Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

A Letter to My Birthright Alumni

Shalom Friends,

I hope that this epistle finds you all in good health.  It is incredible to think that a few days ago we were all together in Jerusalem getting ready to go  to the spiritual epicenter of our Jewish people, the Western Wall…

As we are about to enter our first post-Birthright Shabbat I feel that we were all enlightened and enriched from our experience together.  Together we experienced the “secret of Jewish immortality” (Mark Twain) that is, we celebrated our tradition with our people in our land.

The big question now is, what next?  The most important thing is to stay connected, with each other, with our faith, and with our land!  I would suggest making https://www.timesofisrael.com/ your home page on your computer and reading a few books to get the ball rolling.  Regarding Judaism, I would start with, “The Nine Questions People Ask about Judaism,” by Telushkin & Prager (http://www.amazon.com/Nine-Questions-People-About-Judaism/dp/0671622617).  It is short, concise, highly articulate, relevant, readable and above all, thought-provoking.

Concerning classic Zionism…get hold of a copy of the novel “Exodus” by Leon Uris (http://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Leon-Uris/dp/0553258478).  It is based on history ,and covers the formative period leading to the creation of the State of Israel, and the vital part played by the young heroic men and women who helped shape the Zionist dream.  Cancel your weekend plans, get the books & step over the threshold.  As the Chinese proverb states:  “Every thousand mile journey starts with one step.”

Most importantly, start by doing something!  It can be as simple as lighting Shabbat candles, or shopping around for a warm and receptive synagogue in your area, or applying to work for Birthright as a recruiter, or staff, in order to “spread the wealth”…but remember “passive Judaism” is an oxymoron.

TO JEW IS TO DO!

As we prepare to celebrate this Shabbat it is important to remember that Shabbat is a time to hang out with family and friends (and think of our friends in Israel, especially those who are keeping our country safe for us and our children).  It is a time to reflect, plan ahead and a time for study. Each one of us can celebrate Shabbat in his or her own way.  The main thing is to do something to mark it as a time period different from the rest of the week.  Shabbat is an island of tranquility in the midst of a sea of noise.  Turn off your phones, do not check FB every 2 minutes.  Disconnect from the machines in order to connect with yourselves.  Do not forget, we rule the machines, they don’t rule us!  Think back of walking single file in the Judean Desert at night under a canopy of stars.  Think of the “sound of silence” that touched our souls.  That is a “Shabbat moment.”

I sincerely hope that you treasure the gift you have all received.  Sometimes the best things are free!  I hope that you all learn and grow from the precious time we spent together on our “Amazing Israel” Birthright experience, and most importantly, in the immortal words of Rabbi A.J. Heschel:

Remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power…Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art.

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuvia

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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