WUJS Israel
post-college Israel programs

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WUJS Participants Cycle through Tel-Aviv

Last Tuesday our WUJS Tel-Aviv group took an organised biking trip through Tel-Aviv.

Click on the image below to see the video.

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Highlights of WUJS Jerusalem II

'This weekend is going to be one of the best weekends of WUJS', the staff told us on our way to Kibutz Ketura in the Negev desert, near Eilat. And it was... although fortunately we haven't finished our 5 months in Israel yet, it was a great couple of days in the hot south. After a long busdrive, we arrived at the Kibutz where David, member of Ketura, welcomed us. We had some time to settle in the nice apartments, get adjusted to the heat and refresh ourselves in the swimmingpool. After that, we could choose between a few desert art workshops. However, the majority chose to go on a hike, which turned out to be a three hour climbing and downhill experience in the desert... exhausting but beautiful! The poolside bbq tasted even better after all this physical exercise. Sitting in a big circle, David explained us the Kibutz lifestyle and rules. Ketura is one of the few kibutsim which still holds

the socialistic way of sharing everything that is in the kibutz. The members are a group of 150 people, and besides them there are a lot of volunteers, soldiers and other guests (like us) who temporarily live in the kibutz. There is a variety of work that can be done: on the cowfarm, where they produce many liters of milk everyday, the algae farm, where they produce antioxidants for the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetical industry, or at the fruit trees.

After a short night, we were ready to start our next hike in the Red Canyon at 7 am... again a beautiful hike, red mountains, narrow passages, some climbing, pretty views, and good breakfast when we got back to the bus. We drove to Eilat, where we did some snorkeling, swimming, relaxing, shopping, the good life! The chaos, heat, and crowdedness of Eilat made us longing for Ketura, where we prepared for shabbat later that day. It was special to experience the services in a synagogue in the middle of nowhere! We had dinner in the diningroom, with other members and guests of the kibutz. The next day, on shabbat, we had discussions about different topics the assembly of the kibutz has to deal with. Can somebody who is not jewish become a member of the kibutz? (yes). Is there money for children with special needs or for prodigies to fulfill their needs? (yes). Could a man who cheated on his wife with a volunteer, come back to the kibutz with his new family, after living abroad for three years? (he could, because he was still a member, but he didn't because of the antipathy against him). Later that day, we played a quiz called Schnitzelborscht, which has got nothing to do with schnitzel or borscht, but everything with knowledge about Israel. Wiser, more tanned/sunburnt and relaxed we ended our weekend in the south.

Joline Vyth

Highlights of WUJS Jerusalem

Let me start with introducing myself. My name is Joline Vyth, I am from Holland and participating in the Arts track of the WUJS spring 2011 Jerusalem group. We are living together in the beautiful neighborhood Bak'a for five months. During this period I will share our experiences with you in this blog, so you will be updated about all the new stuff that's going on in our lives...

The eighth week has already ended for the WUJS Jerusalem group and it has been an interesting week again. Besides the internships/learning/arts tracks, we've done an amazing tiyul on tuesday. We left the apartments early in the morning to head for the north of Israel. The first part of the day was a short hike on the Chof Habonim (beach), nature is still blooming beautifully and we would like to come back there for a beachday! Because of the packed schedule, we had to move on to the next part, which was visiting the memorial gardens of Rothschild. Again beautiful nature, in this case more man-made, and our guide explained some history about the Rothschild family. Then we went to the picturesque village Zichron Ya'akov, where we had lunch. The last part of the day was a winetasting in Tishbi winery. We said 'lechaim' to a great day!

The day after, the artist group went to Yad Vashem with our art teacher, Ofra. In the museum Ofra showed us the style of the architecture, the art museum and the children's memorial. It is always very emotional to be there, and the weather suited the atmosphere, it was hot, humid and cloudy, not very pleasant. Filmclass this week, was also about the holocaust. Galit showed us a documentary called 'pizza in Auschwitz', about a holocaust survivor who brought his children back to the places of his memories. They dealt with the topic in a 'light' way, which made it easier to watch. But underneath you could still feel the gravity and how their lives were influenced by the war.

The ninth week has just started and again it's a week full of interesting events. Yesterday we attended a very emotional Yom Hazikaron ceremony by Masa, on the Ammunition Hill. Seven portraits of seven young people who had died in combat or terror attacks were showed, moving music was played and their stories told. Today at 11 am, there was a siren again and a few minutes of silence. Tonight the beginning of Yom Ha'atsmaut will be celebrated, there will be parties all over the country and tomorrow bbq's! Remembrance, grief, but also happinness about being able to live in a jewish state nowadays all come together during these special days of the year. 


Abbie1.jpgAbbie Silber is a singer and songwriter from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Following her graduation from the University of Indiana, Abbie was a participant on the WUJS Arts Track and today is an up and coming artist with her own album.

Abbie was recently interviewed by her university alumni association.  Check it out at http://alumni.indiana.edu/singinghoosiers/docs/sh-spring11.pdf

You can also check out Abbie's own site at http://abbiesilber.com/default.aspx


Seth is pictured on the left of the picture together with some of his friends from the WUJS program in Tel-Aviv

As a California boy, I never thought others would recognize me as anything but American, until this past year. People approach me on a daily basis assuming that I may be Russian, Israeli, French, British, Mexican, and even South African. This can only happen in the diverse city of Tel Aviv. It doesn't bother me at all and I am flattered to look like such a mutt. I think that means I have adapted quite well since I am no longer mistaken as the typical American tourist.

A year ago I came on WUJS (World Union Jewish Students), a 6 month internship program sponsored by Haddasah/Young Judea. The program allows you to pick an internship of your choice, in the field you wish to pursue your career in, become a volunteer for a non-profit organization, or venture out and work in a field that you may have never tried back at home. While working hard, 3-5 days a week, there are also weekly trips around Israel which include hiking, touring, and educational excursions. I finally saw the acres of green trees and forests made possible by the donations from JNF. The tree certificates we buy definitely make a difference. Ulpan or Hebrew classes are mandatory twice a week but necessary and worth while if you want to steer away from your everyday American lifestyle. 

Just before I left Pismo Beach, CA., I had been working in the hospitality industry at a small boutique hotel for a year, and really enjoyed it. I came to work in Israel in order to build my resume with some international experience. I got to Tel Aviv and two weeks later, without knowing much Hebrew, I was working behind the reception desk (kabbalah) at a large Israeli hotel chain, The Moriah Plaza (now the Leonardo Plaza). I thought to myself, how was I going to survive and actually have a worth while experience not speaking the native tongue? On top of that I think many of us assume that Israelis have no patience for Americans, at least this was was I thought. But my assumption was soon turned around, my manager and co-workers were actually excited to have an American working with them. They were patient in the training process and helped explain procedures in English, while here and there using important Hebrew vocabulary that would help me understand the language more in the work place. As they became more confident with me, like any job, my responsibilities grew and I was able to work with more and more Israelis customers with my broken Hebrew. I was having a blast while getting some valuable experience at the same time. 

I lived just a short 20 minute ride from work, a 20 minute daily adventurous bus ride that is, which was also a new and different experience for me. Having driven a car for almost half of my life, I had never really taken public transportation, let a lone a city bus with the most insane drivers in the entire world. I was nervous at first especially with all the bus bombings we hear about in the states, but soon got over this fear and made the most out of it. 

After the 6 month program ended, I decided to stay. Soon enough, I applied for a work visa, found an apartment and was offered a job at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv. Unlike the bad condition of the economy in the States, tourism is booming in Israel despite the "flotilla scare", most hotels were sold out this summer. The salary is not great, rent is expensive like in New York, but there are jobs, people still go out to have fun, and its a great feeling to say "Shabbat Shalom" to your neighbor.

I have been here for a year now and have not yet decided when I will come home. I still manage to stay close with my family via Skype and keep in touch with my friends through Fantasy Football. This amazing Israel experience would not have been possible without the financial support from The Jewish Federation of Fresno. They had granted me a generous loan which helped me pay the tuition for the program. I recommend this adventure to anyone in search of a career path, a new experience, and life long friends. 

Thank you so much!

Seth Felix

WUJS Participants Blog!

Check out Jesse Schneiderman's, from New York, blog.  Get an inside perspective into the life of a WUJS Tel-Aviv intern.

Jerusalem Participants Visit Zichron Yaakov


On Tuesday 2nd November, I had the opportunity to join our Jerusalem participants on their weekly siyur (field trip). We spent the day in Zichron Yaacov; one of my favorite cities in Israel. First stop of the day was Ramat Hanadiv. Ramat Hanadiv is a beautiful botanical garden situated just outside the city of Zichron We walked around the gardens taking in the smells, colors, and enjoying the cool mountain breeze.  After months of heat the fall season has finally arrived and welcomed with open arms.  From the gardens we drove to the center of Zichron for a tour of the Aliyah Museum Next stop was a quick stroll around the midrachov (walking promenade) and lunch in one of the cute cafes that line the street.  




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Zichron is famous for Wine. It is home to three of the largest wineries in Israel and many other boutique wineries. It seems only fitting that we would visit the Tishbi Winery for a tour and tasting.  


          La Chaim!


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No Longer a Void by Jake Shillman, New York

Jake Shillman (left) discusses his first month in Israel on the WUJS program


There is a fitting passage written by Yair Lapid in describing my early thoughts on Israel: "It's the only country where, if you despise politicians, abhor clerks, hate the situation, are disgusted with the taxes, loathe the standard of service, and detest the weather, it's a sign that you love it."


My name is Jake Shillman and I was raised in Roslyn, New York. Coming from an active Jewish family in a predominately Jewish town, I attended Hebrew school, had a Bar Mitzvah and frequented synagogue on Shabbat and holidays. I played basketball at the Maccabi games, volunteered at the JCC and lived the stereotypical life of an American Jew. As someone so involved in the American Jewish community, one would be surprised to discover that up until a month ago, I had never been to Israel. 


As a little kid sitting in Hebrew School, Israel was the mythical land located somewhere past the Hamptons; the supposed land of milk and honey, the birthplace of Judaism, and frequently discussed on the news as a hot bed of conflict and religion. My family and friends had all visited the country and have lectured at length on the true greatness of the place, its natural beauty, the people and its importance in my life. In May 2010, as a senior at SUNY Buffalo, I began to realize that something was missing. This connection, this universal attachment world Jewry discusses with this country, I had never experienced. I wanted Israel to be real to me, to taste it, to tangibly touch it, to explore, both physically and emotionally, Israel for myself. Furthermore, I needed to do it now before I had a career, a family and responsibilities.


Most seniors in college plan their future with two options: graduate school or work. Yet the thought of listening to professors talk at me for another four years, or sitting behind a cubicle in some halogen-lit office on the fifty-third floor of an ugly concrete skyscraper sounded dismal and downright boring. I wanted a sense of an adventure, a Huckleberry Finn journey to new places and new people. There is Teach for America, the Peace Corps, and even a program where you go to New Zealand and herd cattle for a year. But then I struck gold when I stumbled onto a website and program I never heard of before: WUJS Israel Hadassah.


I voraciously read all the information pertaining to WUJS Israel and was captured by the variety of opportunities the program offers. As someone looking to build his resume and use his college education while seeking a new adventure, Intern Tel Aviv provides the perfect combination of these goals.


Intern Tel-Aviv provides participants the ability to work in a professional internship in Israel's most exciting and international city, an intensive Hebrew language immersion ulpan, weekly field trips, as well as overnights to different parts of the country. The program also offers seminars and meetings that teach participants about Israel, its history, its culture and its people.


My first impression of Tel-Aviv was one of comfort and familiarity, which is odd since this was my first time walking the streets here. In a lot of ways it reminds me of New York, the energy, the hustle and bustle, the never ending list of things to do and see. This cosmopolitan city flirting with the shores of the Mediterranean seems to never sleep and lives in a little bubble emotionally distant from the surrounding conflict. From the grandiose boulevards lined with fruit trees to the thousands of little cafes and bars occupying the narrow streets, Tel Aviv is a sun-soaked, beach-loving city that beats with the rest of the Western world.


Having only left Tel-Aviv a few times, I am beginning to get a better understanding of the vast diversity on display here. From standing on a lush farm surrounded by desert picking clementines to help feed Israel's hungry, to floating in the Dead Sea beneath the 2000 year old city of Masada, Israel's historical, cultural and ecological variety is just beginning to truly develop in my mind. Yet my most memorable highlight thus far has been my first trip to Jerusalem, specifically to the Kotel. As the little kid in Hebrew School, I sat near the poster of the Kotel; I would stare up at its glistening stones and grandeur wondering how I would feel to stand before something that unites the Jews of the world, that connects me to not only my past, but the future as well. I dreamed of placing my hand on the smooth surface, reciting a prayer and placing my little note with my wish for the world in the wall. When that moment finally arrived, I was overcome with emotion. Standing before this structure, I finally understood what my friends and family had discussed; for the first time, I sense a real connection to the land of Israel, to its people and to its history. I started to understand where and how I fit in to this picture.


One month has flown by and there are another four and half to go. I came to Israel to establish a connection to this place and to find where I belong in this story. If the first month has shed some light on this subject, then I eagerly await what the coming months will bring.

Jessica Pinsky is on the Arts track in Jerusalem

Where do I come from?


When asked by Israelis where in the states I grew up, I reply, "Ohio-do you know it?"  Mostly they have heard of it but have no idea where it is.  I say "It's in the middle".   "What goes on in the middle?"  Not much.

So it is of little surprise that I tried out many major cities in the US over the past 8 years.  Cities make sense for some artists, constant stimulation, and incessant, pulsing energy just waiting to be tapped into.  I never found the perfect fit.  You know, the place you can see yourself living forever. 


Who am I?


I am an artist, I am a Jew.

Do people usually write lists in order of importance?

The close relationship I share with my family kept my Jewish identity strong and sacred, but also private in a city without many other Jews.  Art has drawn the path of my life.  I'm helpless really, chasing the end of a kite lost in the wind.  Apparently the kite flew to Israel. 


What I am doing here?


I never liked organized social activity.  It feels unnatural.  If it wouldn't have terrified my parents I would have come to Israel alone, no structure.  But WUJS was the perfect compromise--a program designed to fit your needs, one that emphasizes your own path in life.  I am truly amazed by the diversity of the participants in this program.  Everyone is different.  Most have been to Israel before, many have family here.  Some are more religious, others, like me, have very little Jewish knowledge and observance.


But somehow, there is a connection.  Somehow, there is this invisible thread tying Israel to every Jew in the entire world, and I have felt it, all the way in Ohio, clinging to the back of my head for my entire life.


What am I looking for?


The first month in Israel has been incredible.  Maybe on a superficial level for now, I feel like I belong here--In the streets for example, or in the supermarket.  I do not feel Israeli, I feel welcomed and fascinated by Israelis, but I am still a foreigner and the knowledge and real appreciation of this country will come with time.


I'm looking for a home.