Jerusalem—As their classmates headed home after a long academic year, 300 elite undergraduate students—including six from Westchester—boarded flights for the Jewish homeland to kick off the summer with an identity-building experience unlike any other.
Run by MEOR (www.MEOR.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring, educating and empowering Jewish students at top universities across the country, the 18-day MEOR Israel program affords students the opportunity to explore their heritage through classes with dynamic teachers on topics such as Jewish leadership, relationships and philosophy while exploring Israel’s rich and varied historic, geographic, recreational and cultural landscape. These unique Israel experiences allow students to build powerful connections to Israel as part of their burgeoning Jewish identities.
“Students consistently comment that the combination of engaging classes and exciting touring experiences makes MEOR Israel the ultimate platform for self-discovery and exploration of Jewish heritage and identity. They return home inspired to seek out additional Jewish engagement opportunities and ways to connect to Israel,” said Debra Kodish, MEOR’s Executive Vice President.
“By design, MEOR Israel is also longer than many other Israel trips, so that we can provide participants with the opportunity to discover facets of Israel that are not usually on the itinerary. This makes for a richer and even more impactful experience.”
Between May 12 and June 9, four different groups participated in the MEOR Israel program, including students from Boston University, Emory, George Washington, Harvard, Brandeis, Cornell, NYU, Temple, Rutgers, Binghamton, University of Maryland and University of Pennsylvania. The general consensus among the students was that MEOR Israel is both an unmatched foundational Jewish experience as well as the most meaningful and enjoyable excursion of their college careers.
“I didn’t always believe or understand the Jewish values my parents tried to teach me, or why they were so important to them. Coming to Israel with MEOR has shown me that Judaism is about understanding how our texts relate to our life, how Jewish values can be applied in our everyday lives,” said Rachel Klein of Scarsdale, NY, a student at Emory University. “I now have a greater appreciation for our heritage and a deeper insight into what makes our religion so special.”
Kyle Reinhardt, a student at New York University, added that he felt “spiritually super-charged” after his time in Israel with MEOR. “I haven’t felt this connected to my spiritual side in years. MEOR Israel helped me find a special spiritual energy I had never felt before. I can’t imagine anyone not connecting with this energy, it seems like such a waste.”
While some of the students had never been to Israel before, quite a few had participated in one or more organized trips to the Holy Land. Many noted that the structure of the program, attentiveness of the staff and warmth of the group helped them appreciate Israel on an entirely different level.
“Though I’ve been on several trips to Israel, it never clicked like this before,” explained Samuel Black of Huntingdon Valley, PA, a current student at Temple University. “MEOR Israel is different than any previous trip because I felt connected to the students and knew that the staff genuinely cared about my concerns, questions and overall experience. For me, this may be a tipping point.”
Over the last decade, MEOR has battled dispassion, detachment from Jewish identity and the ever-rising forces of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism to create a masterwork of Jewish engagement that now functions on 21 prominent college campuses across the US. The goal has always been to engage these promising Jewish leaders in the discovery of their own heritage and identity and inspire them to connect with Judaism on their own terms and in their own time.