Redouble Efforts To Send Students Abroad

Opinion

By Steven Burg

Published March 20, 2008, issue of March 28, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Last month Princeton University announced plans for a year-abroad program to enable students to work overseas before ever setting foot on the college campus. The idea, according to the university’s president, is to give students an international perspective while adding maturity, giving them a break from academic pressures and “cleansing the palate of high school.” Those in favor of the program believe it will provide students with the opportunity to discover themselves and the world before they enter college.

Upon hearing the news, I could not help feeling amused that the Ivy League world is just beginning to pick up on a longstanding tradition in the Jewish community. For decades, Jewish parents have been sending their children to Israel for a year between high school and college.

Doing so is by no means a one-size-fits-all proposition. Many recent graduates take the opportunity to study Torah at a yeshiva or seminary, unfettered by the concerns that surrounded them in high school and that will no doubt reappear in college. Some attend an Israeli college program for a year, including Jewish studies among their classes. Others work on a kibbutz or do army service.

What all of these options have in common is that they give Jewish teens the unparalleled opportunity to connect with their Judaism.

As far as yeshiva study goes, the rabbinic dictum is well known: There is no Torah like the Torah of Israel (Bereishis Rabbah 16:4). Among yeshivas, there are a wide variety of options, for teens of all backgrounds and previous levels of education. Many yeshivas also offer joint year-abroad options with schools such as Yeshiva University and Touro College, which assists those concerned with college credits and the possibility of financial assistance.

Whether a student chooses to learn, study or volunteer in Israel, he or she cannot help but be affected by the holiness that permeates the land, the air and the people of Israel.

While encouraging high school graduates to spend a year abroad only seems to become newsworthy once Princeton announces plans to create such a program, it seems that the Ivy League is merely waking up and acknowledging what we’ve been saying all along: A year of new experiences abroad following high school gives you a new mind.

For today’s Jewish students a year in Israel can wield boundless potential. The opportunity to fully commit oneself to learning in Israel can awaken the soul of a teen. Indeed, many return to the United States with a new zeal for formerly passionless rote motions, such as davening or laying tefillin, not to mention a fervent enthusiasm students for Israel advocacy.

If anyone ever questioned the objective educational value of the experience, the independent confirmation of Princeton’s plans should lay that concern to rest. This effort by Princeton should serve as an impetus to redouble our community’s efforts to encourage our youth to take advantage of a year abroad in Israel.

Rabbi Steven Burg is international director of NCSY and national director of program development for the Orthodox Union.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.