WUJS Israel
post-college Israel programs

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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

Remembrance & Celebration

Remembrance and Celebration
Posted on May 12, 2011 By Amanda Gurin

Much of my blog has been a somewhat comedic discussion of certain social idiosyncrasies that I have come to know and love since living here, all of the funny and sort of crazy ways that make Israelis unique. Most of the quirks that I have talked about have had something to do with Israelis being bolder and more impetuous than I am used to, but over the past 10 days I have seen a whole other side of Israeli society. I have realized that the amusing and distinctive characteristics that I have mentioned in my previous posts only scratch the surface and that below the surface there is an unbelievable conviction to remember and to honor everyone and everything that have perpetuated the survival of Israel. And why, you ask, have I discovered this in the past 10 days? Well, during the first 2 weeks of the month of May there are 3 major Israeli holidays: Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for Soldiers and Victims of Terror) and Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day). Being here for all of these special days was a truly touching and amazing experience.

One of the reasons for the establishment of the state of Israel was to offer a safe haven to Jews from Europe affected by the Holocaust,  and so, on Yom Hashoah we remember the 6 million lost and, with that, vow to never let anything like the Holocaust happen again. At 10:00am there was a nationwide siren during which everyone stopped what they were doing and stood in silence, and I mean everyone; even drivers stopped their cars, buses, motorcycles and stood in the middle of the street. There was also a memorial ceremony on Mount Herzl, where Yad Vashem is located, during which the Prime Minister spoke and 6 torches were lit to commemorate the 6 million who perished. On that day, I felt like we were not only remembering those lost, but also honoring those who survived and helped build the nation of Israel. As time passes, the direct effect of the Holocaust is felt by fewer and fewer families in Israel, but, since Israel is such a young country and has had to almost continuously defend itself and it's existence against its neighbors, almost everyone here knows someone who died in battle or as a result of a terrorist attack. And it is for that reason that Yom Hazikaron, falling one week after Yom Hashoah, is such a somber and respected day; it is on this day that families visit the military cemeteries and the graves of those whose lives were cut short by enemies and terrorists, memorial services are held throughout the country and again there are 2 sirens during which everyone stops and observes a moment of silence.

The WUJS program falls under the auspices of MASA, an organization that enables thousands of young Jews from around the world to come on long term programs to Israel, and for Yom Hazikaron MASA hosted a tekkes (memorial service) to which we were invited. To begin our Yom Hazikaron, the thousands of current MASA program participants gathered on Ammunition Hill, the site of one of the battles against Jordan during 1967 that allowed Israel to re-capture Jerusalem. MASA chose only 7 individuals who either died in action or in a terrorist attack to honor that night, all of whom were either from somewhere outside Israel and had made Aliyah or were in some way involved with MASA, but it was still very moving. Something that the mother of one of the victims said really stuck with me; she was speaking about what she feels her obligation to her son is now that he is gone, and she said that she doesn't necessarily need to talk about him all the time, but rather help to create a society and country worth his sacrifice. It was special, touching and really unlike anything I had ever experienced. The idea of knowing one, two, or more people, peers, family members or friends that were lost in action or in a terrorist attack is so far beyond my reality, it is difficult for me to even comprehend. For Israelis, sadly, it is almost an inevitability, and it is for this reason that I, a foreigner looking from the outside in, believe that Israelis are not only a remarkably resilient people, but take such pains to remember.

And then, as the sun set over Israel, we transitioned from the solemn Day of Remembrance to the joyous Independence Day. While the switch from mourning to celebration is surely a difficult one, it actually makes sense. On Yom Hazikaron we remember those who lost their lives and on Yom Ha'Atzmaut we commemorate what they lost their lives for. In the States we have the 4th of July, but believe me when I say, it pails in comparison to Yom Ha'atzmaut. As a way of remembering all that has been lost during Israel's continuous fight for survival, Israelis exuberantly celebrate what still remains: their nation. The pride that Israelis have in their country is inspiring!

Once Yom Hazikaron ended, the streets of Jerusalem filled with people, everywhere you turned they were dancing, singing, chanting and waving the Israeli flag. Throughout the center of Jerusalem there were performances, countless parties and a fireworks display. Israelis, young and old, celebrated together. Trying to negotiate our way through the throngs of people was insane, but totally worth it to be a part of this amazing night. The next day was a time for barbeques and picnics in the park; the WUJS group was invited to a barbeque hosted by one of the former participants and we grilled, talked and hung out in the sun all day, it was really fun. Honestly, my words cannot adequately convey the feeling one has during Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'aztmaut, it is a mixture of incomprehension, tragedy, triumph, and strength, I am just so happy that I was able to be a part of it. Happy 63rd, Israel!

I was so caught up and inspired by Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut that I completely skipped our trip to Hof Habonim and Zikron Yaacov. Hof Habonim is a beautiful nature reserve that runs along the coast south of Haifa and so, we started our day by doing a beautiful nature walk along the Mediterranean, the water was the most amazing color blue! Once we left Hof Habonim, we went to Zikron Yaacov, an inland town that was cultivated and built up by the Rothschild family, the town's name actually means "memory of Jacob", in honor of Baron Edmund de Rothschild's father, Jacob. Zikron Yaacov was different that any other place I have seen in Israel, it sort of reminded me of a slightly funky, chill and quaint town in California somewhere. The houses weren't typical Israeli houses and it has a really cool cobblestone main street lined with cute shops and cafes. It also has a thriving wine business, with one of the main wineries in the area, Tishbi, located there. After a quick lunch in town, we headed to Tishbi winery for a tour and tasting, it was delicious  . The day was beautiful, sunny and relaxing (which may or may not have been partially the result of the wine) and was just what I had needed! Finally, that is all for now. . .this weekend we are going to the beach in Tel Aviv and then next weekend we will be going to a Kibbutz in the Negev, so I will have lot of fun and exciting things to report!! I hope everyone is well and congratulations to University of Rochester Class of 2011, I can't believe it has already been a year!

Want to read more about Amanda's Israel experiences? Follow her time on WUJS on her blog!

Internship Visit- Wendy Leitner

By Abby Ravski

I recently decided to take the day and make the hike up to Yad VaShem Israel's main museum and memorial to the Holocaust. After being here for almost 10 months and leaving in a few short weeks it's been on my bucket list of things to do. What was even more exciting was that I got to visit WUJS Jerusalem Intern Wendy Leitner. Wendy is working for the Yad VaShem Art Museum helping the staff organize, categorize and document what is in the museum's possession. Wendy's day includes working in the painting storage room (which I sadly could not visit). She has the privilege of handling art made by holocaust survivors and victims and helps ensure their safe keeping so it all can be enjoyed for generations to come. Wendy recently graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in painting and in the past has worked at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at the. Once WUJS is over Wendy will begin her graduate studies at NYU for a degree in museum studies. Her internship experience will more than prepare her for her great future ahead while at the same time living in Jerusalem, and enjoying all that Israel has to offer!


Wendy & me in front of the Art Museum at Yad VaShem 5.5.11

Shoshana Gottesman was recently written about in her hometown's Jewish Herald Voice which serves the Jewish Community of Huston and the Texas Gulf Coast area. The article is about her time currently spent at her internship at Heartbeat Jerusalem, the arts track and the WUJS program. Check it out!

Peace, music, Jerusalem:
WUJS program offers life experience and helps realize career goals
• Thu, May 05, 2011
 A Houstonian is spending the next half-year in Israel promoting Israeli-Palestinian coexistence through the medium of music.
Shoshana Gottesman arrived in Jerusalem in early March, as a participant in the WJUS Israel Hadassah program for young adults. For the next five months, she'll be interning some 30 hours a week with the nonprofit Heartbeat Jerusalem, as part of the WJUS Arts specialty tract.
"I've found that I have two loves: One is music, and the other is conflict resolution. The question is, how do I combine the two?" said Gottesman, a violist who graduated from the University of Miami's Frost School of Music this past December.
Gottesman will try her hand at combining her two loves at Heartbeat Jerusalem.
Founded in 2007, the nonprofit brings together an international community of musicians, educators and students who use music to build mutual understanding and transform conflict. Heartbeat Jerusalem programs seek to empower Israelis and Palestinians by creating opportunities for young musicians from opposing sides to work together and foster peaceful coexistence.
"I'm interested in using music as a tool for social activism between Jews, Muslims and Christians," said Gottesman. "Through music, trust can be created, I believe, and from there, you can have conversations."
Interfaith relations
Gottesman is a graduate of I. Weiner Middle School and Bellaire High School. Besides music, she concentrated on public relations and international studies in college.
Between graduation and the start of her WUJS Israel Hadassah program, she worked in Houston on a Fullbright scholarship to aid in the production of a one-of-a-kind music manual.
"I'm compiling an instruction manual that teaches the techniques and styles of both Western and Middle Eastern music, so that Israeli and Palestinian youth can make music together," Gottesman said.
In college, she helped foster interfaith relations on campus. She co-founded a student organization called JAM (Jews and Muslims), which uses music to bridge the divide between Jewish and Muslim students. She organized music programs and a national conference at UM that promoted interfaith dialogue and peace activism.
Last year, she helped run a music festival in Tunisia through the international nonprofit, Cultures in Harmony, which forges connections between peoples across cultural and national barriers, via music.
Gottesman arrives in Israel as an award-winning musician who has performed in the United States, France and Israel. She's a published writer and an experienced music PR intern.
Ideal program
WJUS Arts is an ideal post-graduate program for Gottesman.
"The WJUS program provides just enough structure to build a foundation. And, it also offers the right amount of flexibility so that you can take the experience in whatever direction you choose," she said.
Through this specialty tract, Gottesman will combine studies in Hebrew language (ulpan), Israeli culture and arts and her music. As with all Hadassah and Young Judaea programming, curriculum is pluralistic and holistic, combining in- and-outside-the-classroom educational experiences.
There are two WJUS sections: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In the capital city, participants live in apartments near the scenic Promenade and get around the city on the bus system.
In most instances, WJUS helps pair participants up with internships in fields of interest. In Gottesman's case, she pre-selected Heartbeat Jerusalem, and WJUS helped facilitate the internship arrangement.
"I'm not just looking to do an internship for work experience - I've already done several internships like that. This is actually the type of thing that I want to do with my life," Gottesman said.
Gottesman plans to find a master's degree program and future career that combine her passions for music and conflict resolution.
According to Gil Yaari, the Young Judaea shaliach in Houston, there are about 100 participants doing WJUS programs this year. On average, year to year, some 20 choose the Jerusalem Arts tract. A quarter of all WJUS participants end up making aliyah.
Gottesman said she plans to extend her stay in Israel after her five-month program concludes.
"WJUS is a great program for people who want to make aliyah, because it helps you establish connections, social and professional networks," she said.
"Israel is the place I always want to be," she said.
For information about WJUS, visit wujsisrael.org.

Want to learn more about Shoshana? Check out her WUJS profile!

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. 

WUJS Hebrew Ulpan in Tel-Aviv

Annie Alpers from Washington and Megan Sandoz from Oregon write in Hebrew and English respectively about one of their Hebrew Ulpan classes in Tel-Aviv.

Hebrew Tel-Aviv.JPG

Jason Greenberg talks about Ulpan on the WUJS program in Jerusalem


In every Ulpan there are students with different abilities. WUJS offers eight levels of Ulpan in an effort to make learning comfortable for everyone. The Ulpan classes are shared among Young Judea Year Course students and WUJS students. There are about ten students to a class. The curriculum consists of vocabulary building, grammatical lessons, games, and exposure to Israeli culture through language. We listen to and translate songs on the radio, children's books, newspapers, etc. It is very stimulating and relevant to the rest of the WUJS experience. The instructors are patient, motivated, and flexible. If you are committed to hard work, the teachers will provide you with all the challenges you need. If you prefer to learn at slow pace, those accommodations can be made as well.

WUJS Participants meet the Prime Minister

WUJS participant Aliyah Schneider talks below about how she lit Chanukah candles with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Just one of the many amazing experiences I've had on the WUJS, Israel program.....

On the evening of December 25th, 2008; the 29th day of Kislev, 5769, I was one of four WUJS participants privileged to attend a Chanukah candle lighting ceremony with the Prime Minister of Israel and the head of the Jewish Agency for Israel.  It was an amazing experience to participate in such a special and unique event and one that I'm not likely to ever forget. 

When we arrived at the "Adam and Eve farm" (where the MASA "Echo Israel" program is housed) to take part in the candle lighting ceremony in the town of Modi'in all I could think about was how lucky and honored I felt to be participating in such a unique and meaningful event. 

Chanukah has always been my favorite holiday.  The message of the holiday and its importance and influence in Jewish history remains a constant reminder of how lucky we are as Jews to celebrate and practice our religion openly and freely, and most importantly, with pride.  It is also a holiday that provides us with the reminder of how important it is to continue bringing light into the world and that miracles do occur. 

Prime Minister Olmert spoke about how each of us as MASA participants has brought a light,  like the lights that kindle the chanukiah (menorah), to Israel to help make it a brighter place for the Jewish people to live.

Chelley Leveillee, WUJS Jerusalem Learning - December '08

Chelley Leveillee gives an overview of her "A Page of Talmud" class in Jerusalem


While the Talmud's text dates back many centuries, Rabbi Artie Fischer brings Jewish law into a modern context in his class, "A Page of Talmud."  Students learn the history of oral law and how to navigate the structure of the Talmud.  From this foundation, students suggest topics for the semester curriculum and past topics include intermarriage, homosexuality, alcohol consumption, gambling, abortion, birth control, stealing and gender roles.  Rabbi Fischer starts the discussion using passages from the Tanach and then helps students examine the Talmudic text along with relevant opinions and disagreements.  Students do not need any background in Talmud study to fully participate in this course.

Tami Mainemer, WUJS Peace and Social Justice - December '08


Tami Mainemer writes below about her experiences so far volunteering at the Amir Stables in Jerusalem.

Amir Stables is a horseback riding center that offers private and group lessons. It also features a Therapeutic Horseback Riding component. Clients that utilize those services include children and adults with varying levels of cognitive, developmental, and/or physical delays or disabilities. As a volunteer, one is expected to brush the horses, put on their saddles and bridles, lead them to the horse waiting area, provide horse leading or side walking services during a lesson, take off and clean the equipment at the end of the night, and put blankets on the horses for the night. Typically lessons are half an hour to one hour in duration, but often there will be the need for a volunteer to lead a particular horse through several lessons. During lessons, once a rider is situated on the horse, a leader will direct the horse while keeping an eye on both the horse and the rider, or a side walker may provide extra support to the rider to ensure that the rider is safe as well as talk the rider through the exercises. Both leader and side walker are expected to walk or run alongside the horse throughout the lesson. There are many different types of people who work at Amir Stables that a volunteer comes into contact with including the stable manager, instructors, the National Service volunteers, and other volunteers. Most of one's time is spent outdoors although there is some respite from the elements when working with the horses in their stalls. There is some lifting required with placement of the saddle and also helping riders get onto and off of the horses. There are several ways to get to Amir Stables, which is located on Begin Highway (Golda Meir Blvd) heading towards Ramot, across from Har Hotzvim, all of which require comfort navigating the Jerusalem bus system as well as a lot of walking.


I have enjoyed my time thus far at Amir Stables. The people who work there are very accommodating both to my schedule and to what I wish to accomplish during my time there. Everyone seems eager to teach me new skills (as this was my first experience working with horses.) There is a real sense of camaraderie among the staff, and most nights I have been offered rides to either the central bus station or to locations along a bus route even closer to my apartment. I have also been afforded the privilege of taking some lessons from the instructors. Amir Stables offered me the opportunity to learn new skills while still being a part of a network of people who provide social services to Israeli citizens. A working knowledge of Hebrew is necessary. While most staff speak English, most of the clients do not, and group lessons are conducted in Hebrew. The more comfort with Hebrew a volunteer has, the more well-rounded the experience that person will get at Amir Stables.