JCHS News

Junior Journey: A Day Exploring Challenges

Rabbi Dean Kertesz, Jewish Studies Teacher and co-Dean of Students
Often Israel assumes mythic proportion, a dream come true, and we don't see Israel for what it is: a real country with real problems. What makes Israel special is that in Israel these problems are Jewish problems, questions of Jewish values and Jewish morality. Today we explored these problems in Tel Aviv.
Often Israel assumes mythic proportion, a dream come true, and we don't see Israel for what it is: a real country with real problems. What makes Israel special is that in Israel these problems are Jewish problems, questions of Jewish values and Jewish morality. Today we explored these problems in Tel Aviv.


We began our day with a visit to the Bialik-Rogozin school. This is a very special school in the Tikvah neighborhood of Tel Aviv. It serves over 1,100 students from grade K - 12. Students are from families of migrant workers from Asia, the Philipines, and some are asylum seekers fleeing sectarian violence in Africa. Many of these families are in Israel illegally, either overstaying their original work visa or sneaking into Israel through Egypt when they fled Africa. The philosophy of the school is that every child deserves an education.
We then went to Alma, a "secular" yeshiva, where secular Israelis study classic Jewish texts. One of the debates in Israel today is who "owns" the Jewish library. Is our heritage the possession of religious Jews, or does it belong to everyone? We studied text together for an hour and then had a picnic lunch.
 
After studying at Alma we walked through the Gan Levinsky neighborhood in south Tel Aviv, which is home to the majority of African asylum seekers that have come to Israel to seek safe shelter from war torn countries in Africa. We were guided by Jean-Marc Leitner who does refugee work for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. We met with a young man who told us his story of fleeing Darfur and his journey to Israel.
 
How Israel treats these refugees and whether they should be allowed to settle permanently are profound Jewish questions. The Jewish state was created so Jews would have a safe haven. Do we have a responsibility to provide that safe haven to others who are not Jewish? That is another question our students grappled with today.
 
We ended our day with a bike ride along the Yarkon river and then visited with family and friends. Students who did not meet with visitors enjoyed spending some time at Ramat Aviv Mall.
 
Tomorrow we head to the desert.
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Jewish Community High School of the Bay
1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.345.9777
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The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.