Monthly News from JNF’s Advocacy & Education Department
Spring is around the corner, which means Passover is as well! Whether you will be with your families around the Seder table, or on another Zoom Seder, it’s once again a reminder of the perseverance, strength, and continuity of the Jewish People. Yes, we faced hardships over the past year that included staying inside and not being able to see our loved ones or community, but once again, we come together, metaphorically, to celebrate being ultimately free. We have come a long way, not just in the past year, but for the last 4,000 years, and that is something worth celebrating.
Jewish National Fund-USA’s Israel Advocacy & Education Department wishes you a meaningful and joyous Passover, wherever and however you may be celebrating.
The Israel Advocacy & Education Team
VaYikra / For Communication and Humility
By Rick Abrams, Israel Programs Admissions Director, NJ and Eastern PA
The new book of the Torah opens this week with the first chapters of VaYikra/ Leviticus. It has its Latin name because a major portion of the book focuses on the laws and traditions surrounding the Levites and the ancient animal and vegetable sacrifices that they made.
However, it is the Hebrew name, VaYikra, that interests me most. The opening verses are very curious if we assume that no words are “wasted” or superfluous.
וַיִּקְרָ֖א אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֵלָ֔יו מֵאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד לֵאמֹֽר׃
The Eternal called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying:
דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם ….׃.
Speak to the Israelite people, and say to them…
Notice the words in bold face. In the one and a half verses of Torah, Call/ Speak/Say are used five times. This seeming repetition is, according to many of the great thinkers in our history, intentional. To me it says: Moses, what is coming next is a very important set of laws that I want you to teach the Israelites in great detail. Sometimes it is through direct communication that the most important materials can be taught.
The traditional commentators didn’t stop there. They noticed that in a Torah scroll, the first word of this third book of Torah is written curiously. The final letter, the alef, in the word VaYikra, is smaller than the other letters. To this, Rabbi Simcha Bunim of P’schish’cha, taught that the smallness was meant to give prominence to the letter. The letter “alef” is silent, but as a word, it can mean to teach, implying that one who teaches should make themselves small, and humble.
“No man was better qualified to teach this lesson than Moses, who was not only the greatest of all prophets, but who was also the humblest person who ever lived.”
According to Lurianic Kabbalistic teachings, even God had to make Godself small in order that there be room for the universe to be created: If before creation, everything was God, then God had to Tzim Tzum / withdraw, in order to make room for the creation to take place.
Every teacher I know makes themselves small in order to let their students’ imagination and the content that they are teaching expand.
At Alexander Muss High School in Israel, the teachers follow this lead of direct communication and humility to allow all of their students, from the U.S. and from around the world, to flourish while studying our 4,000-year-old-history. They do this not only with textbooks, but with the land where this history took place on tiyul/trips all over Israel. The teachers step back, allowing space for their students’ young minds to learn, grow, and explore, forming their own relationship to Israel and with their Judaism.
If you have a teenage student tired of learning on a screen, please contact us and let us show your student the wondrous communication and humility of the AMHSI curriculum.
Yom Ha’atzmaut Educator’s Training
Join Jewish National Fund-USA for our next Educator’s training on March 23rd with special guest speaker Zohar Vloski, KKL-JNF Israel Emissary, as we learn about Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence, and how you can teach the history of Israel's independence to your students. JNF-USA has many Yom Ha'atzmaut resources, as well as other 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!
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
Grants Now Available for Student Travel through Dream Israel
Know a teen wanting to go on their dream trip to Israel? We have some exciting news! In partnership with Jewish National Fund-USA’s Boruchin Center, we are thrilled to announce the launch of the Dream Israel Teen Travel Initiative, a new program that will inspire a new generation to love philanthropy while fostering a connection to the land and people of Israel.
Dream Israel will make grants of up to $7,500 available to teens who fundraise for a JNF-USA project to go on one of the qualifying programs: Alexander Muss High School in Israel, Roots Israel, URJ Heller High, and Ramah TRY.
Share the news today and help someone go on their dream trip to Israel!