What happens when you bring a group of elite college students from Jerusalem to the most progressive Jewish community in America?

In early 2016, the Koret Foundation challenged Shalem College to begin building bridges between its students and the San Francisco Jewish community.

If Shalem students are the future leading citizens of the Jewish state, reasoned Koret, they will need a nuanced understanding of Jewish communities everywhere.

Dr. Daniel Gordis, Koret Distinguished Fellow and Senior Vice President, Shalem College

Over the course of an intensive week, students discovered just how much they didn’t know about the North American Jewish experience, and the ways it could enrich life in the Jewish state.

Over the course of an intensive week, students discovered just how much they didn’t know about the North American Jewish experience, and the ways it could enrich life in the Jewish state.

“At the high school we visited, no one felt threatened by different ideas of what being Jewish means,” said Yahel Engelman.

Over the course of an intensive week, students discovered just how much they didn’t know about the North American Jewish experience, and the ways it could enrich life in the Jewish state.

“At the high school we visited, no one felt threatened by different ideas of what being Jewish means,” said Yahel Engelman.

Yahel aims to create a pluralistic public school system in Israel.

Mordy Miller was impressed with the spirit of Silicon Valley. “You get that there’s a real desire to push humanity to its creative limits,” he said.

An art installation at the Googleplex, intended to mimic an employee’s work station, reminded him of a hi-tech Kotel. Israel, too, needs “to aim, with the same passion, for an ideal society.”

Mordy Miller was impressed with the spirit of Silicon Valley. “You get that there’s a real desire to push humanity to its creative limits,” he said.

An art installation at the Googleplex, intended to mimic an employee’s work station, reminded him of a hi-tech Kotel. Israel, too, needs “to aim, with the same passion, for an ideal society.”

Gila Rockman, Director, Service and Citizenship, Shalem College

Students noticed right away that the value of tolerance reigned supreme in San Francisco.

“Even discussions about sensitive political topics never became shouting matches,” said Rotem Har-Even.

“We Israelis pride ourselves on our vibrant democracy. But I think we need more civil discourse, and less un-civil debate.”

Ori Isaac, Shalem class of ’17

Tal Eitan was hesitant to expand the definition of “Jewish” as widely as did many of the Bay Area Jews she met.

Tal Eitan was hesitant to expand the definition of “Jewish” as widely as did many of the Bay Area Jews she met.

Shahar Zohar was enthusiastic. “Israelis need to adopt the San Francisco Jews’ willingness to adopt whatever makes the Jewish experience more meaningful.”

Tal Eitan was hesitant to expand the definition of “Jewish” as widely as did many of the Bay Area Jews she met.

Shahar Zohar was enthusiastic. “Israelis need to adopt the San Francisco Jews’ willingness to adopt whatever makes the Jewish experience more meaningful.”

Either way, they both would like to see daily life in a Jewish state provide secular Jews with more of a sense of meaning and fulfillment.

Koret CEO Jeffrey Farber said, “It was a joy to watch Shalem students learn about the American Jewish experience through the lens of the Bay Area’s unique community.”

Students expressed gratitude for the opportunity to challenge their assumptions about tradition and innovation in Jewish life.

Koret CEO Jeffrey Farber said, “It was a joy to watch Shalem students learn about the American Jewish experience through the lens of the Bay Area’s unique community.”

Students expressed gratitude for the opportunity to challenge their assumptions about tradition and innovation in Jewish life.

From their vantage point in Israel, they had lacked a deep appreciation of the challenges facing American Judaism.

Inspired by the innovative ways American Jews are responding, they returned determined to bring these approaches to life in the Jewish state.

Choresh El Ami, Shalem class of ’19

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