Touching the Jewish Spirit
Touching the Jewish Spirit Program was designed to strengthen Jewish identity, teach Jewish concepts and develop social and religious tolerance through studying Jewish texts, lectures, field trips and seminars. The program seeks participation by secular men and women students, ages 20-38 that live in Southern Israel. The program was originally established in Sderot, but was so successful that it soon opened branches in several additional Southern Israel towns.
“Touching the Jewish Spirit” has several goals: to strengthen Jewish identity and teach Jewish heritage and values; to confront the lack of knowledge about common Jewish traditions, religion and heritage; and to promote the common thread among different sectors of Israel – which is none other than our Jewish identity. Students receive theoretical instruction and are also encouraged to take practical action in exploring and expressing their Jewish identity.
Touching the Jewish Spirit is an ongoing program, now in its 14 year of operation. Each year new participants from Southern Israel’s area colleges and educational institutions are encouraged to apply for the yearlong academic program. As an incentive, participants are given a partial academic scholarship. As an alternative to part time student work, time becomes available to explore and strengthen their Jewish identity, learn tolerance and sharpen communication skills.
The program enjoys growing popularity due to word of mouth, exposure through Israeli media including the program website, promotion by college faculty and administrators, and direct appeal to students at venues where students congregate. We seek to maintain program participation at a level of 300-600 per year. Inasmuch as the program constitutes a model for a national program, we plan to expand beyond Southern Israel.