Monthly News from JNF’s Advocacy & Education Department

Dear Educators,


Last Thursday, Israel celebrated its 73rd birthday, its 73rd year of Independence. In just 73 years she has accomplished so much in such a short period of time! At Jewish National Fund-USA, we continue to create and bring you engaging and meaningful experiences, programs, and materials for you and your students so you can celebrate Israel every day of the year! This includes an Educator’s Mission to Israel this summer, a This is Zionism campaign, and much more.


We are here for you! Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or needs you may have by emailing [email protected] or giving us a call at 212.879.9305 x245.


The Israel Advocacy & Education Team

D'var Torah

Acharei Mot/ Kedoshim

(Leviticus 16:1-20:27)A Continuum of Holiness

By Rick Abrams, Israel Programs Admissions Director, NJ and Eastern PA


Zionist Education Earths Promise


This year our calendar provided us with number of combined portions: last week, Tazria-Metzora…next month, Behar-Bechukotai. This week we are reading Acharei Mot/Kedoshim.


In looking at those five chapters of Leviticus, there is a process of growth in the things God askes of the community, culminating in that section called the “Holiness Code” (Lev 19:18). It’s as if there is a continuum, starting at one spiritual place and ending at another.


Let’s start at the beginning, which happens to be the lowest level. Acharei Mot begins with recalling the horrible occurrence of the death of Aaron’s two oldest sons in parashat Shemini:



וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה אַחֲרֵ֣י מ֔וֹת שְׁנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י אַהֲרֹ֑ן בְּקָרְבָתָ֥ם לִפְנֵי־יְהוָ֖ה וַיָּמֻֽתוּ׃

The Eternal spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they drew too close to the presence of the Eternal.


While we are not sure of God’s exact reason for ending their lives, Aaron’s sons made one mistake in particular, in that each son offered their fire individually. “Each of them took their fire pan and offered it to God” drawing too close. There may be some instances when we think we can “do it better ourselves.” While this may work in the short term, living and working in solitude is not a Jewish value.


A couple chapters later, we begin to get a sense of what becoming a people entails:



כְּמַעֲשֵׂ֧ה אֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרַ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְשַׁבְתֶּם־בָּ֖הּ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ וּכְמַעֲשֵׂ֣ה אֶֽרֶץ־כְּנַ֡עַן אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲנִי֩ מֵבִ֨יא אֶתְכֶ֥ם שָׁ֙מָּה֙ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ

 וּבְחֻקֹּתֵיהֶ֖ם לֹ֥א תֵלֵֽכוּ׃

You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you; nor shall you follow their laws.


While this verse may not make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, it does begin to move from acting in solitude to becoming a people. And one of the most basic things in order to establish peoplehood is to establish one’s own customs and traditions. Needless to say, if this taxonomy of growth ended here, it would not be sufficient (Good thing we have that double portion!).


Chapter 19 begins with pulling this growth together:

19: 2-4


דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־כָּל־עֲדַ֧ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאָמַרְתָּ֥ אֲלֵהֶ֖ם קְדֹשִׁ֣ים תִּהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃

אִ֣ישׁ אִמּ֤וֹ וְאָבִיו֙ תִּירָ֔אוּ וְאֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַ֖י תִּשְׁמֹ֑רוּ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃

Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy. You shall each revere his mother and his father and keep My sabbaths: I the Eternal am your God.


We are told to be Holy—separate—but we do it because God is too. Sounds a whole lot nicer than Chapter 18.  And the first indication of what Holy/separate means is the relationship we have with our parents and with God. Respect/Revere your mother and father and keep/guard Shabbat. This makes sense. But how do we treat those outside our homes?


Lev 19:14-16, 18

לֹא־תְקַלֵּ֣ל חֵרֵ֔שׁ וְלִפְנֵ֣י עִוֵּ֔ר לֹ֥א תִתֵּ֖ן מִכְשֹׁ֑ל וְיָרֵ֥אתָ מֵּאֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

לֹא־תַעֲשׂ֥וּ עָ֙וֶל֙ בַּמִּשְׁפָּ֔ט לֹא־תִשָּׂ֣א פְנֵי־דָ֔ל וְלֹ֥א תֶהְדַּ֖ר פְּנֵ֣י גָד֑וֹל בְּצֶ֖דֶק תִּשְׁפֹּ֥ט עֲמִיתֶֽךָ׃

לֹֽא־תִקֹּ֤ם וְלֹֽא־תִטֹּר֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י עַמֶּ֔ךָ וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֽה׃

You shall not insult the deaf or place a stumbling block before the blind. You shall fear your God: I am the Eternal.

You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your kinsman fairly.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen.

Love your fellow as yourself: I am the Eternal.


Without missing a beat, we arrive at the heart of the matter. What does it mean to be Holy-Separate? Our call is to be kind and just, with one’s family, one’s community, and with God.


And what does this continuum remind me of? The JNF-USA Israel Advocacy and Education Department’s Israel Continuum connects students with Israel from birth to the boardroom. We start with community/congregational programs about the JNF-USA Blue Box, Tu BiShvat, and Israel. Then we bring Israel to life for high schoolers, through leadership training with Sababa Fellows, and academic programs year-round with Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Topping it off, we keep college students involved with our campus programs—from a week of volunteering with Alternative Break, training student leaders as part of Campus Fellowship, engaging student leaders beyond the Jewish faith with Caravan for Democracy, offering a gap year with Frontier Israel, and more. After college, we engage young professionals through JNFuture, and work with leaders in the community such as yourself to inspire the next generation joining the continuum, JNF-USA’s own journey of establishing peoplehood and instilling a life-long love of Israel. Join us!

Learn About Jerusalem with Us

Jerusalem and Western Wall


Join Jewish National Fund-USA and special guest speaker Alon Wald of Ammunition Hill, as we learn about the history and importance of Jerusalem Day at our next educator’s training on Tuesday, April 27 at 7:00 pm ET. Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War. This year, the holiday begins the evening of May 9th, and will celebrate the 54th year of the city's liberation. Learn how you can teach the history of Jerusalem and the Six-Day War to your students. 


Also hear from Adi Werner from Olam Shalem, an educational platform for teachers who work with Jewish communities around the world to strengthen the connection between their students and Jerusalem. 


JNF-USA has many resources and educational materials that you can share with your classes throughout the year. Zoom information will be provided upon registration.


Participants will open their own E-Z Tree™ Account including two trees to plant in Israel and will receive two hours of Professional Development.


Join Us in Israel This Summer!

group photo education


Applications are open for the JNF-USA Summer Educators Mission! If you’re an educator from a Jewish Day School, supplemental religious school, Jewish camp, youth group, or any other Jewish school setting, apply today to reserve your spot on this week-long mission and learn about eco-Zionism and meet other educators.



• Learn about Eco-Zionism™ and the connection between Judaism, Israel, and the environment

• Tour JNF sites, heritage sites, and historical sites of the Jewish people

• Attend workshops, lectures, and discussions on the current challenges in Israel education

• Gain exposure to JNF’s educational activities and materials

• Network with 200+ educators from around the world


Alternative Break Takes Volunteers to Israel


This summer, Alternative Break is going to Israel and is seeking college-age participants! On this meaningful program, college students unite in Israel to spend a week volunteering. This mission is fully subsidized by JNF-USA after participants meet a fundraising goal. Plane flight from NYC to Israel is included.


Let's Show the World What Zionism Looks Like!

Zionist Education Earth's Promise


Zionism comes in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Zionism is me and you. Zionism is inclusive, diverse, beautiful, respectful. Zionism builds bridges. Zionism supports Israel, a country where synagogues, mosques and churches all share the same skyline. Zionism supports Israel, a country where Christians, Jews, and Muslims live as neighbors and sit around the same table – and while they may have different views, they all have a seat. The time is right to join this important conversation. It's simple:


1. Go to

2. Claim your frame and insert your photo

3. Share on your social media platforms using the hashtag #ThisIsZionism


Be part of the most important conversation of our time!


We Want to Hear From You!

The Education Team would like to know how we can better serve you. Please fill out this survey so we can get to know you and your needs.


As always, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] with questions, comments, or just to say hello!