The High Holidays are our Jewish way of making teshuva and then beginning anew with a clean slate. Many of the students in Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah villages come to us with a slate blank of Jewish knowledge. A full 30% arrive in Israel from the nations of the FSU through the Na’ale (“we will go up”) Elite Academy. This program enables Jewish teenagers from the diaspora to study and complete their high school education in Israel. They come knowing nothing of their Jewish heritage. In fact, many of these students don’t even know that they are Jewish until their parents tell them. Another 30% of our kids are from Ethiopian families, knowledgeable Jewishly, although only about pre-Talmudic Judaism.
But through our Joy of Judaism curriculum, they learn about the richness of our heritage in all its depth and breadth. In the Beit Midrash and Eshet Chayil curricula, they study the ritual, liturgy, tradition, and even the foods of our extended family’s history.
During the Mother-Daughter Shabbaton, girls and their mothers observe that oasis in time while sharing their respective life experiences and making Shabbat beautiful.
Through all these experiences, our students become knowledgeable, confident, and empowered Jews. Their slates are no longer blank, but filled with Yiddishkeit and pride in their heritage and their adopted country.
How successful is the program? Na’ale students don’t know a word of Hebrew when they arrive in Israel, but after a few short months in our youth villages, they are proud to speak Hebrew fluently. In this video, students in our Meir Shfeyah village sing Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, that they couldn’t manage just a short while before.
Participants in the Mother-Daughter Shabbaton
Back in 1933, when Hadassah’s founder, Henrietta Szold, took on the leadership of Youth Aliyah, she understood that the success of the Zionist enterprise, and the future of what was to become the modern State of Israel, was dependent on saving the children. She knew that emotionally healthy and educated children would form the foundation of a strong Israeli society.
In fact, not long before her death, when Ms. Szold sat for a portrait sculpture, she asked the artist to “make my eyes look to the future.”
At Hadassah, we continue to look to the future. After all, we’ve been building it in our youth villages for decades.
To learn more about Youth Aliyah, please visit www.hadassah.org/youthaliyah