the girls then came up with this insight:

“We hold Judaism as a special treasure.  When the Israelis come to America they will see that; they will see how hard we have to work for it.”

Another incredible insight came from another one of our kids:

“The Israelis look at Orthodox Judaism and the Rabbinate in Israel, and if they don’t believe in that then they might reject Judaism… they don’t know any other type of Judaism.”

Now I must admit that I’m biased- I love Israel and I fervently believe in the power of Israel travel to reinforce Jewish identity and a sense of responsibility to Am Yisrael– but I was genuinely moved by these, and other responses that the students put forth.  It was a moment when it was clear that the goals of both the trip and the year-long curriculum were being met in a very real way; between their learning at Prozdor and their first-hand observations of life in Israel, they were able to put their finger on the core issues that face Jews in America and Israel today.

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